My life until a few weeks ago was carefree, full of joy, love, and laughter. I had everything going for me. I had a great job, loving parents and was about to get married to the man I loved. Life had never seemed better. Maybe those were to be my happiest days because in a short while things changed and like how. My world, my dreams were shattered, and I was left rudderless and heartbroken. It was a conversation which did me in.
And now I don’t know what to do. How do I come to terms with this reality? I don’t know who to trust, who to believe! I can’t sleep, I can’t work, I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to see anyone, not even Samir. Samir who I happen to be in love with and with whom I am all set to get married. I am too shocked, too hurt and angry. Why did this have to happen to me!? I need answers, but I don’t know who can give them to me? I have shut myself in my room.
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My parents have been trying to figure out as to what is bothering me. But I don’t want to talk to them, don’t want to see their faces!! I know they are worried, I can see the anxiety, the anguish on their faces. But I don’t care! My elder brother, Sanjay, has also been trying to get to the bottom of what’s bothering me, but I don’t want to share.
Suddenly I have changed. From being a loving and caring daughter and sister, I have become quite uncaring and unfeeling. I can’t be bothered about anyone else’s feelings when my own are all over the place.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t understand anything. A part of me is angry, and upset feeling cheated. There is another part that wants me to get a hold on myself and look at things rationally. But at this point, this part doesn’t stand any chance.
I am Rhea, the daughter of Radha and Nitin Kapoor and the sister of Sanjay Kapoor. We are an upper-middle-class family living in Delhi, and I am the second child of my parents. My brother, who is seven years older lives in Mumbai. All my life, I have been the most loved and pampered person in my family’s life, and they have never looked beyond me. And I too have always loved them unconditionally.
My parents gave us and me, in particular, everything that we wanted but most of all they gave us a lot of love. Our upbringing was strict, but it wasn’t as though there were unnecessary restrictions on us. As children, my brother and I followed a regimented schedule with a lot of emphasis on academics. But we had time to pursue our hobbies. My father, an avid reader and a music lover exposed us to the joys of reading and listening to music at a young age. Many evenings were spent with him reading out passages from his favourite books. A lot of this happened during our vacations from school when we had a lot of free time.
As I grew up, these readings turned into discussions where we would pick up topics arising from our readings and discuss them. What I loved about the discussions was the fact that I was given an equal opportunity to air my views, to express a point of view that was divergent from that of the others. I could have arguments and disagreements which would get heated, but that was okay. I was given the freedom to be me.
And somewhere this paved the way for my career choice. And as you have guessed it, I chose to become a lawyer. And since my father had his law firm, I was expected to join it, which is what I did. And though I had entered it with a so-called advantage, I wasn’t ever given any special treatment. I had to work my way up, and I had to work doubly hard, given my position. But I enjoyed my work and was willing it put in as much hard work as was required and more.
Time went by; life was good. Professionally I was doing very well, and on the personal front, I had found the man of my dreams. Samir and I had met while we were in law school and had become good friends. Gradually the friendship had turned into love, and two years ago, we decided to tie the knot. Our families knew each other, and so everyone was thrilled when we decided to do that. I was looking forward to the next phase of my life.
The date for the wedding had been fixed, and preparations were on full swing on both sides. We had decided to go for a destination wedding which had added to all the excitement. There was shopping, meetings with the wedding planner, discussions, invites, gossip sessions at home, trials for clothes, so much to do!! My parents were super busy, trying to meet deadlines. They had always been a social couple, and so had a lot of friends who were all helping out in ways that they could. My aunt, my mother’s younger sister, was at the forefront. She was as excited as the three of us. Since she was a widow and lived on her own, she usually spent a lot of time with us. And now with the wedding just around the corner, she had practically moved into our house. My parents were grateful to her as they needed all the help they could get.
My aunt Rama had been an integral part of our lives for as long as I could remember. Since she was all alone and had no family of her own, she was kind of part of our family. Since she was almost ten years younger to my mother, I always had been closer to her. She had been my partner in crime for as long as I could remember.
She cared for me as much as my parents. And I also shared everything with her. From my boyfriend issues to issues with my parents (mostly my mother!!) to work-related, I told her everything. She always had all the time in the world for me. She would guide me, counsel me, and I always valued her opinion. And with time, I had started depending on her for most things.
