Sunday, 16 March 2014

Finding Amma, Finding Appa!

The following post is part of a campaign sponsored by the mentioned company. I have written this post as a challenge for my skills of articulation and creativity and do not necessarily endorse all the information provided in it.
Image courtesy ambitiontofly

I am Sri; Sri Jacobs, a 21 year old woman living in London. My British parents never let me feel that I am their adapted child, adapted from India 18 years ago, though they never concealed the fact from me.

I was adapted by them after a devastating tsunami wiped-off my small village in Tamilnadu where I lived with my family- Amma and Appa. I have faint memories of my biological mother sitting with me in her lap at the front yard of my house and singing to me. I have just one memory of my father- carrying me on his shoulder and running away from sea when tsunami came.

The devastating tsunami had wiped-off my small village
Image courtesy Staticflickr and Wikipedia

My legal guardians, whom I call mom and dad, told me that they had found me roaming in a relief camp put up near Chennai. Dad was there to see the relief work undertaken by United Nations and my mom, an ocean scientist was engaged in post tsunami seismological studies. Dad searched for my family for almost a year, but in vain. Then they legally adopted me and I along with them to London when they returned an year later.

My legal parents loved me more than my biological ones would have. They even gave me an Indian name, Sri, honouring my Indian roots and a mark of respect for my Indian parents. And for the last eighteen years I have been with them, they have cared for me more than their life, giving me home, love, and education in a premier institution.
My legal parents loved me more than my biological ones would have
Image courtesy Wikipedia

I started studying genetic engineering at Oxford University after my high school and now I am on the verge of getting my degree.

I have always nurtured an urge to see my biological parents and longed to go where I belong- India.

Nobody knew who they were, where were they and whether they were even alive. But since had come across stories of so many people coming out alive from the tsunami, getting lost, but then reuniting with their kins even after years, I had kept some hope alive in me. In many instances, the people thought be dead were found living hundreds of miles away, where they had drifted to, and had never returned to their native village.

I had a small hope left in me that one day I would be able to see my biological parents, hug my mother whose memories of holding me in her lap and singing a lullaby were surprisingly still with me ever after so many years. May be one day, I would be able to see my father who had risked his life to same mine. I had my faith in God.

Locating them was a challenging task. Even if they were alive, they might not have returned to the same place. Without much of information about them, it was almost impossible to get any lead.

But then, I was studying genetic engineering. I knew the power of genetics. I knew that the genes and DNA prints could be used to trace one’s lineage as well as blood relationships. Could I possibly search my biological parents or siblings using it? I didn’t know!

Genes and DNA prints could be used to trace one’s lineage as well as blood relationships  
Image courtesy Wikipedia
As I studied genetics, I became more and more desperate to search and see my parents. With passion, I started studying the genetic design and signatures of Indian people found in the southern part of India, to where my biological parents belonged to.

I searched through databases available in servers throughout the world, some legitimately, and some by hacking. I took my own blood sample and analyzed my DNA. I made genetic prints of my DNA, and fed into complex software, trying to find a match with various DNA prints all over the world.
Nothing seemed to work. I was leading nowhere. I was losing hope.

Then one day, I used a new algorithm to compare my genetic print with some of the prints available in the database of a server located in remote India. Suddenly, something new flashed on the computer screen. The results showed that my DNA print was strikingly similar to the people living around Cuddalore in remote Tamilnadu.
Image courtesy Wikipedia
I knew what I needed to do. I broke the news to my parents. “Dad, I want to go to India, in search of my biological parents,” I told.

My parents knew of my search for my biological parents and what I had been doing in the genetics lab for last few months. But going to India? That too alone? Dad didn’t speak for a few moments, then said with a concern in his voice, ”India is an unknown place for you Sri, I will be worried for you,” and looked toward Mom.

“How far will you go Sri, in search of them?” he asked.

Mom knew my resolve for what I was doing. She looked to my Dad and said “Mike, if we had a biological daughter, and had she got lost, wouldn’t you have gone any far to search for her?”

