Ever wonder what it would be like to visit your birth country? Indian adoptee Prema Malhotra graciously shares a slice of her experience in India (Day 7) just a few months ago.
Day seven was my last day with my adoption agency. I was not sure how I felt, but I definitely had plenty of rest from the weekend (days 5 and 6). Today was the day where I would be meeting my adoption counselor. My adoption counselor was the social worker who placed me with my adoptive parents during the time of my adoption. Although I had met her before in 2004 and 2006, I was really nervous about meeting her. Even with me being nervous, I wanted to still see her and thankfully that was able to be arranged. I was to be at the office at 11 AM, but I woke up quite early on my last day. I decided to take a taxi to the office since my mom slept in.
Taking a taxi in the streets of Mumbai was just absolutely crazy, but so fun! I did not know how to speak fluent Hindi and couldn’t speak Marathi at all, so I took a taxi to the office and no taxi driver knew of where the office was located. I told the driver to take me to the church and I knew how to get from the church to the office, yet this driver did not know where the church was! I said okay, take me to this building and drop me off in the back and I can figure out how to get to the office. Finally the driver dropped me off, but it was in the front of the building across the street so I had to cross the street by myself. I was so scared to cross the street, I mean these were roads of Mumbai and I did not want to get hit. I finally was able to find the back of the office and I finally saw the church, so I knew I was on the right road and at last I was at the office. It was only 20 minutes from the time I left the hotel to get to the office and getting lost in the midst of it and I was 40 minutes early! I asked if a social worker could call my mom to let her know I reached the office and I wanted to sit by the church steps so I could get my thoughts together before I met with my adoption counselor.
While I was sitting on the church steps I realized that it was five minutes after 11 and another person in the office came to get me to let me know it was time to go inside the office. I saw Director and adoption counselor sitting and talking. Adoption counselor got up and we both finally saw each other. I was very nervous but we just held each other’s hands and I just gave her the biggest hug. It was at that moment I felt like all my nervousness went away and almost had tears in my eyes, but so happy to meet with her again. I sat with adoption counselor and Director also sat with us. Adoption counselor began to talk and it was at that moment I felt that adoption counselor just took the words to describe the pain and correctly nailed how I was feeling. I began to hold her hand throughout her talk and she asked if she should continue talking since I had moments of heavy emotion. I told her to continue because I knew she understood how I was feeling and it was so many years I was trying to find the right words to describe my own emotions. For the whole hour she called me Suma (name prior to adoption), I thought it was so incredibly sweet that I was called by my adoption agency name. After adoption counselor was done talking with me she asked to also speak with my mom and I would still be able to sit with adoption counselor as she spoke with mom.
There was about a 30 minutes in between from when adoption counselor was finished talking with me and waiting for my mom and during the break the social workers and Director were in the front of the office and adoption counselor was near the window doing stuff on her phone. I got up and I went to the window and spent time with adoption counselor. I knew that there was so many things other people were saying about adoption counselor and yes she is a VERY influential person in adoptions in India, but talking with her I got a completely different perspective and she was not the “bad” person others’ made her out to be. My nervousness was completely placed to rest. We had such a powerful conversation by the window that finally I came to have understanding and peace.
My mom finally arrived to the office and I sat down on the chair and I saved the chair next to me. I remember saying, “I am saving this chair for adoption counselor, and I want her to sit next to me.” Director sat in her usual seat and mom sat next to Director and I sat next to adoption counselor. Adoption counselor began her talk this time in Hindi for my mom (I think that it was easier for adoption counselor to speak in Hindi). I felt a sense of release that adoption counselor understood how I was feeling, she understood the struggles that I faced throughout the process, and I just couldn’t believe that I was seeing adoption counselor 2 days after her son’s marriage! I suppose it was meant to happen and it all worked out and I could see her. After the talk, it was time for adoption counselor to leave. Of course it was sad to say good-bye, but this time I felt like it was okay.
Mom went out again and Director and I sat together and talked after adoption counselor left. Director formally introduced me to a social worker who did the search the first time, left the agency, and then came back. My biggest wish was to see the social worker who did the search the first time and I could not believe that she was in front of me. I did not know what to say, but I said “thank you” and she said, “You are welcome.” I gave her a big hug too. There was one last thing I had to do and Director and I went out to the church steps. I wanted to read the letter I wrote to my birth mom that Director would keep in my file and I felt that I wanted to read this to her so I could release my own feelings. Director said it was a beautiful letter and I felt so much better after reading it to her. Director and I had gone through so much together and remembering all the painful struggles I went through prior to the trip, Director was always there for me.
It was indeed time to officially leave my adoption agency. I knew that the time would come where I would have to say my good-byes and see-yah-later, but I felt like I was ready to. I felt a sense of closure to looking for answers externally, but it was a beginning of incorporating my experiences into my present life. There were questions which nobody could answer, the loss of knowing my birth mother could not be found, but the gain of incredible unconditional love from all the people who I saw on this journey. Day 7 was indeed my Understanding Day, a day of understanding my life prior to adoption and knowing that everything was okay.