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ADOPTION AND LESSONS LEARNED

This adoption journey has taught me several things: I did not know I could love someone I had not seen or known as much as I already love this little girl. I don’t know who she is, what she looks like, yet she feels so much a part of me. We refer to her by her name and in less than a month she has gone from a thought in my head to an actual person. Secondly, this process is teaching me patience. I believed I was patient even before, but patience for the system and for something you want so much yet have no control over is a whole different ball game. There are anxious days when I re-read every blog I have already read on the topic, there are moments of uncertainty wondering what if but the next morning I am upbeat again about her.

 

There has been a few milestones since I last updated on our adoption journey. We successfully completed our homestudy amidst crazy cleaning and reorganizing to make our home child friendly. We got our homestudy report, proof read it a million times. We got registered with CARA India on May 1st. CARA is the adoption authority in India, and now we exist in their system. We are now trying to collect a million notarized documents for our dossier. Dossier, a fancy word for document collection is a mind numbingly strenuous process. The hardest of them being a physical with the doctor. I hate doctors and I try to not see them unless I absolutely need to. This little girl sure is making me see those people more than I like to.

 

I knew this journey would teach me a lot considering people say a child can change your whole world. But what I didn’t realize was how much I would learn before I even get her.  I have never had to deal with “are you dating someone?”, “when are you getting married” questions. Things happened when society deemed was the right time for me, so I was saved from that turmoil. With this adoption process, everyone seems to have an opinion about what I should and shouldn’t do. Here’s an example of the conversation I have with people:

Me: We are adopting a baby

Stranger: Oh, because you have problems and cannot have your own?

Me: No, because we want to. I don’t have any problems

Stranger: That is so nice of you. You are so generous.

 

This has been the drill irrespective of gender, and age. I initially felt obligated to justify that I could have my own child, but at some point I felt horrible about it. As a woman, I can only imagine the pain one feels in the endless battle of having a child, and I felt I was in some ways cheating on my gender by stating my fertility status. I decided I would not answer it. In reality I wanted to say “none of your business” which in polite language came out as silence. As a young woman, I was not prepared for these questions. I have heard these questions in India a million times, but in America where privacy is so valued, I was surprised at this intrusion.

I have even had someone tell me if I was adopting because of infertility then it is not noble, else I was noble to do it. I don’t want to be perceived noble. I just want to enjoy this process without being bombarded by questions. Irrespective of my fertility status, or the nobility pedestal people put me on, I am just a young woman trying to live the dream I had. If a pregnant woman is not asked why she decided to get pregnant, don’t ask me why I am adopting. It is none of your business!

MULTIRACIAL MASALA!

I had a prototype for a husband since the time I can remember. He was going to be tall, tan and handsome with the archetypical Indian hairstyle.  He was not going to be a lawyer, engineer or doctor for sure. So when I was at the US consulate to come to America, and the guy at the counter swore I was going to marry an American, I smirked. There was no way I was going to marry an American. I was going to come back to India and marry my prototype. Fast forward to 2008, and I was at the alter marrying a sort of tall, curly haired African American man who was an engineer. He was far from the Indian prototype.

I had known him for five years by then, and I knew what I was signing up for- or I believed I knew it. I met my mother-in-law when we were dating, and it went pretty good I thought. I was a nervous wreck and my boyfriend thought the perfect introduction would be when I was just done hiking the mountains with him. So here I was meeting my potential mother-in-law in shorts and t-shirt all sweaty. It went well I think, although I believe she expected an American girl and here I was a direct export from India. I never expected an American mother-in-law either in my defense. 

My first introduction to his extended family happened in July 4 2008, few months after our marriage. In India, this would have happened before our wedding. The aunts and uncles had to approve the girl before you married her.  Although I knew I did not need to impress them since I was already married and I was sort of sure he would not divorce me over their disapproval, the Indian girl in me really wanted to be approved. So I wore my best jeans and t-shirt and made my first American event- the BBQ. My husband is not the greatest introducer, in fact in more situations than not, he hardly introduces me. His aunt welcomed me home, who I did not know at that time was his aunty. She called me her niece so I assumed she must be some aunt. I sat in an available chair, and I was lost. In India, they would have been at my beck and call, catering to my need. Of course I was the daughter in law to the family. Here I was sitting with my husband and was expected to plate my own food. 