But today, I can’t do that. My world has fallen apart, and I can’t turn to anyone. I feel so lost. And the reason is that I have made a discovery, much like I overheard a conversation which I shouldn’t have. But I didn’t have much choice. Did I??
It was one day, two weeks ago, when I was crossing my parent’s room to get to my own. But I suddenly remembered that I needed to remind my mother about our appointment with the designer. I figured that the two sisters were chatting and I also thought of joining them. But as I was about to step into the room, I heard two words which made me stop in my tracks. One word was my name, which was okay, but the other word was’ adopted’. Though I did not think much about it at that point, it did pique my interest and made me want to know what they were talking about. But rather than joining in the conversation I chose to stand outside and listen or rather eavesdrop. And that proved to be my undoing.
Sometimes I feel I should not have listened and should have gone to my room. But I didn’t. Something made me feel as though I was rooted to the spot. At first, I couldn’t understand what they were talking about, and their talking about me made no sense at all. But that was what made me want to know more. I stepped a little closer to the door to hear more. I could make out that the two of them were having an argument of some sort and my aunt was crying. While my mother was trying to calm her, she was also angry with her. I couldn’t understand why they would be behaving like that.
It seemed as though my mother was telling her to do something, and she was refusing, most unlike my aunt. And then I heard my name again. What had I got to do with their argument??
I was on the verge of stepping in when I heard my mother say, ‘But she is your daughter?’ I didn’t know who were they talking about. But I think I did. I kind of knew that they were talking about me, but I didn’t want to believe that.
And then my aunt said, “Tell her after all that you have done for me!!’ Really, you think I could do that?
And then my mother said, ‘She is your daughter, she is about to get married. She should know!’
Know what!!! That I was not my mother’s daughter but my aunt’s!! Really!
I didn’t want to listen anymore. I just ran to my room. I wanted to be alone. I wanted time to process this information. Had I misunderstood? I thought not. So then?
I locked the door to my room and sat down. Was I not my parent’s child, and was I my aunt’s daughter? Why had she given me away? It wasn’t as though there was something wrong with her. Did she not want me, love me? But then she had been practically living in our house for as long as I could remember!! Why? Was I an unwanted child, a mistake? Hang on, if she was my mother, then where was my father? Was he dead or alive? Where was he? I had so many questions and no answers. I wanted the answers, but how was I to get them. Should I confront and admit to having eavesdropped? What would that do? And more than anything else was I ready to accept that my parents were not really mine. My parents were my lifelines, which mattered the most to me. How could I do that? Why should I do that? Boy, I was messed up,
Days went by, the wedding date was approaching, and I had about a million things to do. But I didn’t want to do anything. I needed my answers but didn’t know how to get them. I thought of confiding in Samir but strangely couldn’t get myself to do that. After all, this was something about my family. Would it be right to let him on a family secret? But I needed to talk. I was going nuts. So after almost ten days of going through hell, I decided that I had to discuss this with someone. After a lot of thought, I decided to confide in Alia my childhood friend and the daughter of my father’s closest friend.
I called her and told her that I needed to talk to her about an urgent matter. Now she had been aware of my incommunicado state, and so when I told her that I wanted to speak, she rushed to my place. I called her to my room, and the moment I saw her looking at me with an expression full of love and concern, I just burst into tears. All the pent up emotions of the last few days seemed to have found a vent. I cried, and I cried and just couldn’t stop. To her credit, she didn’t even try to stop me. She could sense that I was overwrought with emotion, and so she let me cry. After a while, when I couldn’t cry any more, and my tears seemed to have dried up, I looked at her. She hugged me and looked up as to ask what was wrong . And I told her everything about what I had overheard, how I had overheard, and what havoc it had caused in my life.
As expected, her reaction was a mix of shock and horror. She too couldn’t quite believe her ears. But gradually as it sunk in, she asked me what I wanted to do. I told her that I had thought of confronting my parents and my aunt and asking them why they had done that. But being a more cautious person, she said to me that it would be better first to confirm what I had heard. And rather than trying to verify it from my parents, she thought it would be a good idea to talk to her parents, in particular to her father. Since he had always been super close to my father, he would know about the adoption if it had indeed taken place.
