Hearts Across the World
By Amsheva Miller
Clattering along in the hot Indian sun, our train neared the southern city of Nagpur, India. Beside me this Thanksgiving Day sat my husband and our two adopted Indian sons. We were traveling to Nagpur to meet the small Indian girl we were adopting to complete our family. Sadly, because the foreign adoption process takes a long time, we would not be able to take our daughter home to the United States right away. But at least we could visit her for a few hours.
Three years earlier, I had come to India from our home in Maryland and established a second residence in Hyderabad, near the orphanage where I was adopting my sons. Now I was staying in Hyderabad again, and my husband was visiting briefly from Maryland, where his job supported our efforts to adopt this little girl. The duration of my stay would be determined by the slow-moving Indian adoption court, a system over which we had no control. But at least for a few hours on this hot day, we could be a family.
Shortly after lunch, a bicycle rickshaw carried us the last miles to the overcrowded orphanage where we were greeted by a hundred eager faces, each hoping to belong to us. The sight was heartbreaking. And yet the people in charge seemed genuinely to care for the children, and the conditions, though humble, were orderly.
We waited, fidgeting in our seats, until a small, delicate girl was escorted into the room. Immediately, I recognized the child my heart had been praying for daily for almost a year. Ghita, our daughter! We hugged and kissed her in our joy, creating in that moment a bond that would last a lifetime.
Ghita could not speak a word of English, but it didn’t matter. She was our daughter, and at last our family would be complete. We shared some ice cream and looked at picture books, then parted with tear-stained smiles, knowing that in a month we could be together for good.
My husband returned to his job in the States, and I
settled in with my sons in Hyderabad, almost 300 miles from the Nagpur orphanage, anxiously awaiting notification that Ghita’s papers were processed. I often lay awake at night, imagining myself holding her in my arms and protecting her from harm in the crowded orphanage. She was so delicate, so trusting.
Finally the news arrived that I could proceed to Nagpur immediately to take custody of my daughter. Wasting no time, I arranged to travel by air, so that I would not have to leave my boys overnight. Then it happened – the Hindu temple at Ayodhya in the north was bombed by Muslims. Although we were thousands of miles away, Hyderabad was a heavily Muslim city. All flights were canceled for fear of terrorism, and the entire city was placed under curfew.
Undaunted, I decided to travel to Nagpur by train instead, making arrangements for my sons to stay with friends. But our hired driver, himself a devout Muslim, advised against it. “Madam, you would not come home alive!” He explained that an American woman traveling alone would be a prime target for random violence. My close Hindu friends gave me the same advice and urged me to abandon my plans.
Then I hit on the idea of driving to Nagpur. After all, I reasoned, my driver was Muslim and I knew I could trust him. He had even helped us secure food during curfew, allowing the children and me to stay safely at home. But again he discouraged me. “Madam,” he said, “I am only one man. What can I do against a gang of robbers? Be safe – remain at home!” I had to remember my responsibility to the children I already had, so I sadly surrendered to the reality that there was nothing to do but wait.
As the days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I prayed daily for my little daughter in the orphanage. What did she think? Did she even know why I hadn’t come? My sons grew more agitated and harder to handle. I desperately needed support, but my husband and friends were 10,000 miles away. As the challenges I faced grew more severe, I realized that I alone had to meet them, through my own inner strength. Keep cool. Try to act normal. God, please give me the strength I need to get through this.
Gradually the tension between the Hindus and Muslims dissolved, curfew was lifted, and life in the city normalized. It was now March, four months since that sunny Thanksgiving Day when we met Ghita. My husband came to visit again, and I felt I had passed an enormous test. I could take a deep breath now and feel some lightness in my heart – and there in my heart was Ghita.
Then the miracle – the news that flights to Nagpur had resumed! We acted like lightning and within a few hours were holding tickets for the next day’s flight.
The bicycle rickshaw to the orphanage seemed to move in slow motion. I could hardly contain myself. Then, finally, the moment we had waited for arrived. Out of the crowd of eager faces, I saw only one – one shining little face that stepped forward and said, “Mommy!” It was her first English word, spoken with eyes as big as the universe and enough love to last a lifetime.
Reprinted by permission of Amsheva Miller (c) 1997 from Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne and Marci Shimoff. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.