After being in the United States for over 7-8 years by then, you would assume I would have no culture shock-Wrong answer. I was shocked and baffled. I had never been to an American event before that and needless to say I was hoping they would feed me like we feed people back home. Plate your food and sit and watch you eat and feed you more as your plate emptied. So my husband plated food for us, and being shy I decided it was better to nibble his food. I also found out that peach cobbler was an acquired taste. I love sweets but peach cobbler is not my cup of tea.

I heard my husband tell his dad that his wife was Indian, and he had to specify it was India Indian and not Native American.  Meeting his dad was another adventure. We went to meet him and his family for his birthday. I remember the door opening and noise decibels increasing. I wanted to run for my life. I am Indian from India, and if noise level goes beyond a certain decibel you run for your life unless of course it includes music and dancing. There were at least ten women who were really excited to meet us and were talking at the same time. The smartest thing my husband did on that visit was to hold my hand the moment we got off the car. If not for his shackles on me, I would have run like a lunatic. They sure would have thought, she isn’t just India but she is a crazy Indian girl.

In India when the family gets together, you talk and you eat and you talk more. The men sit together and talk and the women do the same. Here in America, I have learned when you get together you either watch TV or you play games. For the last five years of being married to my husband, every time we went to his family events I saw them play Dominos and the noise increased with each game. They wonder why I don’t join them when I watch them so attentively each year. I don’t know how to tell them when the noise goes up, my brain shuts down along with the rest of my body. I am not about to be the Indian girl who lost in Dominos. I have to hold our flag up. 

Living in California I believed everyone who lived here has tried Indian food. After all, there is an Indian restaurant in every corner.  Having lived my entire life in India, I wasn’t going to not have Indian food at my wedding. I might wear a white dress, but three essential parts of my existence; Bollywood music, Indian food and Indian attire were part of my wedding in abundance. Boy was I surprised when they wondered what we ate, and how spicy it was. I could understand the older generation not knowing about my food, but when the younger lot asked me the same I was surprised.  I wonder why I was surprised, since my husband did not eat real Indian food until we started dating, and he had lived here his entire life.

It’s been five years since I have been married to my husband and it has been a fun ride. He introduces me to all things American and I train him on all things Indian. I say train because we have our quirks, and some of our doings make no sense unless you are of course Indian.  But we relish our differences and quirks, often teasing the other until the next quirk unfolds. It is a 24×7 sitcom in progress at our house. As for his family, they may not plate my food for me or feed me until I drop, but I know they love me just as much as my family does.

 

 

NOSTALGIC SATURDAY!

Next week is a biggie: we have our final homeImagestudy interview with Ms D. She gets to visit our home, and interview my husband and me for one hour each, individually. I feel like we need to sit together and get our facts right- but then again it is not about where did you meet each other sort of thing- it’s the past that is going to serve as a window to the future. 

As we were cleaning our house this Saturday, I found the cassette that had some personal recording from my childhood. Nostalgia engulfed my soul to say the very least. Recently I have been reading about terminally ill parents leaving letters, notes, and pictures for their children before they die so they can know him/her. Every time I read those stories it breaks my heart but at the same time I am glad they are doing something so special. I was that child who lost their parent at an early age. I know first hand how important those letters/notes are to the child. It means holding a piece of your parent forever. Some might argue that you are preventing that child from moving on, but when you loose a parent you never move on. It is an irreplaceable bond! 

Back to my cassette: My dad recorded my childish babbling singing nursery rhymes as a toddler. He knew there would be a time when I would be married and away from him. At that juncture of life he wanted to hear my voice every day since I wouldn’t be around. I refused to sing that specific day, and so my dad spoke in the recording guiding me through it. Fast forward to 1995, I had just lost my dad to death and before that day I never cared much about this cassette. One evening as I was coping with my broken heart, I stumbled upon this cassette and started listening to it. It never said it had our voice… as I listened I heard him call me by my nickname, and I melted. It was a surprise least expected and something that I needed to just survive each day. I did not cry- instead it felt soothing to my soul. When he died, I never imagined I would ever hear his voice again. To this day, when I am alone I think back to my dad, wondering what it felt like to sit near him, to see him smile. Those moments are long gone and with each passing day those feelings disappear little by little. It’s hard to recreate a hug without the other person being there. I am glad his voice is captured to remind me of the only man I have loved without any inhibition, and who never hurt me with even a sound. I have carried this cassette from India to America- through apartments and homes. It is by far the most precious thing in my house. 