So as per her suggestion, we decided to go and talk to Sunil uncle, her father. Though a little taken aback by my question, he didn’t bother denying any of it. He confirmed what I knew, which was that I was an adopted child, but he had no clue about my real parents. And so he was equally shocked to know that my aunt was actually my mother. He knew that my parents had adopted me after they had been unable to have a second child. But that was the extent of information that he had. He added though I didn’t need to know that, that I had always been more than a daughter to them.
Now that I had the confirmation, I was dying to question my parents, but I didn’t know how to go about it. Alia and I kept thinking, and finally, we concluded that I should go and speak to my mother. I should confess that I had overheard the conversation and now wanted all the details.
So the next day after breakfast when I knew that my mother would be relatively free, I decided to approach her. I walked into her room with a lot of trepidation, anxiety, curiosity and fear too. I had still not been able to wrap my head around the fact that I was an adopted child. It seemed like a stigma, a curse. She was busy sorting out some stuff, but the moment she saw me, she dropped everything and got up. I could see the relief on her face. My behaviour had been bothering her, and so now when I walked up to her, she wanted to know the reason for it.
Without beating around the bush, I came straight to the point. I looked at her and asked,” Mummy, Am I not your daughter.”
Though I knew the truth, I wanted to hear it from her mouth. In any case, I did not know how else to broach the topic. I could immediately see that my question had unnerved her, shocked her. She could make out that I had a solid reason for asking that question, and so there would not be any point in denying that. But I could see all kinds of expressions on her face. The initial shock had got replaced by anxiety, wonder and then anger in quick succession.
However putting everything aside, she sat me down and admitted to the fact that she wasn’t my biological mother, but in every other respect, I was her daughter. She had never felt otherwise. While I agreed with her, I wanted more details. I wanted to know who my parents were. Again I wanted to hear the truth from her. I wasn’t ready to admit to having overhead the entire conversation with her sister. In any case, I still didn’t know who my father was.
But my mother wasn’t willing to say more. She told me that this was a conversation that needed to be done in front of my father. Since the decision to adopt me had been a joint one he needed to be around before she could divulge any more details. Thought impatient I could understand her point of view and so agreed to wait till my dad could be around. So that night it was a melancholy three of us that sat down to have dinner. I could see that my parents were anxious and nervous, but it was clear that I wanted to know the truth. I had expected my aunt also to be there, but she wasn’t. I guess my parents wanted to keep her out for some time.
It was my mother who began by telling me the story of their lives. She started by telling me how the two of them had got married and very soon after getting married they had had their first child, a son. They were obviously referring to my brother Sanjay. Life had been good, and then after a few years, they had tried for a second child but had not ben able to have one. They were very keen to have a daughter, but that had not happened. Gradually they had come to accept the fact and move on.
Time went by with the family of three happy and content in their lives. Nitin had a good business, he earned very well, and the family could maintain a luxurious lifestyle.
And then in the summer of that year, Radha’s younger sister came to live with them. She had got a job in Delhi, and since she was new to the city, Radha had suggested that she live with them till she could figure out her living arrangements. She was younger to Radha by ten years. She was beautiful, vivacious and full of life. Her coming brought a lot of happiness into their lives. Radha got someone with whom she could share things, the girly kinds. As young girls, because of the age gap, they had never been able to spend time with each other. But now they could make up for a lot of that, and so they regularly went out, to watch movies, to shop, to have meals together. It was all wonderful as if they were trying to catch up in life.
Meanwhile, Rama met this dashing guy Rohit and fell in love with him. He was a pilot, and they had met each other at a common friend’s party. It was love at first sight for both of them. Rama loved the way Rohit looked, the way he spoke, his sense of humour and most of all his compassionate and loving nature. She couldn’t see beyond him and wanted to get married to him as soon as possible. He loved her livewire personality, her spontaneity and her giving nature. They adored each other.
But of course, before moving ahead, they had to speak to their respective families and get the green signal. They did that, and the families too liked both of them. So they got engaged, and it was decided that they would be married within the next three months. The date was fixed, and both sides started preparing for the wedding. Both Rama and Rohit were over the moon. It was like a dream come true for them. They were dying to start their lives together. Rama couldn’t bear it when Rohit had to go on flights and would be away for three-four days. She would call him, text him, and he would also do the same. Life was perfect; just the way they had wanted it to be. They couldn’t believe their luck.
