TUESDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2015
I am now a roots seeker.
The last 3 days have been a very emotional and turbulent period of my life. I thought the death of my father was my lowest point. But it was not. It was the death of my mother. However that record was surpassed when my grandfather passed away.
Now a new and worst grief took over. 14 November 2015 gave a new meaning to my life. A life that is now without a beginning.
After 48 years, I now discovered that the father and mother who loved me as their only child and whom I dearly loved and sorely missed are not of my own flesh and blood.
After 48 years of living as a Malay and championing the community cause, in one single night, I am now a Chinese.
After 48 years, I now need to find who I really am.
I was adopted. And 2 versions were disclosed to me upon probing. Version 1 tells me of a poor Chinese couple from Segamat, Johor who sold me to my parents who then brought me back to Singapore. Version 2 tells me of a Chinese lady who was pregnant and made a deal with my parents to have her child raised by them. And after birth, I was given to my parents who paid for the necessary expenses. Version 2a tells me that my late father had wanted to also adopt my younger sister after some time later but my late mom decided to give her 100% love to me instead.
I have no clue and inclination. My birth certificate shows my adoptive parents as Father and Mother. I was given the name Mohamad Fahmi Bin Ahmad Rais. In Islamic law, when a child is adopted the father’s biological name must be stated and if unknown to use Abdullah instead or if still the preference is to put the adopting father’s name then the ‘Bin’ must be omitted. As such, as I have no reason to suspect anything amiss when looking at my birth certificate. I am my parents ‘true and legitimate’ son.
My NRIC indicated my name and reflected my race as Malay. So I grew up as a Chinese looking Malay and I comforted myself by believing that I look differently from my parents because I was a ‘freak generation’. The result was obvious, every other day, every other week and every other month for each year of my life, I have people coming to me asking if I am Chinese. Some took the shorter route and just assumed I am one and started conversing with me in Chinese. And at times, when I corrected them by saying that I am a Malay, not every person can take it well. Some said that I am not aware of my upline generation who may be Chinese or that I am adopted.
Having people say that I am Chinese and that I am adopted became as common as strangers asking me for the time or direction. I didn’t give any weight to such questions. I even made a convenient storyline out of it by saying that I am a politically correct Singapore citizen because I am a Malay who look like a Chinese and married to an Indian.
So the final truth came to light on Saturday night that fateful day when I visited my only living grandmother and in a casual conversation asked her if indeed I am adopted. I was more than half expecting her to dismiss it when her face changed and she took a couple of seconds in silence. The truth finally hit me before she could use any words to affirm it. The rest of the conversation had been nothing but a shock. It shook the very foundation of who I really am.
I left the house in tears. I didn’t sleep that night. I cried and I cried. I still cry to this very moment. My emotions were a mix of every feeling except joy and happiness.
I was severely disappointed. The next 48 hours was devastating.
No, it does not change my love for my parents who raised me well. So please stop giving me the lecture on the morality of love by saying “they love you like their own son’. That is not the issue here. My love for them has not changed. To the contrary I love them more because they have raised me like their very own when I am not. They passed away thinking that I will not know the truth and would remain in peace with that hope.
My sadness was that I love them so much that I wanted and had believed all this while that I was the result of their love and marriage. And I love my extended family on both sides. My uncles and aunties, cousins as well. I grew up knowing them as my family.
And now none of them is of the same blood. Spare me the “all bloods are red” punchline. From my younger than me cousins to the oldest living relative, our DNAs are not related.
I was so proud of my dad’s family name that I am the only one in the 3 living generations going all over town and village claiming that I am a ‘Rais’, that I named my 2 sons, ‘Rais’ and that when I first opened a company, it also has the name ‘Rais’ in it. And the truth now is I am not a Rais, in the bloodline sense of the word.
In short, I am lost. The last 3 days I stared at myself a little longer when I looked into the mirror. That is because I see a stranger in it.
I have people who obviously are not in my shoes trying to offer comfort using textbook techniques eg “we all love you the same”, “it doesn’t matter now” etc
Well it does matter. It doesn’t matter to you because you are not me. It doesn’t matter to you because you are not the one adopted or that if you are but you knew about it all along. It doesn’t matter to you because life has not changed. You are still who you are.
But I am no longer who I am. I cannot go on pretending all is well. I cannot live another day with a pack of lies and pretending that I am who I am not.
It is either the world has looked different to me or I am now a different person in the same world. But things cannot be the same.
An alternative parental love is not what I seek. I am seeking lost ties. I am not as excited as meeting my biological parents as much as meeting my siblings. They are not a party to the decision that my biological parents made when they decided to give or sell me away.
What if the person standing next to me while waiting for the traffic light to go green is my own sister? What if a Facebook friend that I have in my list is my own brother?
If my biological family refused to accept me upon a possible reunion, I would have considered the matter having come to a proper closure nonetheless. If they are also in turn wondering where I am all these years, tears will roll when we hug each other for the first time.
I have lived my life as the only child and the prospect that I could share a meal with a brother or sister, I will go to the end of the world for that one chance.
Other than my wife who have been very supportive and tirelessly comforting me, as well as my 4 kids, my biological family is what I have in addition now. And finding them has become more than just a purpose.
I love my current extended family. I love my grandmother and all others. It is not discounting love for them with this roots seeking effort. I just need to make this journey to the beginning and have a million questions answered.
Technically, I have moved from being the only child to an unknown child. No one in the world would want to be in that transformation process.
My father, (and I love you dad) passed away in 1987 out of heart attack. We didn’t get to have a final conversation. My mother (and I love you mom) passed away in 1994 out of heart attack too. And again, there were no final exchanges of words between us.
And the next 21 years that follow, everyone with information of who I really am did not share with me that information. It was probably the best kept family secret. Everyone knows about it and the one person who should have known about it live a life in the dark. I presuppose that in a situation like this, it is either I was told as early as possible or that I die without knowing.
A month shy of turning 48 was a tough time to know the truth. 21 years is an ample time to make a disclosure. Knowing it when I was a single 27 year old man then is surely an easier time than now. Even during the solemnization of my marriage such critical need-to-know basis was not shared.
I would do no such thing to someone that I love or care for. My second daughter is adopted. I love her like my own. And though I have taken the liberty to change her birthcert for convenience purposes, I did not hide the truth about who her real parents are. I want her to grow up loving me as her father, like her own real father. I do not want the love to be based on a lie.
My parents have their reasons and that I respect. But for the others who knew and kept it that way and claiming to do so out of love, that I cannot understand. I bear no grudges, just disappointment.
I need to regain my identity. I need to stop crying and wondering for the rest of my life. I cannot care for the feeling of others in my search for who I am.
Still there will be people who will discourage me and will not understand. Its ok. It is not you that I am seeking.
I am seeking for my biological family who may still be out there to just say “hello” to them and take things from there.
Please have feelings for me. You don’t need to feel what I feel. Just help me.