My names is Adinda. I was born in Mumbai. When I was 8 months, I was adopted. When arriving in Belgium, my papers were switched with the papers of another girl. I got her date of birth and name on my passport and she got mine. Despite of the happy life that I have had and still have, a part of me kept on wondering… what happened to me when I was a baby? Who is my mother? Why did she feel that leaving me behind was the best option? I felt the need to find the answers to feel more complete.
My first trip to India was a wonderful experience: getting acquainted with the people, culture, habits, smells, food, colours,.. In a way, it felt like coming home. For the first time in my life I was not being looked at as a stranger. Not for long of course, I am a stranger there too.
I’ve been searching for over 20 years now. It’s been a long road of facing walls, closing doors, opening windows and most of all meeting lots of people. Everything speeded up after I moved to Portugal. As if something had been put into motion, leading me into the right direction. Portugal has a great connection with India.
In an Indian restaurant in Cascais I met Rashid. We became friends and he suggested to travel to India during the same time. I got to know Mumbai better by spending time there with him and meeting his friends. Visiting the child’s home didn’t bring more information, nor did the request via a lawyer to the Bombay High Court to receive a copy of my file. It got lost. The Belgian adoption agency had destroyed their archives because of lack of space. In Belgium it became clear that it was not easy to find support with official organisations. A specialised organisation who offered help turned out to be way too expensive. Was that it then?
I started Hindi classes at the “Faculdade das Letras” in Lisbon. Apart from learning the language, the teacher took me on this amazing journey through Indian culture and introduced me to Indian people. Every few years I returned to India, to see more of the country, to visit friends and to continue the search.
A staff member of a hotel suggested me to check the online birth registry and that was a new beginning. A Belgian friend helped me connecting the dots and looked at all entries around the date of birth of the person my papers were switched with. She found a certificate with another name, but with an address and names of a mother and a father. Together with Rashid and his friends in Mumbai, we went there.
We were received with open arms by the family living there. Very soon it became clear that their names had been used while they are not my birth family. They did however remember a family who lived further up the street who might be my family. While walking around there, some neighbours addressed me and said I looked so much alike my sister. A sister? They sent us to the family doctor. That doctor knew about my birth family’s situation; My birth mother had even told her that she had a daughter living in Belgium! I hadn’t mentioned to anyone that I am Belgian, only that I was living in Portugal.. The doctor and the family told us that my birth family had moved many years ago and had left without a trace. The family I had met said they would do their best to help me find them. This time I had their names.. another step closer!
Back at home, I tried to search on social media but there were so many people with the same or similar names it seemed like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I contacted a few people but without result.
The Ambassador of India in Lisbon has been very proactive in collaborating with the University of Lisbon. After supporting the celebration of World Hindi Day, the Ambassador invited all Hindi students for a dinner at her home. The Ambassador took the time to speak with all students in group and individually. I told I wanted to learn Hindi because I though some day I might meet my birth family and would be able to communicate with them. The Ambassador proposed to help. The First Secretary of the Embassy contacted the police station in Mumbai and requested their kind assistance. During my last visit in Mumbai a few months ago, i went back to the family mentioned on the birth certificate and they had gathered some information on the location of my birth family. They had even got hold of a google earth screenshot of the buildings where was believed my birth family would currently live. There was no address though. Police constables talked to the neighbours and then took me in a rikshaw for the ride of my life… after five hours of searching, asking around, and stopping over for a chai or dosa, we rang at their door. Hearing “Bolo!” had never left me so speechless.
Never give up. One day you may meet the right people in the right places at the right time. Using the words of the Ambassador: this reaffirms our faith in humanity and the living miracles that the Universe can bring forth! Warm regards, Adinda
Police constables talked to the neighbours and then took me in a rikshaw for the ride of my life… after five hours of searching, asking around, and stopping over for a chai or dosa, we rang at their door.