And then their luck ran out. One night when they were coming back from a party, they met with an accident and Rohit died on the spot. And that was the end of their dreams, their future.
Rama was devastated and just could not accept the fact that Rohit was no more. She went into a shell and stopped talking to people. No one could reach her, touch her. She sat through all the ceremonies that followed Rohit’s death but did not shed a tear or react to anything happening around her. It was as though she had turned into stone. People came to offer their condolences, and she just looked at them without any reaction. Her family tried all that they could to draw her out, but nothing seemed to work. It was as though she had forgotten how to smile, cry or show any emotion.
A month passed this way, and there seemed to be no change in her condition. Now everyone started getting alarmed. Radha decided that it was high time they got professional help as this could not go on. One of her friends was a psychologist, and she thought of consulting her. Being a friend of Radha’s the psychologist was aware of the situation. She tried talking to Rama, drawing her out but to no avail. Eventually, she concluded that since Rama had been badly hurt and was still in a state of shock, she would take time to recover. It could take a long time for her to get out of it or another blow could make her come out of the state. The diagnosis could not satisfy Radha or her parents, but there wasn’t much that they could do. They had to wait and be patient.
And then another shock hit Radha. While getting her to see the psychologist Radha had also got some regular tests done for Rama. And to her horror and dismay, the tests revealed that she was pregnant!! Now, this was like a bolt from the blue. Radha had most definitely not expected this, and now she didn’t know what to do. Her sister was in no state to listen or respond to her. Radha didn’t know who to talk to about it. While she didn’t want to betray her sister’s confidence, something needed to be done and urgently. She couldn’t even tell her parents about it. How was she going to solve this one?
She again decided to consult a doctor, this time a gynaecologist to understand if they had any options. The doctor, of course, needed to see Rama. On examining her, the doctor told Radha that the pregnancy had now reached a stage where it could not be terminated, and Rama would have to give birth to the child. Now Radha was both angry with her sister and equally concerned. Angry because she couldn’t understand how she could have been so irresponsible!! They were from a conservative family, and their parents would never accept this kind of a thing. And the concern also stemmed from that aspect only. How would Rama deal with the situation? Who would help her because Radha was pretty sure that their parents would not? And she also had a husband. What would she tell him?
Then another thought struck her. Was it possible that she already knew about it and that had contributed to the shock. ? Radha was at a dead end. She couldn’t share this with anyone, and yet she needed to talk.
The situation started to get to her. She needed to find a solution as quickly as possible, but there was nothing that she could think of. She was getting stressed out. One day when she couldn’t take it anymore, she went into Rama’s room. Rama was sitting there with a listless expression on her face staring into space. It seemed as though she was in some other world with no idea about the havoc she had caused in her sister’s life. Seeing her sitting there in a kind of an oblivious state got to Radha. She just lost it and started shouting at her sister. All the pent up anger, frustration got out though it didn’t seem as though she was getting across to Rama.
Radha was crying and shouting at the same time. She walked up to her sister, held her by the shoulders and started shaking her, telling her, imploring her to wake up from her stupor and speak up. She looked at her and said,” Rama I need your help!! I can’t find a solution to this! Tell me what to do ??”
But Rama did not respond. Radha was herself shaking with anger now. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she just slapped Rama and said,’ You idiot, do you know you are pregnant ?? What are you going to do ??”
Maybe it was the slap or the shock of what was said to her. Rama as though waking up from a slumber, looked up and said “What ??”
Seeing her respond, Radha forgot everything else and almost screamed with joy. With tears running down her cheeks, she started hugging and kissing her sister thanking God that she had woken up. All the commotion brought the rest of the family into the room. Their parents also could not contain their happiness which got manifested in the form of tears. Radha called up her husband, who also rushed home to be with the family. Though seemingly okay, Rama was still not her usual self. She seemed to have forgotten the happenings of the past few weeks, including the fact that Rohit was no more. This kind of shocked her family, but when Radha spoke to the doctor, she told her that it was only a matter of time before Rama’s memory came back to her. And that is precisely what happened.
