My niece, Ria, a charming, vibrant woman, wanted to be a geologist and went to study in a less known university in the east. Two of her friends were going there and, during the admission interview, a young professor took a lot of interest in her.
The first five months went like a dream. She liked the town and did well in her studies. Then all hell broke loose. Ria was pregnant. She claimed she was raped, right in the university campus. A relative who went to the university to check talked to several of her friends wasn’t so sure. The upshot was a decision not to report to the university or the police. I had heard so many glowing reports from Ria about the young professor that a hypothesis has sprung in my mind, but there was nothing to do about it.
The fact was that Ria was going to have a baby. An uncle in western India turned out to be the savior. He was affluent and influential and offered to host Ria for several months. He knew an orphanage that would take the baby and arrange for its adoption with a decent family. Ria told me in tears that she held the baby, a girl, in her arms for an hour before it was taken away to the orphanage.
To her credit, Ria went back to her studies in a different university, did very well and took a job with a mining company as a geologist. She met and married a colleague, Bhumen, seven years later and had two children, a son and a daughter.
Fifteen years later all hell broke loose again.
This might have prompted her, as she grew, to try to find her roots. By persistent search and possibly by bribing someone in the orphanage she eventually uncovered the name of her mother. It took Tia some more time to find the current address of Ria. She wasted little time. As dusk approached one summer, the young girl turned up at Ria’s door.
It was a mega-shock for the family. Ria has had no preparation for such an eventuality. Her husband had no notion of the tragic episode in his wife’s history. Their two children, at the epicenter of a family earthquake, simply did not understand its magnitude. The small study room the children used was converted overnight into the girl’s bedroom, where she lived and slept for a week, while the family battled the issue in the living room.
Her husband said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me about this?”
Ria replied, “Are you sure you would have married me if I had?”
To his credit, Bhumen, her husband was an honest man and kept quiet. He knew what the true answer would have been.
Ria said, “Believe me, I had often wanted to tell you. It was a burden on my heart I wanted to share with you. I was afraid.”
“You have lived with me all these years. You know, I love you. If you were still afraid, I have failed you. I am ashamed. I wish you could have believed me.”
Ria replied, “Don’t say that. I believe you. I was young when it happened. I was afraid for years. Maybe my fear became a part of me.”
Bhumen then said, “You have nothing to fear. Now you must say this to our children. I know they will understand. Then you have the bigger job of telling your new daughter. It will not be easy, and I will help. But you must tell her that this is her home.”
No, it wasn’t easy. It took all of them to adjust to the reality of a new member of the family. Most of all, it was hard for Tia. She had walked into a loving family, and they had accepted her with open arms. A part of her mind kept persisting with troubling questions: Why hadn’t they accepted me earlier? Why did they let me be so unhappy? Why did my mother leave me behind?
Ria said to me that she could never talk with her new daughter without these questions edging in some form. All she could do was to love Tia and hope the doubts would slowly dissolve.
She had a loving family. She wanted it to be more loving. Every day.