It turns out I have kind of a lot of information about the process surrounding my adoption. There are lots of pieces of papers, many from the Indian Government or court system and many from the two adoption agencies that my parents utilized in their quest to find the perfect child, me! They utilized Illien Adoption International and Lutheran Social Services. My understanding is that when my parents began seriously exploring international adoption they utilized Illien and then switched to Lutheran Social Services after I was found. This is the first time I’ve looked up Illien and it seems they are still in business. Looking into these now would be too much of a distraction from the task at hand: saying what I know.
I feel like I have read through all of my “file” numerous times and each time I feel I learn new and surprising things. I also seem to find conflicting information. Today, I think I’ll just focus on the information provided by officials in India including the director of the Catholic organization that ran the orphanage where I spent the earlier years of my childhood.
Most of what I am going to share are pieces of information I think will be helpful in The Search. To set the mood I want to start with a few quotes from a document dated “Monday, the 21st day of January, 1991” and titled, “In the Court of the District Judge of Tiruchirappali.” The document is printed on old flimsy paper with worn and ripped edges, stapled together, the words typewritten in purple smudging ink and in total is 5 pages long not including attachments, which I cannot seem to locate in our own records. The document seems to be split into numbered sections:
- “(3) Minor Kumar is presumed to have been born on 18.4.1989. He was surrendered by his unwed mother, Mary to SOC SEAD on 2.3.90. The authorities of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod [SOC SEAD], Tiruchirappali tried to find Indian parents…..But no one came forward to adopt the child……hence the authorities of the [SOC SEAD] have offered minor Kumar in adoption to the petitioners [my parents].”
- “(6) Admittedly the minor child was surrendered by his unwed mother. No one in India has come forward to adopt the child. The petitioners are genuine in their desire to have the child. They undertake to bring up the child in good atmosphere. The child may not have any bright future, if it remains in India. An orphan or an abandoned child is considered as a curse in this land [India].”
A few short notes before I head to bed, I had no idea how much energy this would take, this is going to take longer than I had anticipated. On section (3), I am inclined to think that the usage of the verb “presumed” means that there is some uncertainty as to the date of my birth. This is something I have sort of known for a long time or at least assumed. My logic was that if the details about my early time in India was hazy then how could we really know if my birthdate was correct. This has also led to me not really being that interested in celebrating my birthday each year, because it feels fake and not like a celebration of my birth but like a celebration of an unknown. Another point of interest is that the section names my “unwed mother” as Mary. I find it highly unlikely that my mother’s name was/is Mary, but what the hell do I know, right? I guess it seems plausible that if there was a young Indian woman in India who surrendered a child to a Catholic orphanage that her name may very well be Mary, especially if she sought out the Catholic orphanage. Either way, the name in of itself doesn’t seem particularly helpful on its own.
Lastly, I am somewhat surprised that the SOC SEAD attempted to find Indian parents for me, and most likely other orphans they provided for. I am not too surprised that none came forward especially given what is written in section (6). Section (6) is not very nice sounding, it kind of hurts my feelings. It is nice to hear about these petitioners coming from afar to take this unwanted orphan but it sucks that the cultural context in India at the time was not favorable to placing orphans in Indian families. It worries me much that this cultural belief is referenced in court documents from the earl 90s because of what it may say about the attitude of the contactable biological relatives I may have in India. As I have written before, it scares me that me searching for someone could lead to social ostracization of biological relatives or even worse being disowned. It also makes me very wary of seeking out help from the Indian legal system as it was developed and is probably still quite influenced by such cultural norms and stigmas toward unwed childbearing and orphans.
I’ll continue to add information in the coming weeks as I continue to dig through old gems like this court document. Thanks for sticking with me folks.