“They say everyone who looks into their family history will find a secret sooner or later,” Yusuf said simply, looking up from his book. He had been engrossed in reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code this whole weekend. He finally had gotten his hands on the popular book. Only ten years too late.
As I lay down his favorite biscuits with tea, I took a long look at Yusuf. He had his teeth clenched. I briefly remembered how gripping the book was.
I went back to my laptop. I opened my email folder and found the email I had been anticipating for the past one month.
“They’ve replied,” I said. I was afraid to make apparent the excitement in my heart.
“What’d they say?” he asked.
It was the adoption agency. They sent a mail asking us to meet with the orphanage head next week. As bland as the email sounded, I liked to think that the orphanage was happily ready to give us the child. But of course, that would be reaching too far at this stage.
The following week, we dressed up and left our flat in order to reach the orphanage an hour earlier than our appointed time.
Yusuf was driving. I was lost in thought. My stomach was rumbling. I was tensed about how our meeting would go, and all the things that could go wrong.
“Maybe we should start looking for our birth parents,” Yusuf suggested.
“Don’t be silly.”
“Why not? It would be good to speak of a family lineage to the child when we get him.”
“Wonderful. I can’t believe you are saying this.”
He looked perplexed.
“Okay, let’s assume they are still alive and not dead already. Firstly, why would you want to search for people who didn’t want us in the first place. Secondly, how will you search among one billion other people?” I asked, without containing my annoyance.
“You can’t make such judgments. Just because we ended up in orphanages doesn’t mean our parents didn’t want us. Maybe they couldn’t afford to look after us. Orphanages are meant to give safe environments for children. And to your second question, we can always segregate the population according to age. And maybe narrow our search down to the locality of our orphanages.”
“Yusuf, we both are living examples of the fact that lineages don’t make a person who he is. It is the experiences and the people around him who makes him who he is.”
“Yea. I’m just curious, though.”
“Also, nobody has social security numbers here like in the U.S. You just can’t go to a database and find people,” I said. I was trying to crush his every last hope.
Yusuf was adopted by a travelling couple from the U.S. An american man of South Indian origin and his Irish wife had come to meet him at the orphanage. He was seven years old then.
The man had a hearty smile, and kept looking at his beautiful wife. The first impression Yusuf had gotten from her was that she seemed nonchalant about the whole deal. The three flew back to U.S. after fetching Yusuf a passport and a visa.
Having been very self-sufficient, Yusuf got by with the very little support he got from his adoptive parents. When he was sixteen, his mother suddenly left his father for another man. His father fell into the habit of heavy drinking.
One night, his father approached his room and stood at the door in drunken stupor. ” That whore left me. Why do I need you anymore?” he said. And threw the empty liquor bottle at Yusuf before collapsing onto the ground. Yusuf packed his bags and left the next day to lodge at his friend’s place.
We met through a mutual friend when he had come to Mumbai for a holiday. We got to know each other. A certain kind of kinship developed between us, mainly after knowing that we both grew up without knowing our real parents.
Ever since I can remember I grew up in the house of Geeta Shukla with twenty other little girls. Geeta Amma was a widow who dedicated her life and her home to children like us who had no one to be looked after by. Aayimma, an old woman who cooked and cleaned for us also lived with us.
None of us were interested in our past. We were already happy in believing that Geeta Amma was our mother. But sometimes, one of us would be overtaken by curiosity and would ask Aayimma how they ended up in this house. We knew that Aayimma had always been around, and knew the secrets to our pasts. I asked her once, and she told me that one night a stranger came and left me at the doorstep. I was just a year old and I was sleeping. Geeta Amma never called behind the stranger, and lifted me up like somebody had sent her a courier.
We arrived at the orphanage and were directed to the head matron’s room. She beamed at us and asked us to sit. She ordered coffee for the both of us and called for the attender to bring the child.
“Yusuf, Nargis, meet Isa,” the matron said and motioned at Isa to come closer.
He had curly hair and olive skin. He smiled at us and wasn’t shy to show the cavities on his teeth. He was just two years old. His roundish face was already making my heart burst. He looked nothing like the either of us. Perfect.
I looked at Yusuf and I found tears glistening at the corner of his eyes. I could see he was trying to say something to the child, but couldn’t because of the lump in his throat.
I waved at Isa. He gave me a semi wave without lifting his arms. We spent the afternoon with him in the courtyard. Isa was just learning how to talk. And I enjoyed how he would take ages to speak a word, trying to perfect it as much as he could.
We left without wanting to leave Isa behind. We wanted to take him with us as soon as possible. The matron assured us that it was just a nominal visit for us to get closer to the child. Nevertheless, she said that more such visits would be needed before Isa actually relocates to our house. I decided that I would come everyday to see him.
As we got on our ride back home, Yusuf said like he had an epiphany, “You are right. Let’s not search for our real parents. I think the universe wants us to form a family without being tied to each other by blood. That is why we have had so much difficulty conceiving a child. For some of us, the secret starts at who our real families are. A secret that isn’t worth being revealed, right?”
“Right,” I said, with a peck on his cheek.