Do you know this?

There are approximately 18000 parents registered with CARA, while the number of children in the Government's adoption pool is less 1800.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Guest Column - Chris Futia

I know you have strong connections in India, could you tell us how you developed them?

In 1973, when I was 16, I flew all by myself from Utica, NY to Mangalore, Mysore (as it was called then). I lived in a small town near Udupi as a Rotary International Exchange Student. I had 2 teenage brothers and 1 sister at home, and we had score of cousins and aunties and uncles.

At that time, there was of course no email, you couldn’t call the U.S. from our village, letters took 2 weeks to arrive, and cables took 3 days. I was completely cut off from home, and was terribly homesick a great deal of the time. It took me a long time to adjust to the food and the customs, but my Indian parents were very patient with me, and my siblings and cousins always kept me busy and laughing. We saw lots of Bollywood movies (often the same one thrice in a week) and had so many different family affairs to attend. We also lived very close to the Arabian Sea and had a small beach hut, so I was able to enjoy many beautiful sunsets there.

To be honest, it was hard for me to believe in 1973 that a small village in south India and my hometown in America could exist at the same time on the same planet. I felt a little bit like Dorothy in Oz, wondering if I would ever go home again. And once I did go home, I put India behind me for many years, attending Princeton for my Bachelor’s Degree and Oxford for my Master’s Degree before starting a long career in business.

Eventually, I reconnected with my Indian family and came to love them very deeply. The “strictness” that had rankled so much as a teenager was no longer an issue, and I understood their world view much better, as they understood mine. My daddy was a very special man who gave me his love and opened my heart to the possibility of adopting children from India. He liked to say, “All of my children have given me beautiful Indian grandchildren. Even my American daughter has given!” Daddy was also a businessman and a philanthropist who worked hard every day to improve the lot of his extended family while also founding countless hospitals, orphanages, colleges, etc. It was very sad when he passed away three years ago.

Mummy was Daddy’s helpmate in every was and she was the one who wore the “big keys” tied to her sari. She was very intelligent and had a great deal of self-discipline, as well as a very strong personality. During the past 10 years, I came to know her very intimately, and when she died only 3 weeks ago I was bereft. But she and I always believed that we were probably together in a past life and would quite likely be together again, so I am consoled by the thought that the wheel of life keeps turning and nothing is ever “over”.

Of course, I now have my siblings and their children and their children’s children in my life, and what is most beautiful is that they have “adopted” my children as part of their family as well. For children like mine who lost all their biological roots in India, it is an immeasurable gift to have Indian grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, etc. To be loved like a family member is something they really cherish.

I know you had helped your daughter to search for her birth family, how did it go?

Like most adopted children, my daughter had only the slimmest thread of information to go on. I used the internet very creatively to engage authorities in Kolkata and West Bengal in the search, and they did the best they could with the little information I had. Eventually, just a week ago, we did have a breakthrough and were able to speak with the nurse who was on duty when Annie’s birthmother had delivered her and later the same day when she absconded. We learned that the district court officials conducted a 9 months investigation involving all the police in all the towns around the area where Annie was found, as well as all the local Panchayats. But no one was ever able to trace Annie’s birthmother, so the nurse gave her the name Banchita, which means “unknown one” in the local dialect.

It was very sad to have to tell Annie that we had gone as far as we could go with the search. Since the address given by the birthmother was false, we could not trust that the name or other information she gave was true either. For years, we had a name we believed was the name of Annie’s birthmother. Now we will never know. The morning after we spoke with the nurse, Annie said to me, sadly, “Mom, now I’ve lost everything I ever had.” I reminded her that truth is always better than stories or lies, and that she now knows someone in Bengal who has invited her to come and visit. This is the person who gave her her first name. It is far too little, but it is more than we have for our boys. Indian infant adoptions, at least those done in the ‘80s and ‘90s, usually offer scant hope of a successful search and reunion.

What is your advice to any adoptive family or an adoptee that may be looking for any advice from you on birth family search?

To be continued tomorrow....

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