This was written last week on a particularly emotional and difficult evening. Every year as my birthday gets closer and closer, a heaviness comes over me—a heaviness that only adoptees seem to understand.
Aai, I went through my wedding photos today. I looked for you in every single one. I searched my face for features that might have resembled yours. Some moments I feel my heart can’t handle the agony of knowing you will never see me in my bridal saree. Other moments I am comforted because I felt your presence all around me every moment that day. I felt like a true indian bride and I longed to see what you looked like on your wedding day. Maybe we looked the same. I ache for you.
So many milestones you’ve missed, and I have missed many of yours. There will always be one we share. 26 years ago I was still a part of you. You were my first home. We only had a week left to be together. I so wish I knew your thoughts during those last few weeks and days. I can only hope you were not alone.
We are turning 26, and each year that passes adds more and more distance between us but I will never give up on trying to find you. You are forever in my heart, my aai. Please don’t forget me.
I recently found out that Birthmother’s Day exists. It is traditionally celebrated the day before Mother’s Day. What a weekend full of pain for those whose mothers are only a memory (or lack thereof).
Although there are good days where the crushing weight of your absence in my life is a little less heavy, and although there are days where I don’t stare in the mirror trying to find traces of you in the reflection, today is not one of those days. Today I can hardly move. Today is a day where I ache so deeply for you.
To the woman who carried me, bore me, and saw my first breath in this world, you are with me today. I wish you could’ve been here with me through every stage of life, but that is not how fate would have it. I look back on the files in my possession from the agencies and I can’t help but stare at the photos wondering what traces of you I’m seeing. If I could turn back time I would go back to the day we were together–my first and last day with roots.
Not a day goes by without thoughts of you, but today they run rampant throughout my mind. I have come to the realization that I won’t get to meet you again in this life. I will never know your face, nor the circumstances surrounding why we were separated. That is a weight nobody will understand but those who are experiencing this journey with me.
On this weekend that is meant to recognize mothers and birthmothers, I remember you. I will never forget. I carry you with me everyday. Happy Mother’s Day.
January 9, 1994.
My paperwork throws this date around on almost every page. They tell me this is the day they think I was born. It’s also the day they think was our last together.
Is this the day? The last day my hands touched you? The last day I heard your voice? The last day I knew your smell?
I wonder if it affects you as it affects me. The trauma that occurred on this day 24 years ago changed the course of my life and walks with me every single moment. On this day I became a tree without any roots. I can’t help but wonder if it affects you. Do you yearn for me the way I yearn for you? I have this word tattooed on my forearm: “hiraeth.” It is a welsh word with no direct English translation, but a loose translation describes hiraeth as, “The nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost people and places of your past.” This perfectly describes how I feel about you, mainly on my birthday. GRIEF. I grieve for your loss and for mine. We are forever intertwined, you and I, although we may never know one another face to face.
This evening, I channeled my inner Desi and danced to my favorite Bhangra playlist as I did the dishes. I kept feeling the bindi between my eyes, making sure it was still there. I tried my very hardest not to cry while I was missing you so very fiercely. I wondered how we would be celebrating my birthday if I’d stayed in my homeland all this time. As kids we used to celebrate our birthdays the evening prior because India was a day ahead. So now, every year on my birthday eve, I wonder where you are and what you are doing and if you’re thinking of me. I wear this bindi because it connects me to you. It connects me to my roots. It connects me to my people, my culture. Our culture. As silly as it looks in my sweatpants and T-shirt, this bindi and my Bhangra take me back to you on this anniversary of our last day together.
It might have been a Sunday.
January 9, 1994.
A very odd day. I wonder what it was like for you and who was with you. I was too small to be full-term—I wonder if you were alone and scared and abandoned me because of this. I’ll never know. I think a piece of me wishes that you regret leaving me alone on my first day of life, but I can’t even imagine the weight of that burden. So I truly hope that you’ve found peace and I hope you know happiness today. I hope you have the support and love of community you might not have had back then.
Maybe someday I will find you. For now, you remain in my heavy heart on this 24th anniversary of my last day with roots.
I finally finished, “A Long Way Home: A Memoir” by Saroo Brierley. I began reading it several months ago, but decided to take a break considering how heavy it was for me to read.
I only had a few chapters left to read, and once I started reading again I wondered why I ever stopped. I couldn’t put it down! Then I got to the pictures at the end of the book, and was mesmerized in particular by this photo:
It isn’t hard to recognize that Saroo looks EXACTLY like the others in his family.
