[This is a continuation from My File Part I: A Baby’s Biography]
Sitting on my hardwood bedroom floor I pulled back the manila cover. An old typwritten piece of white stained paper sat in front of me. The top of the page read “Congregation of the Sisters of The Cross of Chavanod” below in bold SOC SEAD.
The paper had the official seal of the orphanage, its slogan “To Serve is to Love is to Serve is to Love”, its address and my baby picture pasted in the right corner over the date.
Further down the page the headline read “CHILD STUDY REPORT”.
“Holy crap!” I really did find it! Scanning down the page the first heading read “General Information”
1. Name of the Child: KUMAR
2. Present age of the Child: one year and four months
3. Date of birth: 18.04.1989
4. Sex: Male
5. Religion (if known) : Roman Catholic
“Wait” I thought. Really? I was Roman Catholic in India? Strange, I never even imagined my biological relatives would’ve been religious since my family is so secular.
6. Where was the Child born: Pudokottai
OK, I thought. Well where is all the good stuff? Like who my biological parents were. What were their names? Where did they live? Did I have siblings? What was I like as a kid? Did I cry a lot? Did I speak? Was I nice to other children? When could I first walk? Or speak? ….Why was I given up? Surely at least that would be recorded.
I scanned down the page, even more anxious than before. The second heading read “Legal Data” and had been entirely nibbled away as well. There was one bit of information I was able to make out:
“Admitted by the Mother (unwed)”.
“Are you kidding me?!”
I couldn’t believe it.
I had finally found information on who I was before I came to the U.S. and my parents had let it get eaten by mice!
Didn’t they know this folder was all I had, the only “connection”.
My file was more than a baby book. If my sister ever lost her baby book she would still be able to ask my parents to help fill in the missing details. This file was me. It represented the year and a half of my life before I came to the U.S. When I first found the file, a mere fifteen minutes prior, I had believed it would unlock my past answering questions I had always made up answers to.
Now I sat on my floor irritated at my parents and desperate for anything. A name, a date; something to locate me. To act as a place of origin or point of beginning.
Turning the page I found another mostly mouse-eaten sheet of paper. The third and final page would prove the most interesting.
I learned that:
I was a “very pleasant” and got along with other “inmates” and the staff. “Inmates” sounded a little harsh for a group of “abandoned” children between the ages of a few days old and a year and a half.
“No relatives have so far been made any contact with the child including the mother after admission” [sic] and “No objection from any of the relatives alive till date in either surrendering the child or giving in adoption. No written consent has been obtained”. This is the first time I think I ever felt hurt in regards to being adopted. Most people probably associate abandonment with adoption, but this if the first time I ever felt like I had been abandoned. Somehow reading that no one had objected to me being given up for adoption made me want to cry. I immediately re-read the line below it “No written consent has been obtained” and felt a bit better. If they hadn’t given written consent then maybe they had planned on coming back for me.
I would later learn the inutility of such fantasies and their ability to cause damage.
The third and final page revealed that the “Milestone[s]” I had reached. I was able to:
Lift my hand
I could speak “a few words incoherently”
I ate “Milk, milk foods, porridge, idly, rice, dhal, eggs and potatoes.”
I don’t remember feeling sorry for myself, but heart broken that a family had to give up their child and were never able to reunite with that child.
This information would have excited me any other day, but I was too caught up in what was missing to appreciate what I had found. All I cold think about was how a few little mice had gotten between me and my past. I had been bites away.
I re-read those three pages making sure I hadn’y forgotten anything before searching the rest of my file. I mostly found old plane tickets, notes scribbled by my father, hotel reciepts, some legal documents and progress reports my parents had sent back to the orphanage during my first few years in the U.S.
Pissed off, I jammed the papers back into the my file and took it back downstairs and placed it in the big green metal desk where I had found it.
I was angry mostly at myself for allowing myself to get so excited just to be hurt and dissappointed.
It turned out that this was just the first experience I would have finding seemingly hidden away folders and searching them for clues about my past.
The next experience would come 10 years later, a few days after graduating college.