My Indian Papa & Family

Now has come the hardest time of the trip – the time to say goodbye.

I have been in Cuttack all week now. It holds a special place in my heart, because this was the reason I first came to India two years ago – the children of the Sishu Sudan orphanage in Choudwar, outside Cuttack, in the state of Orissa in Northeastern India. This is the place where I first feel in love with India, because this is where I fell in love with these children.

In March 2005 I traveled here for the first time with Caroline Boudreaux, founder of The Miracle Foundation, to visit the children’s home that her foundation had been supporting. The home is run by Domadar Sahoo, known to all simply as “Papa.”


Papa, Caroline & children

From the moment I first set foot here, overwhelmed by the 100-plus children who live here, Papa and his wife have welcomed me as their daughter, insisting that they are my Indian Papa and Mama, and that this is my home.

Over the past two years, on additional visits here, I have grown very close to many of the children who live here, and they have a constant place inside my heart. It has been so amazing, as always, to be back here with them and sharing this time, fleeting though it is, with them.

When I first arrived, Daina ran full force at me within seconds and flung herself up and into my arms before I even knew what hit me. I hugged her to me hard and covered her sweet little face with kisses. And then the dozens of others came in waves. Mami, Sumi, Sibani, Asap, Tapas, Santosh, Meena…..that night at prayer, I told them how I think about them every single day, and miss them when we’re apart.


Sukru, Harapriya, Me, Alouk & Bikram

In the course of this week, we have played numerous games of bulldog, the hokey-pokey, duck-duck-goose, and many others. We have had dance parties where the girls and boys do these incredibly complex Bollywood dance moves in between giggling hysterically. We’ve hennaed each other’s hands and sat together in prayer. We’ve sang songs and done artwork together. I have held countless hands, picked up babies and toddlers time after time, and held dozens of wiggly, giggly, or sleepy children on my lap.

Papa took us on a tour of the ashram, showing us where they are building new dorm rooms for the girls, and the improved and updated library. It was nice as well to see some of the staff members who have become my friends, such as Madhu and Bubu.

Tonight is my last night at the ashram with “my kids,” and already I miss them. It’s always so hard to leave. So I will return home, full of my travels and visits for the book, my bags full of interview tapes and pages upon pages of notes, eager to begin telling more of this story I have started – the story of these invisible children of India.


Daina and I hug goodbye

But when I return, there will be a piece of me left behind – with Papa, with Daina and Santosh, with all these precious children. A piece of me will remain in India, this maddening and magical place, and I know I will return to claim it, because it is a part of my soul.

About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."

Posted on March 28, 2007, in India, shelley seale and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. May our Lord bless you and all those precious ones you left behind with the very rich-
    est of his blessings. We are so proud and so grateful for what you have done and are
    doing for those precious children of India, We just pray there will be many reading
    your book who will be touched and find in their hearts the desire to do everything they
    can to help lift the weight of silence. Shirley Smith (Mimi)

  2. Yes Shelley this is what you call “Love” without any reason you have this great affection and love for all the children and I know that they will see you soon back in India. We wish you always keep up this work and come back soon.

  1. Pingback: Chance Encounters & Meaningful Gifts « The Weight of Silence

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