After 30 years, Indian-American hopes to reunite with his birth mother

His search has led him to Tiruchi and Pudukottai, where a few leads have been forthcoming

April 04, 2022 10:07 pm | Updated April 05, 2022 03:10 am IST

Thomas Kumar Johnson was adopted by a U.S.-based family when he was two.

Thomas Kumar Johnson was adopted by a U.S.-based family when he was two. | Photo Credit: M. Srinath

Thomas Kumar Johnson, 32, an American national of Indian origin, who was given up for adoption through a social welfare organisation in Tiruchi at the age of two, has made it his life’s mission to be reunited with his biological mother.

Such is his passion to meet the woman identified only as ‘Mary’ in his adoption documents (her father ‘Soosai’ is the other person mentioned), that he quit his job in Chicago as a climate change policy expert last year to launch the search in earnest and is now in Tiruchi.

“I just want my mother to know that I am alive and doing okay. And I want to know if my mother is well; whether I have any brothers or sisters, maybe some more information about my father. Emotionally, it will help me to feel like a more complete person if I knew where I came from and who my parents are,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu. His birth name is registered as ‘Sampath Kumar’.

Mr. Kumar was based in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with his American family since the age of two. “I grew up in a Caucasian family in the countryside in Ohio, and I was the only Indian I knew, probably until I was about 19. I had no access to the Indian culture or language,” he said. His American mother worked as a scientist and academic, while his father, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2005, was a software engineer.

Mr. Kumar says his American family has been supportive of his decision to search for his roots. “My father actually bought me and my sister (biological daughter) tickets to travel to India in 2004, because he felt it was important for me to see my country, and to search for my relatives. He knew he was going to die soon, so he wanted to make sure that I did that, but I didn’t really do anything about it until after I went to college,” Mr. Kumar said.

He began his quest in 2018, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he is back in India to look for his mother for the third time. Mr. Kumar agreed it may not be easy to meet his biological parent. “If my mother does not want to see me, then that is her right, and I will accept her decision. It will make me sad, but it is still a part of this process,” he said. He doesn’t know much about his biological father and hopes his birth mother will introduce him one day.

He arrived in Delhi last week, because research had suggested that he may have been from adopted from a home or hospital there. But after those theories came to naught, he shifted his search to Tiruchi and Pudukottai, where a few leads have been forthcoming. “I plan to stay in India for the next six weeks to be available if there is any news or development,” said Mr. Kumar, who is put up in a hotel in Tiruchi.

He is being assisted by Anjali Pawar, of the Pune-based organisation Against Child Trafficking (ACT), which claims to have helped 72 adoptees meet their biological parents in India. “While most adoptions are considered legal in India, what we don’t know is how the child landed up in the institution in the first place. In Mr. Kumar’s case, we have been looking for his mother, and we thought we had found one potential candidate, but DNA tests disproved that. We hope to get more clues in the coming weeks,” she said.

Mr. Kumar said he would eventually return to the U.S. “I just want to see my mother and establish a relationship with her and other relatives. I may not be able to shift permanently to India, and I do not want to disturb my biological mother in any way,” he added.

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