This is what I’ve longed for my entire life. Somewhere in the world, there are others who look like me. Saroo found his family, the ones who have his facial features and maybe even his mannerisms. Obviously there are cultural differences, but genes are genes.
Growing up I would watch as friends were getting married and having children and trying to decide which family traits the child carried. Maybe it had the family nose, or the family eyes, or the family dimples. These are normal for me to hear about, but when I think of family traits when it comes to myself, it is such a foreign concept. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Somewhere, my family lives and has my eyes and my nose and maybe even my knobby knees and monkey toes. When I someday have my own children and meet my biological family for the first time, I’ll be able to see what traits I received and pass on to them. I can’t wait for that.
“Where are you from?”
“No, I mean where are you from?”
Well I was born in India.
“Yeah I can tell.”
(…then why did you ask?)
“How long have you been in America?”
I grew up here.
“I can tell!”
“So you probably don’t like spicy food then.”
….Needless to say, I ended this conversation prematurely. I don’t have enough patience for this breed of idiot.
I work at a Children’s hospital and interact with children on a daily basis. I often ask them what their favorite Disney movies and songs are. Most of the answers I get are from the movie Frozen. Others were from Beauty and the Beast, understandably so since the new movie just came out and it is fresh in their minds. I mentioned that my favorite Disney songs come from the movie Tarzan. One in particular is the song Strangers Like Me.
It’s not as much of a popular song, but I’m sure you’ve heard it. You’re probably not as familiar with the lyrics, so I’ll post a few excerpts here:
“Whatever you do, I’ll do it too
Show me everything and tell me how
It all means something
And yet nothing to me
I can see there’s so much to learn
It’s all so close and yet so far
I see myself as people see me
Oh, I just know there’s something bigger out there
I wanna know, can you show me
I wanna know about these
strangers like me
Tell me more, please show me
Something’s familiar about these strangers like me
Ooo, these emotions I never knew
Of some other world far beyond this place
Beyond the trees, above the clouds
I see before me a new horizon.”
This may sound like a random song to be favored among the others. But if you take a closer look at the lyrics, it truly describes how I feel around other “authentic” Indians.
Those first few sentences truly resonate with me–“Whatever you do, I’ll do it too. Show me everything and tell me how. It all means something to me and yet nothing to me.” Being around other Indians is an awkward feeling for me. I so badly want to feel like I fit in with them. I look like them…it makes sense that I should act like them too. The reality is that I will never be fully Indian. I missed growing up in the culture I was born into. I will always look Indian, but I’ll never be fully Indian. I don’t look American, but I am more American than Indian. Can you imagine how confusing this becomes?
“I can see there’s so much to learn. It’s all so close and yet so far. I see myself as people see me. Oh I just know there’s something bigger out there.”
I truly want learning about my culture to come easily to me…but it just won’t happen. I see myself as an American because that’s the culture I was raised in. I’ve had friends say to me, “I always forget that you’re Indian.” To be honest, sometimes I do too. But then I look in the mirror and remember this dark skin is not American. But there is a world out there that beckons for me to come discover it, and find others who are look like me, yet feel like such strangers because I lack the culture, identity, and religion I was born into. They are strangers…strangers like me.
“I wanna know, can you show me? I wanna know about these strangers like me. Tell me more, please show me. Something’s familiar about these strangers like me.” Growing up I wanted to be as American as I could be–I wanted to be a normal, typical, all-American kid. I never quite fit the mold. Now, it feels like I’ve been living the remainder of my life trying desperately to grasp what I can from that life and culture that I lost. I am Indian on the outside, but am American through and through so growing up I never felt like I quite fit in with Indians or Americans. It can become an isolating and lonely endeavor to try and balance this dual identity.
“These emotions I never knew of some other world far beyond this place. Beyond the trees, above the clouds I see before me a new horizon.” It may be too late for me to truly experience my culture the way any other Indian would having grown into it, but it’s not too late for me to try. As awkward as it may be to be in the presence of people who look like me but act so differently, I truly love learning. My heritage and culture is beautiful, intriguing, and mystic. This song makes me feel as though I am not alone. Talking to fellow adoptees has been so encouraging to me as well as I’ve been finding that I am not the only one who goes through this experience. I wouldn’t change that bond for anything.
When I was young, I used to write letters to my birthmother on my birthday and on Mothers Day. Over the years I’ve lost some of them, but I wrote this one last year after receiving an email from my adoption agency letting me know that a search for my birthmother would not be possible. The heartache that ensued will never go away, and writing this letter helped me to process that hurt.