Yesterday as I heard it again in a long time, I felt calm again. I was not in the sunniest of moods yesterday. His voice let me know that everything would be ok. I sat there fighting my tears, rewinding the cassette over and over to hear him call me by my nickname again- a name that only he called me by, a name that had years of memories wrapped in four alphabets.  When he was recording that cassette, little did he know that it would be his daughter and not him who would be listening to it years later- hoping to relive the warmth of his voice again. I am glad my dad recorded this cassette—very few children have this luxury that I do. To hear their deceased parent for life, especially when their heart just stops without a warning, with no time to prepare and say good-bye.

 

 

INDIAN CHRISTMAS!

Another year…another Christmas morning! As I sit here enjoying the serenity around me, I feel nostalgic. Christmas is one of those days I feel nostalgic about. It was one of my favorite days of the year as a child. Growing up in India, Christmas day meant a lot of things to me. I woke up in the morning to the warm hug and kiss from my dad, and in just a few hours I could wear that new attire that has been sitting in the shelf for the last month or so. As a child in India, we never exchanged gifts on Christmas. It never really mattered because I got chocolates and I got to shake hands with Mr. Claus

Santa Claus, I have had a secret crush on him for a long time now. As a child I wanted him to be my grandfather. Who wouldn’t? He would be awesome to hug and cuddle up with…he was my perfect grandfather. Thank goodness, bad Santa did not exist back then! He embodied the spirit of Christmas to me. Every Christmas we went to the busiest street in Bangalore where we got to meet Santa Claus. Stores were decorated, and Santa welcomed us. We did not go into the stores. Children went and shook hands with Santa, wished him Merry Christmas and we got our candy. It was no cheap candy…there were Cadbury bars, Nestle bars and other expensive candy. It was Halloween minus the costumes. This is why Santa and Christmas was awesome!

Every Christmas morning I wake up missing my dad and his childlike exuberance.  His dimpled smile that welcomed me for years is truly missed. Each Christmas morning I look at his picture and imagine his warm hug. As a child, Christmas was fun. But in those small moments, we were taught the essence of Christmas. It was about being thankful; thankful for the love we have around us, being thankful for the simple pleasures in life- like warm hugs and kisses, which mean more than any present.

Last year during May/June as we were driving down the street in America, I saw a guy dressed as Santa on a motorcycle. My brain did not wonder why Santa was seen in summer- did not matter to my heart. It swirled back to those days in India and I jumped up screaming “Santa!!”. My husband was in splits laughing. I guess I finally came out of the closet as a Santa lover! It did not matter how old I was…at that moment I was the child growing up in India.

I am sure things have changed in India.  Christmas might not be the same as it was 15-20 years back. Yet, if Santa asked me what I wanted this Christmas, I would want to go back home. I want to wake up in that familiar warmth again which we said was cold…Phewww!!!I want to feel the warm hug of my dad again. I want to walk down those familiar lanes and feel the spirit of Christmas again where simplicity was the essence of life.

Enjoy your day with you and yours! Merry Christmas!

IF ONLY I COULD FIND THAT GENIE IN A BOTTLE TODAY!

In the last few weeks that I have not been blogging, my family has taken a million small steps towards our adoption. One day there was no activity around this adoption, and I wondered what was happening. It’s like God heard the million thoughts running through my head, and bam I felt the showers of to do tasks. Fingerprinting, 10 hrs of adoption classes, references and our blind date with Ms D: in a nutshell that has been my last few weeks and oh! Cleaning my house like there is no tomorrow. It’s amazing how every step is daunting when you know there is a little person at stake.

Fingerprinting has never been more daunting in my life, and I have been fingerprinted at least 20 times already between customs, immigration and everything in the middle. Standing in a ups store, I wondered what if I had some unknown criminal record I did not know about, what if my husband did too—sure, I knew him but what if… can you really know someone that well? Battling the monster in my head, my husband and I were able to get our fingerprints taken. My mom has super skinny, alien-ish fingers that refused to co-operate.  She was stressed, annoyed, and somewhere in there a little nervous too. A new day and a new ups store later, her alien fingerprints registered.

