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Happy end to a 19-year quest

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Reunion: Minda Cox with her biological mother Kalavathi Shetty (left) and father Shankar Shetty (right) in Kolekebailu village in Udupi district on Sunday. Her adoptive mother Catherine Cox is standing behind.
Reunion: Minda Cox with her biological mother Kalavathi Shetty (left) and father Shankar Shetty (right) in Kolekebailu village in Udupi district on Sunday. Her adoptive mother Catherine Cox is standing behind.

Divya Gandhi

Minda Cox from the U.S. finds her biological parents at an Udupi village

Kolekebailu (Udupi): “My dream has been to contact you... I have been thinking of you and want you to know how grateful I am to you for keeping me alive and taking me to the hospital... I can take care of myself very well. I use an electric wheelchair. I take classes in University and am becoming an artist... Someday, I would like to meet you and thank you for loving me.”

This was a letter written just a few days ago by Minda Cox, relinquished in 1988 by her biological father to a hospital in Manipal because he feared he did not have the means to take care of a child born without limbs. Seven months later, the baby was placed in adoption by Ashraya, a Bangalore-based adoption agency, with Catherine Cox.

Minda now lives in Bolivar, Missouri, with her adoptive mother and four other adopted siblings. In India, for a reunion on the occasion of Ashraya’s 25th year, Minda wrote the letter when told that her chances of finding her biological parents were remote.

But a story that appeared in the columns of this newspaper on Minda’s quest set off a search that would lead the young woman to Kolekebailu, a village in Udupi district, where her father is a petty shop owner.

Dressed in a green silk sari Kalavathi, and her husband Shankar Shetty, had to jostle their way through a crowd gathered outside their tiled-roof house to reach the van bringing Minda and mother Catherine on Sunday.

This was the moment for which 19-year-old Minda had been preparing herself for years. Kalavathi, on the other hand, had less than two days to gather herself for a reunion with her oldest daughter whom she never expected to see. “I look just like her!” said Minda as a tearful Kalavathi embraced her. For Minda and Kalavathi, hugs and tears conveyed all that had remained unsaid in the last 20 years.

“I never thought I would see her,” said Kalavathi holding Catherine close. “I might have given birth to her, you gave her life.”

While Minda was reconnecting with her family the crowd outside was getting restive, eager to greet the girl they had only ever heard about. Her father Shankar Shetty, wheeled Minda out to the little verandah, where people took turns to greet her. “We told your mother that her baby would be back, that she would be treated at the hospital. She would not have let you go otherwise,” Mr. Shetty told Minda later.

“I knew we did not have the means to take care of you. We were very poor and lived in a mud hut those days.” But “why” was not a question Minda had come to seek an answer to. She had come, she said, to seek reassurance that she would be accepted with her disability, and to reassure her family that she was well. “I did not know if you even wanted to meet me,” said Minda to Kalavathi. “And now I feel so strong here, safe in your arms.”

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