Within a few days, Rama remembered most of what had happened, including the fact of Rohit’s death. The entire family heaved a sigh of relief. And then one day when the two sisters were alone at home, Radha broached the topic of Rama’s pregnancy. Rama looked at her sister and admitted that she and Rohit had known about the pregnancy. And when she had learnt about Rohit’s death, her mind had immediately gone into a tailspin trying to not only come to grips with the situation but also trying to understand how she would deal with her pregnancy. And the combined effect of the shock of Rohit’s death and the pregnancy had thrown her into a panic mode and then numbed her. But now that she was her usual self, she wanted to find the best way to deal with the situation. Radha told her that as per the doctor, there was no way that they could terminate the pregnancy and so between the two of them, they had to find a way out. The sisters understood that the situation was tricky and they couldn’t tell anyone, especially their parents about it.
Radha decided that they first needed to make Rama go through a complete medical checkup before thinking of what to do. The checkup revealed that all was well with the mother and the child, but this revelation was actually the beginning of their troubles. It was pretty clear that Rama would have to give birth to the child, but the question was how were they going to tell the whole world about it. The fact was that she wasn’t married and becoming an unwed mother would not be acceptable in the world in which they lived. It would bring a lot of shame to the family. So what were they to do?
Radha realized that this problem could not be solved only by the two of them, and they needed help. But who could they turn to? Not their parents. The only option was her husband, but Rama didn’t want to do that. They gave it a lot of thought and then realized that they had no choice but to confide in Nitin. And so Nitin was apprised about the situation. As expected, he was initially shocked and then angry with Rama. But being a rational and practical person, he realized the futility of being mad for too long.
Moreover, as Radha pointed out to him, they did not have a lot of time to sit and ponder over the issue. Rama was already five months pregnant, and it wasn’t going to be long before her state would be visible to people. So they needed to act.
As Radha had hoped Nitin came up with a plan. He suggested that the two sisters could go on a holiday for a couple of months, to begin with, and then extend it. The excuse would be that Rama needed a change of scene, and since she was not in a state to travel by herself, Radha had decided to accompany her. They could stay on till the birth of the child and then arrange to give up the child for adoption. The place Nitin chose for this was Switzerland as he felt that the chances of their meeting someone known over there would be minimal. So he decided on a small town near Zurich which wasn’t a place frequented by tourists but had access to medical facilities. But before that, the sisters had to convince the parents, especially their mother, who couldn’t understand why they needed to go so far for a change of scene. They managed to do that though the mother wasn’t completely fooled. She could sense that there was more to what she was being told but had no option other than to give in.
So off went the sisters. The first two months went by quickly with Radha taking good care of her sister. Nitin kept visiting them at regular intervals because little Sanjay couldn’t stay without his mother for too long. Though Radha felt terribly guilty about having left her child, Nitin helped to assuage her guilt by telling her that she needed to stand by her sister. And the fact that he was an excellent father made it easier for Radha. The coming away from India did do a lot of good to Rama who not only became happier but healthier too. Radha took good care of her. She was sometimes a friend, sometimes a mother and sometimes just the older sister who cared for her younger one.
Rama knew what a sacrifice her sister had made for her, putting her life on hold to be with her through this challenging phase of her life. But whenever she tried broaching this topic with Radha, she would brush her aside and tell her not to be silly. It was what families were supposed to be.
While the first two months went off peacefully, by the middle of the third month, their mother started agitating and demanding that either the two sisters came back or she was flying down to be with them. The sisters panicked. Nitin tried to handle the situation but couldn’t do so for too long. It seemed now that their mother would come visiting as they had refused to go back cooking up one excuse after the other. But call it divine intervention or what. Their father fell ill, and so their mother’s travel plans had to be shelved for a while. And mercifully, the plans could never materialize because their father refused to stay alone after his illness. And so the rest of the pregnancy went off peacefully, and at the end of the nine months, Rama gave birth to a lovely baby girl.
