I am an international adoptee from India. Many times in transracial and/or international adoption, the adoptee loses a sense of identity when they are raised outside of their race and culture. I know for myself, I was raised in a predominantly white town by a white family, so I lost my identity as an Indian.
As an adoptee, I am always wondering about who I am, where I came from, if I have siblings, who I look like, what my birth parents are like. I learned it will be hard to find my biological family. I felt lost and confused about who I was.
My husband has been a huge support system in helping me navigate my identity. He traveled to India with me; we went to my orphanage and learned more about where my life began. We attended Indian events and celebrations, such as Holi, Diwali, India's Independence Day. I learned more about my complex identity and began embracing the many different parts.
As a bride, I decided to reclaim my identity. I am a “hybrid”, both Indian and Anglo-American.
For our wedding day, we found ways to include who we are individually and together to make our day meaningful to us. My Indian heritage was celebrated and honored throughout the weekend and my husband's love for music and art was as well.
I hosted a mehndi (henna) night 2 days before the wedding. I had Chrissy Wai-Ching, who creates custom dresses that infuse Asian flair with contemporary designs, help me design a dress that was both Indian and Anglo-American style. She created a white sari top, that fades into red (traditional Indian bridal color). I wore traditional Indian jewelry. We had tables decorated with colorful linens, gold candle sticks, and marigold flowers.
During our wedding ceremony, our officiant read a poem that my husband chose for me, “Lover's Gift,” by the Nobel Prize winning Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. We exchanged Indian Garlands and our officiant read this “The Indian garlands that Kalinda and Eric have just exchanged are part of an ancient wedding ritual called jayamaala. The ceremony is about the meeting of two souls and the joining of two families. The flowers represent excitement, happiness, and beauty – all tied together on a string signifying the marital union and the aspirations of the happy couple. By placing the garlands on each other, Kalinda and Eric are signaling that they enter this marriage freely and with full acceptance of one another.”
We walked into our ceremony together to show us as equals. We opted out of a wedding party and instead had our mother's hand us each the rings. We wrote our own vows and included things that were sentimental and funny, such as things about our love for Hamilton and metal music, and playing board games. We created a unity painting to honor my husband's artistic side. He wore a traditional American style suit and a marigold boutonnière. We then included all guests in a musical parade with cow bells, tambourines, bells, and shakers.
During the reception, we incorporated both Bollywood and Western music. One of my favorite parts was our dinner – make your own grain bowl. This was not part of an Indian tradition but was a reflection of us as a couple. We love making bowls at home, so we thought this was a great way to share what we love and meet the vast dietary needs.
My advice to you, if you are an international or transracial adoptee who is trying to combine all the parts of who you are: Do it!
There were many times throughout the process in which I second-guessed myself. I often thought, “Am I appropriating a culture I do not belong to?”
It took me a long time to understand that India is my native land, my birth place, my heritage, so I am/was honoring and practicing what is/was mine.
Adoption does not have to stop you from being you — all the parts of you. I am Indian and I am proud of that. Indian culture is beautiful and I am glad I embraced that part of myself.