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To India with Love

Soft Landing

INDIA | Wednesday, 9 July 2008 | Views [927] | Comments [10]

On decent  into Kolkata I had moment of pure fear. It has never happened to me before - this kind of fear. Just imagine that the plane went into an uncontrollable  spin and there, in the middle of an ordinary  July night a freak plane crash claims the lives of  all the occupants of flight SQ516 from Singapore to Kolkata. You can see the wreckage on the T.V. still ablaze in the background as you hear an earnest journalist speaking with solemn glee about being the first camera crew to  the scene to beam these horrific and yet fascinating pictures of the wreckage and recovery crews. 

I saw all of this in the instant  I felt the plane bank sharply to the left. We were sitting right on the wing seats 41 a,b and c  and as the wing dipped I saw the endless lights of Kolkata below. Neelu on my left at the window, Shayne on my right on the aisle, turning sharply across the night sky to be taken to the earth with a perfect landing. And I knew even as the fear came to me that it was because I didn't want to die without meeting this new child. Ankita. By the looks of the very few photographs I have seen , she is a three year old bag of precocious trouble. Very cheeky eyes, a mischief ridden smile and the posture of a girl who knows her own mind. I don't have a clue why I so look forward to bringing her home.

I had left Australia thinking I was coming to adopt a second daughter, the reality that has dawned upon me on our one night stopover in Singapore(nothing to do here except eat) is that we are bringing Neelu back to India. And that is a really important part of the journey. In fact just as important as getting Ankita. Neelu has had a  couple of short conversations about her birth mother with Shayne and I over the past month in preparation for this trip but she has been reticent to talk a lot about it. Shayne has been brilliant at knowing how and when to bring it up and when to leave it alone. She had a really touching moment in Kolkata the other night that is worth recalling. 

Kolkata is hot and wet at the moment. And we were scared of the weather because we had felt India's heat before and been laid flat by it, but never in monsoon season.  The truth is, we are really enjoying the experience. I admit this is easier to do when you have a great hotel in the middle of town with air conditioning and cold beer and staff who just adore your five year old daughter. We spent the first three nights at the Kenilworth Hotel and explored the city(badly) from there. If you get an early start the weather is okay. You have until about two or three before it is really hot and then it rains and cools off and out you go again. A couple of Kingfisher beers in the afternoon, outside in the garden bar  with fans blowing and quick cool nap - everything is really easy.

On the first day we ignored the offer of a rather expensive hotel car to explore the city on our own in the local ubiquitous yellow Amby taxis. Of course it helps if you know where you want to go. We obviously did not and ended up a long way from where we wanted to be. Now - by a long way I don't mean off track, I mean we got out at "city centre" we just got the wrong city - we had driven 40 minutes to Salt Lake City across the other side of the river,when where  we wanted to be was at Kolkata central about ten minutes from where we were staying.  This was not a dodgy taxi driver, rather, one who followed our english only orders to the letter -  to go to the "city centre" - a well known new shopping mall in Salt Lake. So by the time all is said and done we spent almost the equivalent of a days hotel car hire on three or four taxi rides. Yes we are intrepid. Very. We got where we wanted to be in the end. 

I've taken up smoking again because I needed some reasonably clean air in my lungs. So we have taken to the garden bar of the Kennilworth like the preverbial duck. And while reclining slightly, a woman introduces herself to us and says she saw us at the Missionaries of Charity earlier that day and that she is making a documentary about a young man (thirty one) named Gautam De, himself an adopted child of the 1980's from the Missionaries in Kolkata. His is a remarkable story. Our meeting just as remarkable because had we not got lost in Salt Lake we would never have ended up at Missionaries of Charity at the same time as them and Jo might never had realised a point in common. The woman, Jo Head,  had to go out  and couldn't stay for a drink but asked if we would like to catch up with Gautam later. We met the following day for breakfast and had a great time relating Neelu's adoption story t him and he showed us all of the documents relating to his adopted mother and his adoption back in the late eighties. It had beeen a particulary strange time for him coming back but he was handling himself so beautifully and really being in the moment. I learnt something there and then from him. 

We agreed over coffee to meet for a beer at the end of the day because his and Jo's day was going to be tough, both work wise and emotionally, and he could do with  a beer and a chat with someone who had some idea of  what he was going through. That night over fish tikka,  Kingfisher beer and the odd whiskey sour - we went into the details of his adoption journey. Shayne and I had to get Neelu up at five a.m. to catch the Shatabhi Express to Ranchi. But as the conversation flowed...really? Who needs sleep?

Tags: adoption, india, kolkata




Hi to all the Sydney Sidhu's. Alls well at Overland Cr. We look forward to following your safari. You are all in our thoughts.

Love Overland Cr Sid's

  Brendan Sidhu Jul 10, 2008 10:19 AM


We don't need sleep either! What's Gautam's story? Oh, glad you didn't crash!

  Lyn Knorr Jul 10, 2008 7:32 PM


Best wishes for the trip, you are in my prayers.

  Sue Lyons Jul 11, 2008 9:08 AM


All our love to you all. Hope Neelu is having a great time and we cant wait for her to introduce us to her sister. Take care,

much love Mon and family xxx

  Monica Jul 11, 2008 10:58 AM


loving reading about the trip and all that is happening...fantastic stuff. thinking of you all the time -love and hugs Tess + Ro xxxxxxx

  Therese Howard Jul 11, 2008 11:14 AM


Really enjoying reading about your adventures. Looking forward to seeing you ALL at the Indian Friendship festival

  Aysha and Pat Jul 12, 2008 1:21 PM


Great to hear your all okay and enjoying your time sarah

  sarah Jul 14, 2008 11:36 AM


Hey Neelu-Blue, tell Ankita we've made a little Katoomba Shrine for you two. There is an elephant, a scroll, two tiny pics of you both, another picture of two beautiful ladies in a garden and two little plastic men who won't be separated. We are all thinking about you, your sister, and your mum and dad with heaps of love.

  Andrew, Rex and Elisabeth Jul 14, 2008 12:30 PM


wow....what a journey you guys are on! Take care and look after yourselves. I send all love to you 3....and soon to be 4! linda.xxxx

  linda Jul 14, 2008 7:06 PM


Hello to you all,

Really loved your story - hope everything is going great for you. You are in our thoughts everyday... Just take care and bring 'our' little girls home! Can't wait to see you all four of you..
Ranee, Attila & Shan

  Ranee, Attila & Shannon Jul 17, 2008 1:08 PM

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