Dutch teenagers reunite with mother in TN hamlet

Dutch teenagers reunite with mother in TN hamlet

Jaya Menon, TNN, Aug 20, 2010, 04.19am IST

CHENNAI: “I am happy. I am with my real family now,” 18-year-old Miquel said on Thursday after an emotional reunion with his family in Kootapuli, a fishing hamlet near Kanyakumari. It’s a far cry from the beautiful seaside town of Middelburg in The Netherlands where he lives with his 19-year-old sister. But for Miquel and Melissa it was an homecoming they had been dreaming of since they came to know they had a family in India.

Residents of Kootapuli gathered outside Dekla’s humble one-room house in the colony, rebuilt after the 2004 tsunami, as the two teenagers arrived from Kanyakumari, accompanied by their Dutch mentors. They arrived in Tiruvananthapuram on Wednesday before driving down to Kanyakumari for the grand reunion. With tears pouring down her face, Dekla greeted her two children with the traditional aarti’, hugging and kissing them. “I am so happy. They are gifts from god,” she said. While Miquel could speak English reasonably well, a tearful Melissa could communicate only in Dutch. But everything her children spoke was translated into Tamil for Dekla.

In 1996, Dekla, unable to fend for seven children, her husband having deserted her, handed over two of them, five-year-old Amala Loody Lisa (Melissa) and four-year-old James Kapil (Miquel) to an orphanage run by an adoption agency, Malaysian Social Service in Chennai, on the assurance they would be sent back to her when they turned 18. But, the agency gave the children in adoption to a Dutch couple in Netherlands without informing Dekla. Subsequently, their foster parents separated legally and the children were placed in a government home. After a child trafficking scandal linking the adoption agency broke out in 2005, for Dekla it became a desperate search for her children. She finally heard from them two years ago with the help of activists. It took another two years for her to see her children again.

Said Pieter Verheul, a Dutch volunteer accompanying the teenagers, “They are now adults and can visit their family whenever they want to.” While Miquel is studying to be a child psychologist, Melissa is working as a care taker’ for children aged between three and six. “We will go back to Netherlands after a week. But we’ll return again after I make some money,” said Miquel, tucking into rice, rasam’ and mutta varuval’ (scrambled eggs) prepared by his mother. “It’s spicy. But you don’t get such food in Netherlands,” smiled Miquel, used to a diet of potatoes, meat, hamburgers and spaghetti.