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Published Wednesday November 4th, 2020 at 7:57pm

Original Article by Cris Seetha

Navya Dorigatti was adopted from an orphanage in Kozhikode, India by an Italian couple at the age of two. She has been searching for her birthmother for more than a decade.
Navya Dorigatti was adopted from an orphanage in Kozhikode, India by an Italian couple at the age of two. She has been searching for her birthmother for more than a decade.

The phone call was unexpected. Navya Dorigatti took it at her home in northern Italy, 11 years ago. The caller said that her birth mother, whom Navya believed dead, might still be alive somewhere in Kerala, India. She decided to find her mother, and began a search with the handful of details her adoptive Italian parents passed on. But over a decade and a visit to Kerala later, she hasn’t had much luck.

“All I know is that her name is Sophia and she was 19 years old when she gave birth to me. She came to stay at an orphanage in Kozhikode two to three months before the delivery. There was a woman with her, by the name of Thankamma. I don’t know how they are related to each other. On March 31, 1984, she gave birth to me and then she was gone. I was raised in the orphanage for two years before being adopted and taken to Trento in Italy,” Navya says.

As a little girl of three or four, Navya noticed how she looked different from her Italian parents. Why was she dark and they white, why was she not similar to them, she asked them. When she was old enough, they told her what they knew. She has since been curious about her birth mother, the person she hopes to be more ‘similar to’.

“I am not at all mad at her. I am thankful to her for giving birth to me. We don’t know what her situation might have been back then. And I have had a good life. I am very thankful to the people at the orphanage for giving me so much love and care. One of the nuns kept in touch with me all through my life through letters we wrote to each other. I am also thankful to my parents who adopted me and gave me a good life in Italy. But my mother doesn’t like it when I thank them. She says she needed a daughter and I needed a mother and we were there for each other,” Navya says, laughing.

Soon after learning that her birth mother was alive, Navya visited Kerala, but only for a few days. “I wanted to spend time with the nun at the orphanage who was quite aged by then. She passed away last year; today is her first death anniversary,” she says on Wednesday, showing a picture of the late nun.

Out of consideration for everyone involved in the circumstances of her birth, Navya doesn’t want to go on an outright search for the birth mother. “I don’t want to disturb her in case she has another family and she is not in a place to accept me. But I just want to meet her once and know that she’s doing okay. When I put a Facebook post about my story, some people commented that it is a bad mother who gives up her baby. I don’t agree with that at all. Her situation may not have let her keep me. But that didn’t stop her from going ahead with the pregnancy and giving me life. I am thankful to her for that,” Navya says.

For the same reason, she is using social media like Facebook posts and media write-ups in hopes that these will somehow reach her birth mother, who should be about 55 years old now.

A policeman in Kozhikode, Rijesh Pramod, is helping her with the search, but not as part of an official investigation. “Someone suggested my name in a Facebook group that she posted the message in. I had once been involved in reuniting a Malaysian family that had been separated by adverse circumstances. So, Navya asked for my help and since then, I have also been making discrete enquiries. We had got a few leads earlier and nearly thought we traced the mother, but then it’d be a similar story from another time period,” says Rijesh.

In one of those instances, after a woman was traced down, Navya spoke to her on a video call and really thought it was her birth mother. The media had reported then that Navya finally found her birth mother, but later it turned out to be a false lead. 

"A lot of these adoptions had happened at the time to Italy. The details we have are also very few – the names of her mother and the mother’s guardian, Navya’s birth date, and the fact that she was in an orphanage in Kozhikode and was taken to Vythiri in Wayanad for the adoption formalities. Since it has been 36 years, there are hardly any documents to go by," Rijesh says. 

When Navya visited Kerala, she had a familiar feeling of home even though she had only spent two early years of her life there. “My life is good in Italy. I have a family, two daughters of my own. And next year I might start teaching commerce at a school. But at times, there is this small empty feeling inside me, of missing a home. Only someone who was once an orphan would understand that feeling,” Navya says.