 I have never been good at trainings. At work, I skim through it or mute my computer if it is a video. We finished 4 hours of training. I listened to every word they said. Somehow I felt I owed it to my little girl. I joked to my husband if every couple had to do it, they could totally eliminate teenage pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies. That said, those trainings were indeed interesting and very educational. Even if you have a kid, bringing a child home is a different ball game. You need new defensive plans and plays to prepare you for it. In those training moments, we learned about attachments, and how to form one with the child. Duh!! My husband sure needs that training and more on attachments in general. I can form attachments in a second and be heartbroken later. So I need training on how to form less attachments- clearly they don’t recommend that.  After almost 2 weeks of silence again, I got an update email from our agency. With shaking hands and racing heartbeat, I opened the email dreading to know of any crimes I could have committed when I was asleep. All clear!! Pheww….Not a criminal or married to a criminal after all!

A follow up email introduced Ms. D to us. Ms D is our social worker and she was going to contact us. I know what people feel when they are waiting for a girl/guy to call them back. After 5 days of deafening silence, we heard back from Ms. D. Those 5 days were traumatic. I wondered if she was given all the digits of my phone number, and what if she called me when there was no reception. I checked my phone a million times to see if I forgot to feel the “vibration” of my phone. As I pondered, I got an email from her asking me to set up our date. So all that phone turn off/on, and what not- and she sends an email. Women…so unpredictable!

So here we are at the cusp of the D day. On 11/22 we get to meet her for lunch. I ponder how I should dress- Do I need to project a more matured me or should I go meet her like the real me: a jeans and sweatshirt clad college girl who is not in college.  And then there are the questions: what will she ask? Will she pry into my soul as I answer or will she be chilled out? I have never been good at initiating conversations and I wonder how awkward the meeting would be. She holds the key to our daughter, and somehow I feel more pressure than ever before. Between now and Friday, I am hoping I can charm Ms. D’s pants off like George Clooney, and she hands me a little baby girl!! If God were to give me a genie, I would ask to be a charmer like Shahrukh Khan or George Clooney, just for a day I would want the gift of jab!Image

The Day I Donned The Hard Hat & Orange Vest

God and I have a pact: he gives me as much varied experiences as possible before he gives me what I really want. That being said, when I got out of college I had a lot of jobs: a lot to the point that even after 5 years at one company, my future employers are still concerned about my “commitment”. Commitment was something I was afraid of-true but not in my career. I was ready to buckle up and spend 5 years in a company easily. But the first 2 years after graduation, the longest I was at a job was 8 months and shortest well, a few months. I still did not have a one day job like some of the celebrity marriages.

As an engineer out of college, the one job I least expected to take was a construction gig. Being a female, 5’5, I knew early on I was not made for construction. Well God had different plans for me.  How could I define my construction gig in few alphabets? FEAR FACTOR!! After a technical interview, I received my offer letter the very same day….no waiting anxiety, yay!! I was stoked.  A day before I was officially going to start, I got this call from my boss and he asked me to pick up my hard hat and orange vest the day I start. Did it ring any alarms in my engineer brain? Heck no! So here I was on a Monday morning picking up my busted company car, an orange vest and a hard hat. I was ready to be chauffeured to the site which was 2 hours away and we had to get there at 7.  I still remember the moment the big gates opened, and I saw big burly men and few very well built women walk through the gates. I got stares, a lot of them- to the men here I was a normal sized woman and Indian at that. A lot of them did not know what Indian looked like. Here I was an exotic bird in the construction zone.

My first day at the job I got to jump down a 7 foot sump or commonly known as a hole. I am 5’5 in case I did not specify it. I now know I am claustrophobic (thanks to the wonderful MRI machine that ate me for few minutes few years after my sump travel), but back then I was young and stupid. I had my inhibitions, but when a 6-foot guy refused to jump in if I did not do it, I just had to do it for womanpower. I did with no escape route planned. After 1 hour of stretching my legs like I never have, I made it alive outside the sump. The 6 footer did not make the cut and was laid off, but I got to do more cool stuff. I laid pipes, used all sorts of grease and in the 2 months I was there I never got to do any engineering.

I was the Angelina Jolie of the construction zone. No, I don’t look like her from even outer space. I was small in comparison to the construction women and that they did not know where I was from helped.  Let’s call him R just in case my construction boyfriend read this blog:

R: Hey, where you from? You Latina or some

Me: No I am Indian

R: Where that be? Like Native American. You don’t look it.

