My First Visit Home – December 2004
By Prema Malhotra
[Note: All names have been changed.)
I remember my first trip back to India quite clearly in my mind. This was my first time visiting my Child Home and my first attempt to put together the pieces of my past. My mom and I traveled to Mumbai, the city where I was born. I remember we pulled up to this office building, and I started walking towards the very end of the office hallway. I saw the sign that said that this was my Child Home. I was completely shocked to see how small the place was with only four or five cubicle desks and how only about four or five people could make the space feel crowded.
I was very shy since I had never met Minati, the director, before, and I had never communicated with her through email or phone. She gave me a very big hug; I was not used to hugging someone the very first time meeting them. She told me to sit down and feel comfortable with the surroundings and put my backpack down. A social worker was there and she presented me with a handmade card that said “Welcome” on the cover. She gave me a small gift of bells. I thought it was really pretty and I started to read the card that was given to me. I started to smile because the card was addressed using the name Sahasra, the name given prior to adoption. I wanted to spend time sitting in the Child Home and try to process my surroundings. Certainly I was a bit overwhelmed with emotions. After some time, Minati told my mom and I to take a break and get some lunch.
My mom and I went to get some food and within an hour or so we returned to the Child Home. A social worker came with my mom and I to meet my caretaker Deva, who took care of me in a nursing home before I was adopted. (At this point, we did not know about my foster mom, whom I discovered during my root search in December 2011.) The social worker came with my mom and I in the car. It felt like we drove so incredibly far. The social worker was really nice, and eventually I started to feel comfortable. She started to have conversation with me, and I started to talk with her. My mom was reading her book on her iPod passing time. The social worker checked in with me to see how I was doing emotionally, and at that point I was okay. She held my hand; somehow not really engaging in communication with her just felt special to me.
We finally approached Deva’s home and got through the gates. I was able to spend time with her. I found out that I stayed in her nursing home in the foster care unit as my Child Home does not place babies in orphanages. (Later on I realized they place the babies with foster mothers.) My mom was so interested in the photo albums, and she was occupied by looking at them. This gave me alone time with Deva. Somehow in that room we both knew that we were connected by my life prior to adoption. I tried to hold back my tears. Again, words did not have to be expressed, but just being in the same room felt incredibly healing. I held Deva’s hand the whole entire time and she held my hand so incredibly tight. We took a picture together; it was time to leave. We went out of the apartment and went outside towards the gates to leave. For a moment I stopped and wanted to go right back in to see her, but I knew I had to move forward and proceed to the car. The social worker asked if I was okay, and all I could do was give her a hug. We then finally made it to the car and we drove a few blocks to where the nursing home used to be. I did not take any pictures of it at that time, and I am not sure what it was besides just a piece of unused land. We then dropped the social worker off at the train station and drove back to our hotel. I ended up falling asleep. I was exhausted.
The following morning my mom and I went back to the Child Home. Minati planned a meeting with the social worker who did my adoption paperwork. We drove to the social worker’s apartment. My mom read a book, and it gave me some time to talk with the social worker alone. Of course I was lost for words. I first needed to process my surroundings and spend time with her, even if it was in silence. I eventually started talking with her and we exchanged email addresses. We gave each other the biggest hug, and I started smiling and wiped my tears away.
We headed back to the Child Home. It was time to say our goodbyes.