My dad batted an eyelid.  He understood. Then he just hugged me and said “Go Sri, go. I know you would go any far to be closer to someone you love”.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I disembarked from British Airways flight BA35 which landed at Chennai, and proceeded straight towards Cuddalore.

For next few days I roamed around madly through villages, meeting people and asking them for information. Finding my biological parents seemed an impossible task. I neither knew their names, nor had any photograph, nor any clues about what they did, where they lived. All I had with me was my DNA print and a hope that someone’s DNA print will match with mine.

I went from village to village narrating my story to people, asking them for their blood samples and any other information they could give. Convincing people to give blood samples wasn’t an easy task. I had to use all my people-skill and emotional quotient to achieve that.

I collected blood samples in search of a matching DNA
Image courtesy Staticflickr

I preserved the DNA samples in my kit. The analysis could be done only in the genetics lab in UK.

British Airways dropped me back to London, my home, or one of my homes, shall I say? I always believed that I have a home in India too. I just needed to find it.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I spent sleepless nights analyzing the DNA prints I had brought from India. But I did not get any clue.

Then one day, while I was going through the results on the screen, a shiver went down my spine. One of the results showed 99.5% match, possible only between a parent and a child.

Image courtesy Wikipedia
I started crying. Years and years of suppressed feelings melted and found their way out in form of tears. With trembling hands, I checked my notebook to correlate the sample with the person. I remembered a humble lady in her forties, working as a teacher in the village school, who had told me her name as Lakshmi. I remembered her as a lady with an expression of kindness on her face, but sadness in her eyes.

I couldn’t wait now to do the final tests to confirm whether she was my biological mother. But that would be possible only in London International Genetics Laboratory. And more samples would be needed. Possibly, she would have to come over here.

But how a humble schoolteacher lady of an unknown village near Cuddalore would travel to London? And first of all, why would she?  Why would she believe a strange looking girl who could not speak Tamil, that she is her lost daughter? Who would convince her?

I spent a sleepless night pondering. Then suddenly I knew who could make it possible. I immediately wrote an e-mail to BritishAirways narrating them my story and asking if they could connect with a lady named Lakshmi in India, and assist her to travel to London.

I slept keeping my head on my desk.

I woke up to find an e-mail from British Airways. It said,

“Dear Sri,
We are moved by your story. Let us confess that we have never encountered such a situation and nor have received such a request ever. But believe us, we will go any far to help you to be get closer to someone you love.

We are getting in touch with our office at Chennai and would let you know further.

Warm Regards,
British Airways”

Hope kindled in me. Over the next few days I got updates from British Airways on how they located my mother with the little information provided by me, how they have convinced her with help of some people in the village to come to London, and how they are helping her to get her passport and visa.

For me, British Airways’ Chennai people were no less than angels.

Then I heard from them that their efforts have succeeded and they are helping my mother to get on to a British Airways flight to London. And she would not travel alone, they had convinced my father to join.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

On that day of summer, I was unable to hold my tears when the British Airways flight BA36 from India landed at London’s Heathrow airport. With my heart racing fast, I kept on looking towards the disembarking crowd, eager to spot a familiar face.

Then she appeared. A kind looking lady, gracefully clad in a sari, along with a middle aged man walking towards exit, flanked by smiling young men and women from British Airways.

I ran to them. She looked at me and paused for a moment. Then next moment she hugged me tightly and said crying, “Vandana, my child. Thank God, I found you. The gentleman standing beside her, my father, was unable to hold his tears.  I hugged both of them tightly as if I knew them since long; as if we had never separated.

My biological mother broke into tears upon seeing me

A mother’s heart can tell more than the DNA tests can. She already knew that I was her Vandana. And they were my Amma and Appa, as I call them now.

And now I sign my name as Sri Vandana Jacobs. I am Sri, I am Vandana, and of course I am Jacobs too.

I had gone very far to search for these people I loved. They had come from very far for the daughter they loved.

And British Airways had gone far beyond their boundaries to let us meet.

Go Further To Get Closer’ contest by British Airways
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Photographs are symbolic and for illustration only. The source has been mentioned near the photograph with a backlink.

Written for ‘Go Further To Get Closer’ contest by British Airways in IndiBlogger.

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