An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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Celebrating my Adoption Anniversary

June 15, 2009

My name is A.J and I was adopted from Kerala, in South India. June 15, 1980.

This year, 2009, is my 29th adoption anniversary of coming to the U.S. and my family.

I have a brother and a sister, also adopted from India, though not from Kerala (too bad for them). As I continue writing, I will reveal more of my own adoption story. Like many others, it’s a narrative mixture of beauty, sorrow, loss, passion, and hope.

Other families have named the day their kids were adoption, as their children’s “airplane day”, or “gotcha” day. In my house, it was, and has always been my “adoption anniversary.” I came to the US when I was nearly one-year-old, to a couple who then lived in Madison, Wisconsin.

Growing up, my family celebrated this day with great fanfare. My mom would usually make my favorite meal for dinner, tandoori chicken, and saffron rice.  We’d have a special prayer time, thanking God for bringing me into their lives and then cap the evening off with a slide show. The pictures consisted of my first few minutes off the plane with my social worker and the initial days in my new house and my parents.

My mom would usually make my favorite meal for dinner (usually tandoori chicken and saffron rice), we’d have a special prayer time, thanking God for bringing me into their lives and then end the evening with a slide show. The pictures were my first few minutes with my family and initial days in my new house and fresh life.

As a young kid, I didn’t grasp the day’s important significance.

I understood in a minimal way that my present mom and dad were not my birth parents because they didn’t have brown skin. But in my childhood, I did not fully realize what it meant to be adopted.

My parents always told me I was adopted. They were always completely open about my background.  But I was too young to understand what adoption meant.

The anniversary ritual was the same for both my brother and sister, eating their favorite foods, and then watching their arrival slides. When I fully understood the ramifications of my anniversary and that it represented a new life- the family wasn’t commemorating the day as often. After a while, it became something mentioned by my parents in passing.

Eventually, a day or two would go by and then I would realize it HAD been my anniversary, and someone would acknowledge the oversight.

When I fully understood the ramifications of my anniversary and that it represented a new life- the family wasn’t commemorating the day as often. After a while, it became something mentioned by my parents in passing. Eventually, a day or two would go by and then I would realize it HAD been my anniversary, and someone would acknowledge the oversight.

As time passed that special day just morphed into just another day. I fully understand that our whole family was busier. I was also in Junior High, maybe in High School, I was rarely at home. Besides I’d seen those slides seemingly hundreds of times. The sibling’s arrival slides were shown for all manners of guests that had any interest in our adoption, so I had watched them quite a bit.

Sometime during college, as I was wrestling with my adoption and all the feelings which accompany it. I started celebrating my anniversary on my own. My initial celebrations were dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant, the first two years I went alone, with a book as my company. I specifically chose Indian food as a way to viscerally remember my Indian heritage, though I doubt I was eating lamb rogan josh when I was one year old. Over time I started bringing close friends to join me in my anniversary Indian meals.

My initial celebrations were dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. In the first two years, I went alone, with a book for my company. I specifically chose Indian food as a way to viscerally remember my Indian heritage. Over time I started bringing close friends to join me in my anniversary Indian meals.

Over time I started bringing close friends to join me in my anniversary Indian meals.

I’m thankful that my parents marked the special day as I was a child and up through my early teen years. I think it’s important for families to celebrate the day in their lives when their children first join their families. It creates a sense of community and really helps the child know they are in the family and a part of it. I know for me it strengthened bonds of my family and with my parents because it showed they loved me before I joined them, and even more so as their child.

Today I reflect on the day I came to my family. I marvel at where I am now and how far I’ve come. It’s a far cry from being a terrified little baby on a jumbo jet, flying halfway across the world to Wisconsin and meeting two loving parents. Now I’m an adult, living in the nation’s capital, with a life blessed beyond description.

Tonight I’ll be eating Indian food, with a friend.

As I always do on June 15th.