The search gets serious…
North Carolina – to attend college at Durham Tech. “Dr Starmer was a very loving man. He taught me nothing is impossible. He believed life’s struggles are mere challenges that can be overcome with hard work. While their daughter Rachel helped me with my English homework, Mrs Starmer offered to pay for guitar lessons.”
For pocket money he delivered newspapers and tended neighbours’ gardens at weekends.
After the course at Durham Tech, Kisan earned a degree in electronic engineering from Duke University. Today he continues to work there as an assistant engineer.
It was at Duke University that he met Pam Fox, a student there, whom he married in 1995. They adopted Sudheshma, a little girl from Nepal, in 1997. Their son Kevin was born in 1999. Yet, one thing continued to bother Kisan. “I wanted to find my father, mother and especially Maya, who loved me and took care of me during life’s dark moments,’’ he says. But he didn’t know where to start. “I contacted several people I knew in Nepal but nobody seemed to have an idea about where Maya was.’’ Attempts to contact his aunt were unsuccessful. “I then decided to go online to see if I could get any clues to my family’s whereabouts,’’ says Kisan. He found the first link in the chain when he came across the Facebook profile of a Nepalese school teacher called DeepakWagle, who came from the same village as him in Nepal. Kisan sent him a message saying he was desperately searching for his family in Assam and Nepal.
Deepak promptly agreed to help. “Although I’d never met Kisan, I wanted to help him because he appeared to be desperate to find his long-lost family,” says Deepak.
“I put up a post on Facebook detailing Kisan’s story and seeking information about his father, a former police officer in Assam.”
However, the going was not easy. Kisan could not remember if his father’s name was Indra Prasad Upadhaya or Indra Lal Upadhaya. Neither could he remember his mother’s name.
“However, he was sure that his father was a police officer,’’ says Deepak.
After several false starts, Deepak chanced upon the Facebook profile of a man named Pranabjyoti Goswami, the Superintendent of Police in Assam, and asked him to help find Kisan’s family. Pranabjyoti agreed.
Believing somebody in Kisan’s family could still be in Assam, the officer sought the media’s help and approached News Live, a local TV channel in Assam, with Kisan’s story.
The channel broadcast the story along with Kisan’s photographs of his teenage years, which Kisan had sourced from the care home and sent to Deepak.
The breakthrough came after Bal Ram Sharma, Kisan’s paternal uncle, called the studio. He had seen the programme and was keen to reunite the family. He had details of the family: Umoti, he said, had remarried and was now living in a remote village in Nepal, while Maya was married and living with her husband and three children in Tinsukia, Assam. Indra Lal, Kisan’s father, had died several years ago.
News Live arranged a meeting of the trio in the virtual world on August 28, 2011, a date Kisan is unlikely to forget.
“Over Skype from the US, my mother’s face was not clear and I could not talk to her properly due to poor network connection,” remembers Kisan. “But I was so happy to see her – even virtually.’’
Two weeks later, he flew with Pam to India to meet his long-lost family.
“Words cannot describe my emotions on meeting my mother and beloved sister after more than 40 years. We just hugged and cried. It was something I had been waiting for for decades. When I look back, I think of all the years that have gone by that were heart wrenching. I was like an orphan with nobody to call my own.
“While growing up at the charity and later in the US, there wasn’t a day when I didn’t think about my sister. She looked after me like a son, caring for me during the most difficult times.
“I’ve tried to put down all those thoughts in my book The Last Orange. The title says it all – my life changed after I had that orange in our house in Assam 40-odd years ago.
“Although the book is detailed with tragedy, I don’t want readers to feel sorry for me because there are millions of other Kisans and Mayas out there who still are suffering. I hope this book will become an inspiration to many.’’