For many international adoptees there is a strong desire, even as we live happy and productive lives, to learn more about our heritage and our history.
But searching for our roots can be very challenging.
Sometimes we are questioned, “Why would you ever want to search when you have a wonderful life you have been blessed with?”
But as adoptees, we are often asking ourselves, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why was I given up?”
We want to know about our roots, about our families, who we look like and talk like, whether we have our mom’s hands or our father’s eyes.
I sometimes feel a sense of rejection from my country due to circumstances surrounding my birth. Growing up in Utah I did not have an Indian community to connect with. As an adult I wanted to connect with my Indian heritage but I felt self-conscious and worried about not being ‘Indian’ enough.
Once a year I pull out my saree and try to wrap it. I really want to wear a bindi but I’m not really sure if I should. I feel excluded, like I have lost my history and heritage.
I’m still struggling with my Indian identity to this day.
Starting my own journey of adoption from India
Because of that lost connection, I always knew I wanted to adopt a child from India myself.
In 2005, my husband and I filled out the application and began what turned out to be a long journey that challenged my very soul. Waiting to be a parent was one of the hardest times in my life. It forced me to explore my own loss and feelings of rejection, and made me want to reconnect with my birth country and my culture.
On Christmas Day 2011, my husband and I left for India to meet our daughter and bring her home.
I was excited and scared all at the same time. I remember thinking, how am I going to do this? This was the first time as an adult I would step on the soil of my birth country.
Nervous and unsure, I closed my eyes and envisioned my feet going forward, stepping into the next journey.
After a long flight and a taxi ride through Bangalore’s bustling streets, we arrived Ashraya Children’s Home, where we would meet our daughter for the first time.
I thought to myself, “I hope I can honor the woman who birthed her… I hope I can raise her to be a strong and confident woman one day.”
When we got there, the orphanage staff informed us she was taking a nap, so they let us go up to the room where all the children were sleeping. We sat quietly and watched her. She was beautiful — a little dream, napping so peacefully.
I thought to myself, “I hope I can honor the woman who birthed her and the women who have been caring for her. I hope I can raise her to be a strong and confident woman one day.”
Meeting our daughter for the first time
We let her nap and came back a few hours later. As we waited for the kids to come down, I realized this was the moment I had dreamed about for months. I was not sure how she would receive us, I wondered, “will she be very scared or scream at her first sight of us?
Soon the children were brought down all together and led into the room where we sat around a table. My husband was closest to her as they were introducing her to us, telling her that we were her Mommy and Daddy. My husband held his hand out to her and she reached out and grabbed his hand back. Our hearts filled with joy.
We took the kids out to the play yard and I took out some bubbles and started blowing them for all the children. Our daughter walked around looking at us, observing us from a distance. The orphanage staff put her into her swing. She just watched us. It was the perfect meeting.
We visited several times over the next few days, and our connection began to grow. She took to both of us well and took turns trying out sitting in our laps. One afternoon as we were preparing the children for their nap, we were playing with all the kids. She began to shoo away the other kids and only wanted us to interact with her as she was playing.
Then she came, sat on my lap and cuddled with me. I felt she accepted us and was claiming us for herself — she adopted us!
After three days of visits, the orphanage staff sent the three of us off with an amazing lunch and beautiful memories. We were truly thankful to have met them and become a part of the Ashraya family.
Back at our hotel, we spent the first few hours playing and getting used to each other. As evening approached, she eyed her sandals and headed for them and the door. I knew what this meant. To her, the fun visit was over and she was ready to go back to the orphanage and the life she knew.
Realizing that she would not be going back, she turned to us and started to cry. I knew I had to be strong. As she cried, our hearts ached and we cried with her. I rocked and held her close and she slowly fell asleep. In that moment we hoped she would never again feels alone in the world.
If our daughter one day decides to return to India and search for her roots, we will fully support her and honor her history, her heritage and her desire to learn more about herself.
Finding our Lost Sarees
Several years ago I started connecting with other adoptees through social media. I met two women who, like me, had lived at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity orphanages during the mid-Seventies.
In 2011, we gathered in Washington D.C. as part of a reunion of Missionaries of Charity adoptees. Since this reunion, our orphanage sisterhood bond has strengthened given our shared experiences of being daughters, sisters and mothers.
In 2012 the three of us decided to start an organization called Lost Sarees. Our focus is to connect Indian adoptees from around the world and advocate for families, especially women and children’s issues and rights.
Through Lost Sarees I have met many adult adoptees who are searching for their roots. This fall I had the opportunity to meet Nisha Greyson, an adoptee who traveled from Sacramento to Goa, India, to search for her birth mother. Her powerful journey is captured in the documentary film “You Follow: A Search For One’s Past” directed by Sharmila Ray.
I deeply relate to Nisha’s desire to visit her birth country and find her original family. As a mother of an adopted Indian girl, I know that my daughter too will one day want to know more about her history and birthplace.
This week, Lost Sarees is very honored to host, in partnership with Tasveer, a screening of “You Follow” as part of Aaina, a festival that focuses on the artistic and activist work of South Asian women. Adoptee stories are often not heard as part of the broader South Asian community, and we hope the Aaina event will be a starting point for conversation, connection and community-building among South Asians and South Asian adoptees.
For more information about the Aaina festival, visit www.tasveer.org