Wow, these last two months have been extraordinary for me in so many ways. No words can express all my feelings and emotions I’ve experienced. My biggest adventure for the last two months was going to Kolkata with another longtime volunteer to visit my orphanage and my second children’s home in November. Then I went to Vellore near Chennai to visit where I was first placed by my birth mother.
Oh, what a journey this Diwali was for me! I found my childhood novel that my mom read to me. It was made into a beautiful movie that we watched often. My mom called me her Little Indian Princess. Oh, how I miss her this week particularly. But I know without a doubt that she and my grandparents have been guiding me through finding and making connections with my children home and orphanage in Kolkata. I’ve wept so much this week out of pure joy, full of gratitude, humility, and sadness. I have been fortunate to put my pieces of my first 3 years together and received answers. I have discovered that both the Vellore and my 2nd placement in Kolkata are Missionaries of Charity: Mother Teresa's children's homes. Young and unwed mothers were getting rid of their babies more in the 70's & 80's so the Missionaries of Charity Mother Teresa's children's homes were developed to take children with no questions asked to shirk the young mothers’ burdens of having to care for their babies or doing the unthinkable which I'm sure they felt there wasn't another way. Oh, how fortunate my young birth mother made a selfless and toughest decision to place me in the children's home in Vellore. It was a miracle from God to have been chosen to be adopted after getting moved 3 times. The orphanage found my original records and I went through reading the letter my mom wrote to accept to adopt me. The older women at my actual orphanage here remembered me when I showed them my orphanage photos. We hugged and wept together. These beautiful ladies said, "we were your first mummies." I just felt so much love from them. I could get the names of the 3 women in my photos. I'll be able to connect with 2 of them. So many tender moments all throughout my Dry Creek Charity & Manav Sadhna Teaching Fellowship but this week has been by far the most memorable, connected, and getting to know my mom all over again since her passing 22 years ago. I had hell of a time obtaining this photo of the document. Let's just say I begged the sister to show me and allow for me to take this picture of this letter proving that I was placed in a Missionaries of Charity and when I left Vellore to go to the Children's Home in Kolkata. It wasn't a positive interaction. I was upset for how she handled this and treated me. But now I have my full timeline of my first 3.5 years of my life.
I still can't believe that I've made it to my first children’s home in Vellore! The sisters fed me breakfast. I hung out with children from 2-18 years old who are all handicapped and mentally challenged. They are just so precious. I was crying inside though. Amazing sisters! Then walked around Vellore and went to the fort, Hindu temple, and the government museum. Then the social worker took me on his bike to see the female adult home. I had coffee with them and met the female residents. The hardest about this visit was that the main sister couldn’t find any records on my birth mother or which slum I came from. It was hard to not have the hopes to find such documents unlike in Kolkata. I felt a sense of loss and sadness.
It was very interesting to walk around in Vellore and Chennai amongst the people who look like me. I got funny looks when I pay the foreigner prices at the sites, lol. They start speaking Tamil to me but are puzzled when I respond back in English. They say why you pay foreigner price when you look Indian and look like you're from Chennai? The sister from the children's home in Vellore said, "although you look like you're from here, as soon as you speak, rickshaw drivers will start taking advantage of you because of your accent. So best not to speak." It's been fun to walk around with people who look like me as egotistical as this sounds who have thick curly hair and as dark as me. No wonder I get mistaken to be black. This is the first time that I don't stick out like a sore thumb.
The Jai Jagat Journey production was yet incredible to be part of their process. Such beautiful and ambitious youth. I was just in awe by the costumes and the many hours they have practiced. I participated at the beginning part of anchoring the peace/meditation center. I wore all white to represent unity and peace in the world. 2 teachers and I sat in silence with soft instrumental music playing in the background. This was to invite the audience to offer prayer and peace to the world and for all creatures on Earth. There were other centers in making a promise to help our Earth, gratitude, wrote love messages to children with cancer, and free hugs/handshakes, They will be touring the US the end of May and June.
Always so neat to be with Manav Sadhna family for Christmas! I shared the Bible story of Luke chapter 2 and how Jesus Christ gave unconditional love to everyone. I related how he adored children and served them to Manav Sadhna loving and serving children. Happy Christmas to everyone I love from India. Such a special and unique time to be here.
Pardon me for tooting my own horn in this post. Here is my contribution to Manav Sadhna English programs for 3rd and 4th graders. This has been my baby for the last year. I'm proud of this curriculum and witnessing the teachers at all 4 centers flourish and gain confidence in this new teaching method and the concept of phonics. Each student will be engaged through the main learning styles, through playing games, and having fun with learning a hard language of English. Thank you to Anjalididi, Yogibhai, Jagatbhai, Calvinbhai, Shirishbhai, Earn N'Learn students, and my many volunteer friends who also contributed in putting the materials together! This would not have been possible if it wasn't for all the translating into Gujarati, cutting, laminating, sorting, stapling books, and videotaping the trainings to Gujarati for the teachers. This was a true labor of love by all those who helped!
My Manav Sadhna family! What a lovely dinner and time with my favorite humans! They held a circle sharing and said such beautiful things to me. I then gave in and shared how much they all have influenced me, allowed me to be me, was patient with my incessant questions, how they were there for me in a pivotal time of my life and how India was my greatest teacher. I cried of course.
Doing Thanksgiving the Manav Sadhna way with no oven and veg style. Mmm… pasta, homemade marinara sauce, vegetable hash, apple cobbler with ice cream. Enjoyed cooking with these lovely people, such dear friends who feel like family.
My favorite thing to do with the centers is doing home visits. We did them to keep encouraging parents to send their children to the centers after Diwali break. These kids are from Manav Seva, so comforting to see our little ones being loved and well taken care of. They really are carefree children. Love them all!