Me: No from India, India.

R: A’right!! So you make curry? When you going make curry for me? (this question was asked everyday we met)

Me: Ummm…never!

R: what you do here?

Me: Engineer

R: did you go to a 4 year college and s**t?

Me: Ummm…yeah

R: you are what I was looking for. I dropped out of 4th grade. I always wanted to be with a girl who went to college and s**t.  You have the book smart, I got the street smarts…you know what I am sayin?

Me: Yeah (in my head: not really)

R: If you feel me like I am feelin you, then we can have somin special

Me: I have a boyfriend in San Jose

R: What that mean? You could have a boyfriend in San Jose and I could be your boyfriend in Sacramento. That’s how we do it here.

Me: Laughing.

The construction industry is different and hard work. They wake up early to get to the site by 7. We had to do daily stretches to ensure no one was injured during the day’s work.  R would stretch sexily in front of me so I could see what I was missing. He would turn, look at me and stretch. I got free food from the road coach (food truck). All of R’s construction friends were jealous he was talking to me.

My two weeks in the construction zone was beyond funny.  I got hit on by every possible man: tall, fat, short and thin. In case I did not mention R was 5…so yeah! Construction work is hard work! Each day I would get home by 5pm and I would crash on the couch by 7pm. My construction gig is one of my proudest achievements ever. How many women can claim to work in a construction zone? Every time I go for interviews and they ask me “define a moment when you were a hard-ass?” I spring my construction days on them, and they are stumped. I also happen to meet the most genuine people who were hardworking beyond anything I have ever known.

It’s been over 5 years since I left my construction gig, but to this day I do a double take when I see someone in an orange vest and hardhat. It was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I may not have eaten cockroaches or jumped off the building like the fear factor show, but every day at the construction site taught me how strong I was as a person, mentally and physically. They certified that “fear was not a factor for me” unless it included an MRI machine.

THREE WEEKS AT HOME!

After eight years and six failed trips, here we were finally in San Francisco airport making our way to India. This trip was special for many reasons. I was going back home after eight years and a marriage. I was stoked to take my African-American husband to India and nervous how he was going to handle it all.  We were miles apart- he was as American as I could find and I had lived most of my life in India. So here I was taking him to see me.

Here was our agenda: Bangalore, Coimbatore, Madras, and the state where my family was from- Kerala. While I could go on and on about the first two places, Kerala was a place I had visited twice before.  I was excited to explore the place called God’s own country…. and in every sense of the world it was as heavenly as it could get.  We toured the backwaters of Kerala where you truly know why it is called God’s own country. Calm, serene and just peaceful- that one night on a houseboat in the middle of the backwaters was exactly what I needed. I was rejuvenated to say the least.Image

We explored Kerala by ourselves for the most part, except for a few days with family. That was when the fun began. My African American football-playing husband was a freak of nature in my country. Sure, there were men who were taller than him, and bigger than him- what my people never understood was why would a football player have big shoulders!! Soccer was football in India, and American football was an alien sport. In Cochin, a state in Kerala we decided that we were going to get my husband a kurta (a tunic in America). While people wondered why he was built so weirdly- they thought maybe just maybe he was related to Mohammed Ali, and he boxed for a living. While Mohammed Ali became his family, he represented President Obama to them. There were countless times when people told him they loved President Obama, and he stood there stumped.  While African Americans often complained about their hair, India loved it. My family and friends loved touching his hair, and combing it with a pick. It was a new toy and they loved everything about it- texture, fluffiness –all of it.

ImageKerala, what do I say about the state that is my identity. There is no place like her. She is calm, untouched by technology and going there takes you into a trance as you wonder how on earth could a place be so untouched by modernity.  I had been away from India for eight years, so much had changed and yet nothing had changed. The warmth and love that I think is the core of India was untouched.Image

India is more than just food, or yoga as the world sees it. She is an embodiment of love and immense sacrifice. The moment I got out of the Chennai airport, a sense of belonging filled my soul. I knew I was home. After years in the US, an American husband, a home, a career- India still remains my only home.  India might have changed with her booming economy, but the heart of India remains untarnished.  No matter where I might travel, going back to India is rejuvenating- It’s homecoming for my soul!