By Ranjana Iyer
I often find myself standing in front of the mirrors looking at my brown complexion and my thick black hair searching for answers I may never get.
Last year was a year like no other which I will never forget. I went to Banglore, India trying to understand my personal history. After nineteen years of waiting I walked into Vathsalya Charitable Trust on such a humid day. During the whole car ride there, my hands were clammy and my stomach was like a gymnast doing cartwheels every second. One of the ladies called an ayah, a nurse, said she remembered me when I was only six months old in the native tongue Kannada. After what felt like so long, Ms.Sharmila greeted me warmly and sat down with my mother and I. We watched with great intent as she took out a piece of white paper and placed it on the table with one hand covering the most important piece of history I was waiting for. She walked me through the charitable trust and the work they have been doing since the orphanage shut down. Later, she asked me about my views on relationships. Finally, she revealed my past. I knew of all the possible scenarios because I planned on this moment from a child but when she told me in great detail about my teen mother who had an unintended pregnancy, something in me broke down. For many years, I suppressed the deep rooted pain by birth parents for giving me up. However, in this very moment I felt my mother’s pain and empathized with her. I wanted to hold her and hug her and tell her that she made a hard choice and that she is brave. I wanted to call her and hear her voice even if I did not understand the native language fully. I wanted to look at her face and see my resemblance in her. I thought going there would give me all the answers I needed but I realized that it was much more important to process the information that I have first. I am so grateful for that piece of history and it just makes me appreciate what I have got in life.
Based on my personal experiences, I understood the unfortunate stigma and reality surrounding unwed mothers in India. I am so glad that the charitable trust gave my birth mom support to finish school and live a proper life. I realized that I may never meet her but she gave me small gifts in my life which I never noticed until recently. There were a variety of things including the ability to sing, to realize the importance of forgiveness, to be able to step into another person’s shoes and to be nonjudgmental. Yes indeed, I have my own flaws too, but she made me realize how the actions of one person can affect another person so deeply. She gave me the chance to succeed by giving me up even though it must have been painful- because no mother wants to lose a child. She made me feel closer to the women in the slums because it made me think of my background and where I come from. I knew that I could have searched for more information, but in that moment I felt a great sense of relief and looked at my mother and hugged her. Tightly, and despite all the up and down interactions I have had with my mother, I felt the experience brought me closer to her.
My parents have given me so much love and support. They have helped me in my search to know the truth, and I know that was hard on them. I remember leaving the building and getting in the auto, and my mother telling me the significance of her father’s death and me coming into her life after that experience. I am not a spiritual person at all but I do think destiny played a part at that right moment. Life is truly a journey full of surprises and filled with so many opportunities.
From a young age I was curious about my biological parents. I would sit and think of all the ‘what if’ situations and interrogate my parents with questions like a CIA agent. Even though it took me time to understand my identity and where I come from, I will never know who I actually look like. I used to feel a sense of sadness when I could not see myself when I looked at my parents’ faces, but now I have realized that I do know my roots. My mother and I may not have the same blood type but I have realized that I have picked up on her mannerisms. Many people even say that I smile like her. I realize the importance of family. After nineteen years of waiting I thought that the answers would change my life. I want to dive into my roots instead of swimming away.
Ranjana Iyer is a majoring in Psychology from the bay area and passionate about social justice issues and Her interests include traveling, hanging with her family and friends, and recording her podcast, Gen Z Voice. Her personal Instagram is @ranjanaiyer