I’m not really sure what to say. I used to write to you all the time as a kid. Back when the thought of you was exciting and mysterious, as if you were a puzzle I was going to figure out and solve. Now, the thought of you is just plain heartbreaking. Just a far off dream. The email from Holt telling me that there was no chance of ever finding you felt like the last door of any kind of hope slamming in my face. I used to dream of someday meeting you. Not knowing was so much easier. It gave me a sliver of hope – that maybe the police missed something, some piece of information and there’s something or someone out there who knows about you and could lead me to you. Ignorance made me feel better. But now that I know, the mystery is gone. There’s no puzzle, and there will be no solving or discovering.
Every ounce of my being wonders why. What would’ve become of me had you not given me up? Would it really be so bad? I try to convince myself that it’s better off this way. But I can’t help but wonder. What kind of family would we be? Would people tell me I look like you? My father? Whose eyes do I have? And whose smile? People always comment on my smile and strangers have asked if I get it from my mother. It saddens me that I’ll never know.
I’m sad you’ll never know my adoptive mother. If only I could tell you all the adventures she and I had when she came to get me from my orphanage in Pune. You would think this American lady is crazy. And she is! Who else would fly across the world just to bring home a little orphan baby? She is so strong. And she gives great advice. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but I don’t think there was ever a time where she gave up on me. Thank you for giving her the chance to be my mom. She poured her whole heart and soul into it.
I’m sad you’ll never know the love of my life. I met so many bad ones along the way, but they led me to him. He’s wonderful. He makes me smile and laugh like no one else can, and he is the best part of every single day. I wish you would have had the chance to meet him…I know you would love him.
The last time you saw me, you changed my life forever. I like to think that maybe you were saving me. India does not always love its daughters the way it should, and I choose to believe that’s the reason we were separated. So, mama, thank you. It was very brave of you to carry me for so long and then give me up. I don’t think I would have that kind of strength in me to do the same.
I’m very happy. My life here in America has been so good to me. I hope to spend some of my life back in India, helping other orphans like me who have a whole life of wonder and opportunity ahead of them. Maybe I can help them find it. I still have so much life ahead of me, in part thanks to you. My prayer is that you’ve found peace in letting me go. I pray you’ve found happiness. You gave me life, and I’m going to do the best that I can with it for you.
-Your baby girl, Pranali ♥
Words from my mother, during a conversation where I told her I was searching for information from my adoption agency about my birthmother. Words I will cherish forever and never forget.
7 months ago I received my adoption file from Holt International, which contained monthly updates given to them while I was under the care of BSSK Pune. I never knew what happened to me during the first year of my life, and after 23 years of uncertainty, here it is unfolding before my eyes in 35 pages. It’s an indescribable feeling.
I am so unbelievably blessed.
Last week I saw the movie Lion. I’d been dying to see this movie, ever since I learned of it. I waited for it to make its way to the States, as it was playing in other countries first. Recently I learned that it was playing in theaters, and a few friends had offered to go see it with me. To be honest, I would have loved to go see this movie with them, but I really wanted to see it by myself first. I knew there would be ugly crying, and every girl knows what I’m talking about when I say I needed to get the ugly crying out of the way first!
I was absolutely floored by how well this movie was made. It was honest. At times it was brutally honest. It showed the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of India. The good, the bad, and the ugly parts of adoption. The good, the bad, and the ugly parts of a blended family.
I can’t tell you how many times there was ugly crying coming from my seat because I lost count. It was so absolutely refreshing to see another adoptee going through the same emotions I’d been going through since coming to terms with my adoption loss. Dev Patel gave an astounding performance. The awkward responses when asked about adoption (“I’m not really Indian”). The sadness knowing that there was a family of his somewhere out there. The pain of a family torn apart from another adoption gone wrong in the family and being stuck in the middle.
Watching this movie I was overcome with so many emotions, but one of them was jealousy. I was jealous of this man who had actually gotten to experience India before his adoption. He had memories to hold on to. He KNEW he had a family there and had known them, if even for a short time.
I have nothing. No memories, no known family, not even a name.
Knowing that this adoption story had the rare ending of the adoptee finding and meeting his birthfamily fueled this jealousy, and by the end of this movie my happy tears turned to tears of heartache. Oh how I longed for this kind of reunion. Some adoptees like Saroo are lucky enough to receive one. I never will.
A film that can bring about such deep emotions as heartache, anguish, happiness, and relief all at the same time deserves recognition. If you’re a fellow adoptee, I recommend this movie. If you’re not, I would still recommend it. It just might open your eyes.