Thirteen years after they adopted their daughter Amanda from India, the Roullier family travel back to her birth country.
by Penny and Bill Roullier
Our international adoption journey started 15 years ago when we learned about a tragedy in an orphanage in the Philippines. Several children had died in a devastating fire. Our hearts were stirred, and we decided to look into adoption. Holt International, at the time, was the only agency providing international adoption services in our state. We filled out the preliminary paperwork, and Holt recommended we adopt a girl from India. We had two biological sons, Zachary, 4, and Quincy, 2.
After another round of paperwork and a home study, we waited to hear from Holt with a referral for a little girl. Shortly thereafter, the Holt magazine arrived. We eagerly flipped to the section featuring children waiting for families. Our eyes stopped on a beautiful little girl in India named Mukta who was a year old. Immediately, we called Holt. And we qualified for her! In addition to her medical and developmental records, Holt sent us pictures of the beautiful little girl who would become our daughter.
After reviewing the records with our social worker, she recommended we proceed with the adoption. She was impressed with the detailed evaluations and reports kept by Mukta’s caregivers and felt they had provided us with more information about Mukta than most families adopting in the USA have about prospective children.
Traveling to India to pick up our daughter was our first experience with international travel. Holt took care of all of our travel arrangements. We would fly to New Delhi, the capitol, then to Pune to pick up Mukta at her care center – Holt partner agency Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK). We would then travel back to New Delhi.
In both cities, drivers met us at the airports and took us to our hotels. In Delhi, our favorite place was Nath Guesthouse. The food was phenomenal, we met wonderful people from around the world, and it was a familiar place in an extremely unfamiliar culture.
Our next destination was Pune to meet Mukta at BSSK. I was so nervous. The morning we left I wrote in my journal, “I felt like I have had too many cups of coffee.” Horrific images of smelly, depressing orphanages swam through my mind. What would we experience at BSSK? The offices and Nashon, where infants live, were our first stops. All of my fears were unfounded. The orphanage was clean and bright, and the children received loving care.
Then, we got to meet Mukta. She was so beautiful and so small. She was born very small, and at 21 months of age, she weighed only 18 pounds! We brought her a pretty dress and some sandals. She loved them!
From Pune, we flew back to Delhi with Mukta to complete more paperwork at the American Embassy. Everything had been pre-arranged for us, so it all went extremely smoothly. Fortunately, Mukta – who we renamed Amanda Mukta-Marie after my great-grandmother and Bill’s grandmother, respectively – deals with stress by sleeping. She slept almost all the way from New Delhi to Nevada!
When we arrived home, Amanda Mukta-Marie had a loving family waiting for her.
From the time we adopted Amanda, we planned to take her back to India for a visit when she was 12 or 13. Within a year of her adoption, Bill was transferred and our financial situation changed. Life took off. Amanda turned 12 then 13, 14 and 15. A trip to India got lost in the busy-ness of life.
For us, Amanda’s beginning was the moment she joined our family. But for her, life really began 21 months before our family. At an early age, she became fascinated with India. First, she was determined to be a missionary doctor in India. Then last year, she studied India as a part of her 10th grade history class. After taking this class, she changed her mind and decided she would like to become nurse and a lawyer in order to fight injustices in India.
Later, when she came to us asking to go on a month-long mission trip to India with an organization we didn’t know, we realized just how important it was for Amanda to visit her birth country. She would spend a month in India with a group of people she had never met before. But we wanted to experience Amanda’s return to India with her. Did we have the money or the time? No, we took money out of our IRA and made the time. Holt recommended a travel agent and set up our visit with BSSK. The rest was up to us. The hardest part was deciding what to do while we were there. Amanda wanted to ride elephants, so our plans focused on riding elephants!
Once in India, we retraced the steps from our first trip – with the exception of adding a day with elephants in Jaipur to our itinerary! From New Delhi, we took a five-hour train ride to Jaipur. On our first morning, we woke up early and watched beautifully decorated elephants walking past our hotel! The best was yet to come: we spent five hours with elephants at the elephant farm near Amber Fort with Rhaul at Elefantastic (check it out on TripAdvisor). After returning to New Delhi, we flew to Pune where we visited BSSK.
At BSSK, the assistant director met us with warm hugs. We toured the orphanage, played with the children and had a traditional Indian lunch. While there, Bill recognized two of the women that took care of Amanda fourteen years ago. They were still at BSSK. Revisiting the place we first met our daughter, Bill was moved to tears. It was extremely emotional for both of us as we reflected back on the first time we held Amanda.
When we returned to Delhi, we stayed at the same guesthouse where we stayed when we first traveled to bring home Amanda. Our stay at the Nath Guesthouse (now Lutyn’s Bungalow) brought back memories, and was a highlight of our trip.
We aren’t sure how Amanda felt about the experience. She has no memories of her time at BSSK. In her words, she is “still processing” her visit. She has expressed an interest in returning to the orphanage to work there at some point in time. But whether the trip was deeply meaningful or surprisingly un-emotional for Amanda, we know it was an important trip for our entire family.
Sometimes in life we have a burning desire to do something, and then we finally get to do it. Sometimes there’s an emotional “Wow! That was awesome!” response and sometimes you get an, “Humph. That was OK, but not awesome…” response. We wanted to do what we could to meet Amanda’s need to experience India, regardless of the emotional impact it had or didn’t have on her. In either case, Amanda’s desire to experience this trip has been satisfied, and we got to experience this wonderful journey together as a family.
BSSK, our legacy partner in India, recently inaugurated a new child care facility! Click here to read about BSSK’s efforts to build a beautiful place for children to stay while waiting for a permanent family.