Most of you know that I recently visited Mumbai as a first stop in my roots travel to India.
Mumbai was formerly known as Bombay. The Portuguese called this city “Good Haven” (Bombaim), after which British conquerors made it sound more English: “Bombay”.
I have been adopted out of Mumbai to Belgium back in the 70ties. As a 4 years-old boy, I left the Missionaries of Charity in Vile Parle West in Mumbai. Only 4 years old and already in a plane for more than 8 hours. That might explain why I enjoy globetrotting today for both my job and leisure 🙂
I have visited my orphanage for the first time back in 2005, encouraged by my former wife who wanted to discover the continent where I came from. Bluntly spoken, I was not interested in my roots and agreed to visit India as a tourist. When the supervising nun asked me what I wanted to know, I could only come up with the simple request to know the name of my birth mother. I have been told that her name was “Lalita”.
Afterwards, I have been to India again but rather for professional purposes like coaching a shared services team of one of my previous clients.
Only in 2019 when I came out of the fog, I turned back to India to start my roots research. I visited my orphanage in Mumbai for the second time. This time, I felt more connected with the orphanage.
The sisters of Missionaries of Charity welcomed me in a warmly manner, although they would not reveal much more than years ago. This time they shared another name with me: “Lotika”. It seems that some different names are used simultaneously in India depending on the religion and region. I also received a copy of my Deed of Surrender. This document formalizes that the birth mother agrees to relinquish her child and would no longer be entitled to reclaim her child in the future. I did understand that in the 70 and 80ties a lot of children have been abandoned, but it was still hard to see that the sisters used a standard template in which you only had to fill in the name of the mother, child and birth date… An industrial template so to speak 😦
The supervising sister invited me to pray in the Saint-John’s Church next to my orphanage.
This time, that church – in Victorian Gothic style – reminded me of some pictures I have seen depicting me as a young boy playing with other kids in the orphanage’s playground.
Some of these children have become my friends as we co-incidentally got re-united via social media. I will come to that in another post. Hold on 🙂
For now, please keep the picture of that church in mind…
When I had to take my flight to Delhi (because I was eager to visit my beloved Taj Mahal in Agra again), I asked the driver to pass by some temples on my way to the airport. Next to a couple of nice temples, he surprisingly took me to a beautiful church in the Bandra area in Mumbai.
“The Saint Mary Basilica”. Do you still remember the picture of that church in my orphanage? Yep, exactly the same Victorian-Gothic style…
I visited the Saint-Mary church and then followed a path behind the church leading to an area down-hill via a large stair of steps in stone. As soon as I walked down, I starting to feel anxious… The sky suddenly looked dark to me, it felt like black birds were shouting at me and I started to shiver. Like a picture of the apocalypse. I even think I almost saw fire in the sky, but that would be too much of a dramatic scene.
What I wanted to share, is the feeling of anxiety that overwhelmed me, as if something happened to me in the past in this exact spot on the stairs behind the Saint-Mary church in Mumbai…
Today, during my third visit to Mumbai, I went to the Bombay High Court to request information on my adoption file.
The Bombay High Court is residing in a beautiful building, a Victorian-Gothic style (no kidding…) heritage from the British imperium.
Again, same colours and stones as in the two churches I mentioned before. Obviously, the British colonisation has had a big impact on Mumbai. For me, it’s a sign that it’s all connected…
As I feel that Mumbai has really touched me again, I’m curious to explore if my next stop in India will provoke similar experiences. I’m heading to Chennai (formerly known as Madras), capital of Tamil Nadu.
23andMe confirmed some time ago that my DNA heritage is to be found in Tamil Nadu.
So maybe Bombay was my good haven but probably not my last?
To be continued…