Founders search story

Maybe I was like you…

The first time I seriously desired to go to India was when I was 14 years old. It didn’t materialize until I was finished with school.

It was in 1993 when I first went to India, for three months. A great experience and, of course, I tried to search. In vain.

My orphanage was called Mahila Seva Gram. They told me there are no records. The hospital records, the birth register, gave me my mother’s name, but as an address the orphanage!

Dang! What could i do? Nothing much…a new country, I didn’t know the culture or language.

In 1996 i travelled again to India, with my partner. It was a rather restless experience and by the end we landed up in the city of Pune. It’s not nice to “search”, but actually not to search and to try making holidays…. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t relax and chill.

In 1999 I got my first computer with Internet access. I started searching the internet. I couldn’t resist. I searched the internet for all I could find about adoption. There was no Google back then. Webcrawler was the way to go.

I found Peter F. Dodds and Bastard Nation. I tried to reconstruct the adoption process.

Soon I figured there my relinquishment document must be somewhere in the Bombay High Court.

But how to get it? From Germany?

I turned to e-groups. As an adult adoptee I was at first warmly welcomed by the adoption community. Or better to say, the “adoptive-parent dominated groups.” Something was wrong. They said searching in India is impossible. I would hurt my mother, they said. She’s happily married now. And so on.

The same story you have likely heard over and over again. There are no records in India, there was no law, there is no way.

Actually it was strange. But I never gave up. I discussed, debated, got thrown out of the groups. I got DELETED and CENSORED.

Around 2001, the urge became unbearable. My job seriously suffered. I’ll spare you the details. Finally a therapist said to me, “aybe you should search for your mother!”

I had tried to bury it for the last seven years. I was a financial consultant. In sales actually, and doing well, really well, despite me hanging out in front of the screen half the day. I was self-employed. So I could do whatever.

I would get to the office at nine in the morning. Usually I’d get home around 10pm or even midnight.

So there I was, young, dynamic, smart, earning well, far more than my peers. I thought the world belonged to me.

I did understand the “social stigma” thing: my mother was unmarried. Likely now married. But so what? The orphanage could have discreetly contacted her.

Certainly, I would accept it if she didn’t want to have anything to do with me.

In any case, I was happy to be adopted. I had a great childhood. The best ever adoptive parents….but something was wrong…nagging.

Slowly I discovered “child trafficking”. I love my adoptive parents and of course I have a lot of respect for adoptive parents in general.

But something was wrong, there were articles about child trafficking out there. Scandals, of buying and selling children.

Then a German adoptive mother told me about her story, how her older adopted child told her that her mother was alive and promised to pick her up…but the paperwork stated that the mother was dead! – and it was from the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Theresa’s outfit.

Mind you, as a child I would brag that I’d been rescued by mother Theresa. She was holy and good. Or so I thought.

Simultaneously I’d debate with adoptive parents on e-groups. Yahoo groups. Such as the German “Adoptionsforum” of ICHILD.

Initially i was impressed with the US adoption community. They had heritage camps. They honoured their roots. Wow. They tried to show the culture to their children.

I had no clue about India. Actually my aparents had tried now and then, but I rejected it. I wanted to be a white German white child. Just damn this brown face in the mirror.

In 2001 I travelled to India. “Now let’s solve it” I said. I was sure I could solve it in 6 weeks. Easy peasy for such a successful guy as me.

Here we are…16 years later. Not at all solved yet. Many open questions.

The impetus to actually look beyond my own adoption came from adoptive parents and adoption agency staff — many of whom became defensive, even aggressive when I asked questions. Actually I was just seeking answers. I was seeking help.

But I was sliced on those e-groups. Look it up…many of the posts are still there. It’s worth a book one day. It drove me mad that adoptive parents would deny the problems in adoptions.

Of course my orphanage didn’t help me. They fooled me. But they were so nice to me. Really nice. I felt understood. But to no avail…

The breakthrough came with Gita Ramaswamy. A women and child rights activist who jumped into the ongoing fight to stop the sale of children from the Lambada Community in Andhra Pradesh.

“Ha!”  She said, “after so much efforts in trying to find the law…Hey Arun, this is the ‘law’, and in the law it’s stated that your adoptive parents have a RIGHT to know who your mother is.”

I had been running from pillar to post for years. Fooled by all the adoption bigwigs. Yes, the famous ones. Those you’d land up with too if you try this on your own.

She was determined to help me.

It didn’t bring me friends in the adoption community. After all, her and her comrades were opposing the trafficking, and going up to the Supreme Court of India. They, the activists in Andhra Pradesh, were considered ENEMIES by the ICHILD community. But that’s another story.

Gita was the one who opened my own country for me. Ultimately, for you too.

She connected me to the right people and, ultimately, I filed a criminal case against my orphanage.

It took me from 2003 to 2010.

7 years…

Needless to say, it destroyed my business as a financial consultant. Needless to say I attended every hearing. Needless to say, I helped other #cribmates.

Of course I did. I looked beyond my individual story.

So, for example, my adoptive sister was reunited in 2005. So many cases I solved as a sideline, even before my own case.

What drove and drives me? MY SEARCH…it is what it is.

Trust me. I know how mad it can drive you.

Trust me, I love my adoptive parents, like you may do too.

Nothing is easy here. There is no black and white. Although sometimes black and white is helpful to get clarity.

Yes, I gave up my “life” for my search and ultimately your search.

I want justice. Justice for you and for me. We are #cribmates.

But you shouldn’t have to go through the same shit as me…

Now I’ll sou hut up. Here’s what the media have said about me…

Just read it for yourself, and let your gut be the judge….

Did I take it too far? Maybe…but then I helped to change the system. I helped to open it up for us. I hope you make use of it.

Arun Dohle