31 years on, daughter comes calling from Netherlands

Mumbai, 29 July 2012

Frontpage The Indian Express:

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Thirty-one years ago when an unwed mother surrendered her month-old baby at an orphanage, little did she imagine that her daughter would find a way into her life while she battled cancer at the age of 53.

In a heartwarming rendezvous, Carina Roodenburg — adopted by a Dutch couple in 1982 from Pune — was reunited with her biological mother (name withheld) in Dhankawadi near Pune last week. While the kindergarten teacher from Utrecht in Netherlands kept a leash on her emotions, the mother who hails from a small village on the Pune-Satara Road broke down after coming face to face with the daughter she had written off from her life.

“When I first saw her, I said this is it. This is the woman I have been thinking of all my life,” Roodenburg told The Indian Express. Looking at a picture of herself in a salwar kameez next to her saree-clad mother, she said, “Everyday I see more and more resemblances. I think I do look like her.”

Social worker Anjali Pawar, who facilitated the search for Roodenburg’s mother, said, “Carina’s mother appeared tense at first. They didn’t even hug each other. But she wept profusely later… She was filled with emotion and guilt. She kept saying it wasn’t her fault. She took time to get comfortable.”

Roodenburg had first visited India in 2009. She visted the orphange then too, but it refused to share any information about her mother. “This time, when I leave India I am going to leave something behind,” she said. She is also keen to help with the expenses for treating her mother’s throat cancer.

The reunion was, however, marred by a language barrier as Roodenburg is fluent in English, Dutch, French and German, but her mother speaks only Marathi. “I didn’t mind that I couldn’t talk to her. It was good enough that I could sit next to her,” Roodenburg said. “On my first trip to India, I visited the orphange but they refused to give me any information about my mother.”

A social worker in Netherlands, however, fished out Roodenburg’s adoption records and found her mother’s name in it. Pawar with Rolie Post and Arun Dohle, her counterparts in Europe, carried out a rigorous search — based on the name and a 31-year-old address — that led to the brother of Roodenburg’s mother. Pawar said Roodenburg’s uncle was reluctant at first and told her not to rake up his sister’s past. Roodenburg’s mother, now widowed, had married after surrendering her and has two other daughters. After Roodenburg met her uncle, he realised that she was not angry or bitter.

While Adriana and Pieter Roodenburg gave their two adopted Indian children a good life, growing up in Netherlands, Roodenburg said it felt like a bar of Bounty. “Brown on the outside but white inside.” She feels grateful for a loving adoptive family, but says, “Inside I was always the little girl who was abandoned. If I could choose 31 years ago, I would not choose to be raised in Netherlands.”

Pawar, who has been working for the rights of International Indian adoptees, said, “The reluctance shown by both Indian and European adoption centres in revealing information about an adult adoptee’s biological parents is unjustified. The agencies cannot decide whether or not the adoptees should meet their parents. People and circumstances change over time and such reunions can be possible. It is for them to decide whether or not they want to be a part of each other’s lives in the future,”