It Might Have Been A Sunday
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.
Knobby Knees and Monkey Toes
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:
I went from face to face to face, analyzing every inch of their faces.
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.
Letter to my birthmother
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 ♥
“They sent us that first picture of you from the orphanage, and it was so weird because you can’t touch your baby or hold your baby, but you just know that’s YOUR baby.”
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.
“The life of an adoptee is like an ancient voyager who searches for the unknown. The stars guided their destiny. They had their sights on the wonders that lay ahead of them. An adoptee travels in the opposite direction.”
Birthdays are bittersweet for me. I recently had one, and as I get older it becomes harder and harder to enjoy my day of birth, as I don’t even know if it is truly my day of birth. It was estimated by police I was born around January 9, 1994 in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Every year my birthdays mean I grow older, but it also means more time separates me from my birthmother.
I was found abandoned on the streets of Ahmednagar on January 11, 1994 and was placed in a foster home while inquiries were made to try and find my guardians. When no one came forward, I was then placed into the custody of Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK) in Pune. Upon my arrival to BSSK, I was 3 pounds, marasmic, and sick with dysentery. When my health was stable, I was declared available for adoption. I stayed in this orphanage until I was 11 months old, when I was adopted through Holt International by an American couple in South Carolina who had two other daughters adopted from BSSK.
My parents never hid our adoptions from us. Our stories were celebrated and our differences embraced. As a child I longed to have my mother’s beautiful white skin, and she in turn longed for my brown skin. As I grew older I struggled between loving my adoptive family and being so thankful for my adoption, and also coming to terms with the devastation of what I lost when my birthparents abandoned me. On the outside I am Indian, but I am American as can be. That is a hard battle to fight when you are drawn to the culture you came from and once lost, while trying your best not to take the one you were given for granted. I once saw a quote that explained it pretty well:
“Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.” – Reverend Keith C. Griffith
I would never call myself a ‘victim.’ But I think people hear the word “adoption” and blindly see only the positive aspects. I don’t mean to say that I’m ungrateful for the gift of adoption and the opportunities I’ve been given because of it. I am unbelievably grateful to my parents – they are one of a kind. My mother risked her life travelling to a foreign country by herself to bring home a little orphan baby. Who else would do that? It amazes me everyday and I don’t think I could ever give her enough thanks. My life story is so unique and I am so grateful, but I also grieve for a loss I don’t understand. A part of me is missing – a part of me that I know nothing of. The loss of my birthmother is forever a piece missing from my heart. It’s a lonely feeling being the only person you know of who shares your DNA.
As I get older, my birthday becomes more bittersweet as I know it’s a day that my birthmother, if still alive, probably will never forget. 23 years ago on the day of my birth, these hands touched her for the last time. It hurts my heart to know she is out there somewhere remembering me. I will never know who she is or where she is, but every year on this day I say a prayer that she is well and safe, has found peace with letting me go. It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I know one day I’ll find peace in her decision too.