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.