As was probably destined to happen, Rama fell in love with the child, the moment she set eyes on her. One look and Rohit’s face swam before her eyes. All the times that they had spent together, the beautiful memories came rushing back. She couldn’t imagine being parted from her, her only memory of the man she had loved. How could she give up their child for adoption? She told her sister about her feelings who though understood her didn’t know what to do. They had promised to give up the child to a couple who was known to Nitin. They couldn’t go back on their word. But Rama was clear that they had to find a way out. So once again they put their heads together and consulted Nitin who for obvious reasons was mad at them. The husband and wife quarrelled, argued, but the sister in Radha could not let her sister suffer any more. If the child were a way to make her sister happy, she would make sure that the child remained with her.
So though not giving the child would be a breach of trust and breaking of a promise, it could be managed as the couple was known to Nitin. The husband worked for him so he could be convinced. But it was left to Radhe to manage that piece because Nitin refused to do that. There was no way that he was going to cut a sorry figure and so once again, Radha stepped in to help out her sister. She took the couple into confidence and shared how Rama was unable to part with the child. Though disappointed, they understood, and graciously stepped back. But this wasn’t the end of their problems. There was a bigger one looming in front of them, and that was the problem of taking the child back to India. How could they explain the whole thing? It wasn’t as though people came back from holidays with a child!! So what were they to do?
And then Nitin came up with a brain wave. He suggested that he and Radha could adopt the little girl. They could cook up a story of how the child’s parents were known to them, and all of a sudden had died in a car accident. Since the child had been left alone, the two of them had decided to adopt her. As far as Rama was concerned, she could continue to live with them if she wanted to and be with her daughter. That way, they could all be together.
Though there were quite a few loopholes in the story, Nitin felt that if they were confident about it, no one would question them. Even if they suspected something, they would forget about it after a while. The only hitch was their mother who they knew was pretty astute and would be able to see through the charade. And that is precisely what happened. When the sisters, along with the baby and Nitin got back, they gave out the story of the adoption to everyone. And while everyone believed it, their mother refused to.
Her first reaction unnerved both the sisters and made them realize that they had been caught. After hearing them out, she looked at her daughters and said,” You think I was born yesterday”, and that was it.
She didn’t need to say anything else. The sisters knew that she had not been fooled. Rama decided there and then to reveal the truth, but the moment she opened her mouth, her mother put her finger on her daughter’s lips and told her that she didn’t want to hear anything. She warned them against opening up their mouths again.
And thus I became the daughter of Radha and Nitin Chopra and the niece of Rama Kapoor.
The story shook me up, but the one thing that happened was that my respect and love for the couple in front of me went up tremendously. In my head, I had presumed that once I got to know the reality, I would want to leave them and go and live with my biological mother. But now, after hearing the story, there was no way that I was doing that. What amazing people I had as parents!! While I did sympathize with my aunt and what she had had to go through in life, I realized that my mother’s life had been equally eventful and turbulent. How much she had done for her sister!! And how much love she had given me? I had to admit that I had never been made to feel that I wasn’t their daughter. And I knew that if I hadn’t overheard that conversation, I might never have known about it. The sisters had such a strong bond that my aunt would have never told me about it.
My complaint was against my fate, my destiny. I felt it had cheated me.
It all seemed so unfair. Why did I have to be an adopted child? Why couldn’t I have been born to my parents? It made me feel as though I had never been entitled to any of the luxuries, the joys that I had got by living with them. They were not mine as a matter of right. And didn’t my brother feel that he had had to give away a part of his share to someone who wasn’t his real sibling? This feeling bothered me a lot, and so I decided to speak to him. But the way he responded left me feeling so loved and so wanted that I thought that it had been a mistake to harbour such thoughts. It made me think that I was wrong to think like that. He told me that for him, I was the only sibling that he had ever had. When he had been told about me, he had been overjoyed because my coming meant that his long-standing desire of having a sibling was getting fulfilled. It had been like a dream come true. And although later he had come to know that I wasn’t his real sister, it had made no difference to the way he had always looked at me. He hugged me and told me that the bond between us was too strong to get affected by a small detail like that. And somewhere once again I could not help but thank my parents for the solid upbringing that they had given us. And I could not help but thank the powers that be for giving me a beautiful family consisting of my parents, brother and aunt.
Life went back to being normal, and the wedding preparations resumed. There was happiness all around. And the happiest were my two mothers, especially the one who could now acknowledge me as her daughter. Yes, I decided that I wasn’t going to hide this fact any longer, especially from the people who mattered the most to me and that included Samir and his family.