My Own Personal Holocaust by Lal Shah
I was born at 10.40am on the 9th December 1961 in Ross Hospital, Paisley, Scotland. My white Scottish mother was married and already had one son to her husband when she arrived at the hospital to give birth to me. She was 19 years old. My appearance at birth as a coloured child was a shock to both her and her husband. The social worker’s notes from that time in the “Statement of Case” read: “Letter from Almoner, Rottenrow, Glasgow, stating this baby was coloured. Apparently the mother had allegedly been assaulted by a Pakistani who had been staying in the same lodging house. This had never been reported to Police and Mr T had only been informed when it was discovered that the baby was coloured. Due to the fact that the child is coloured the husband is prepared to allow his wife to return only on the condition that the baby does not accompany her.” Also there were notes that “maybe the baby won’t be so dark as his skin doesn’t seem so dark today”…And thus began my painful journey.
Named after my father, Lal S and given the surname of my mother, T, I was sent to Crosslet House, an orphanage, at 5 days of age. When I was 5 months of age I was adopted by J and M M – both white and Scottish. My adoptive mother had been a nurse at Crosslet House and over a period of time she had decided that she wished to adopt me. She would often tell me that she had had a choice of me and a little girl and she choose me because I was so beautiful. She told me that all the nurses loved me and that I was special…
At this time she had no children. When I was 18 months old she gave birth to her first biological son, P. We then moved down to England when I was 3 years old and I began my schooling there. My first school was Holy Trinity Infants and then I went to Milk Street Public School. During this time, and up till the time we migrated to Australia, I have no recollection of being different in anyway at all.
My adoptive mother has told me that she explained to me that I was adopted when I was young. She and my adoptive father had even taken me for a visit to Crosslet House to show me where I came from but I was too young to remember this.
When I was one a few weeks short of 9 years old we immigrated to Australia arriving on October 30th 1970. We stayed at a hostel for British immigrants at Bradfield next to Lane Cove. My first Australian school was Gordon Public School. On my very first day in an Australian School racism discovered me…
The other kids called me names – (they thought that I was an aboriginal) and after a few days this included bashings. I told my parents that the other kids didn’t like me and were calling me names and I remember my dad telling me that “sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you”. He repeated this mantra many times over the years. I ran away from school and my adoptive father caught me. I cried and cried and pleaded with him not to send me back because the other kids hated me and were fighting with me but my adoptive father forced me to go back.
My schooling over the next few years usually found me as the only dark skinned person or one of very few dark skinned kids. I cannot remember periods of time when I was not racially discriminated against in my Australian school experience. I was not generally accepted by the other children unless they were also part of an ethnic minority – usually the Greek guys who let me hang around with them. I was also in an ethnic minority – of one – the smallest minority of all.
Many many times I remember crying bitter tears at night when I was alone wishing that I could have blonde hair, fair skin and blue eyes and be like everyone else. I wet the bed until I was 12 years. The doctor told my mother it was anxiety from being adopted. I had to use one of the electric buzzer sheets and it was very humiliating.
Over the schooling years I had many fights and was spat on and called names like wog, black bastard, abo, black Jew, f*** wog c*** etc. I listened to the Beatles a lot at this time and particularly their sadder songs. I always wanted the “Reprieve to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to be played at my funeral. My favourite song of all time was a Beatles song by John Lennon called “Across the Universe” – the words go:
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind, Possessing and caressing me
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes, They call me on and on, across the universe, Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box, They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing through my open ears, Inciting and inviting me Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns It calls me on and on, across the universe
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
This song echoed the sadness that pervaded my entire being. I played it again and again especially when I was feeling sad (As an irony, given my racial background, I always liked the Beatles songs that made use of Indian sounds such as the Sitar). Another group I liked and whose songs I identified with was Queen. I especially liked Freddie Mercury, the lead singer. I understood that he had searched for “somebody to love” all his life and found no one. I used music to change my moods. Particular songs seemed to be themes to events in my life.
I always longed deep down to know where I had come from. However, when anyone asked I would say that it wasn’t important and that I wasn’t interested. I said this so often that I think I believed it myself for a long time.
Every meeting with new people I relived the shame and pain of telling them I was Scottish. I would always get a look of disbelief and feel obliged to explain my origins as I knew them. This has continued to this very day and will be with me the rest of my days.
One of the strange aspects of my experience which messes with my head is that my upbringing has given me a “white man’s mind”. I think like a white man even though I am not. I am very sensitive to racism of any kind for obvious reasons but I have had the mind bending experience of looking at people I know to have the same features as me and having racist thoughts about them. I often would joke to people that I’d always wished I could be a white supremist racist but was the wrong colour to be one.
My mother told me that my father was Persian and that my name meant the “Red Prince”. I never felt Persian (they never said Iranian) and I often wondered why I had been given up for adoption. I used to think that maybe my mother was Elizabeth Taylor as I had been given the surname Taylor at birth!!
To add to the pain of adoption my mother’s brother – my uncle had sexually assaulted me on 2 occasions. When I told my adoptive parents about this they brushed it under the carpet – it was like the racism – they didn’t have the ability to cope with it.
I was a lonely and rebellious kid in my teens and I ‘acted out’ with my mother in particular. At one stage I was so bad that she had a mental breakdown from the stress of the fights. On one occasion she broke a large wooden spoon across my face and told me “You are demon possessed and I wish that I had never adopted you”. I ran away just before my 15th birthday. When I returned after my birthday my family had eaten my cake, thrown my birthday card away and given my presents to my brothers (I had two brothers now – both my adoptive mother’s).
I asked my adoptive mother recently why she had the breakdown and she said that it was because my adoptive father had sided with me against her. I can remember my adoptive father was often trying to keep the peace and he displayed a great deal of love towards me all my life. I can remember him and my mother arguing about me frequently. I wonder what I would have been like without his constant love.
At 15 I tasted alcohol for the first time and I got very drunk the very first time I tried it. I drank brandy straight out of the bottle and with only one intention – to get “out of it”. I was to use alcohol and drugs for the next 24 years for that express purpose – to escape my own mind.
Around the age of 11 I had told my parents that one day I wanted to live in Israel and I was very interested in Israel (I still am). I remember very clearly when I first started identifying with Israel – it was during the Yom Kippur in 1973. My psychotherapist has told me that I identified with the Jewish people because of their suffering and wandering.
In school my behaviour with the teachers fell into one of two categories. I either acted like the “teachers pet” or as the most rebellious kid in the class depending on the teacher. I had a very strong sense of justice (I’ve had that all my life). If I felt that someone had perpetrated an injustice against me or anyone else I would get very angry.
When I finished high school (with a reasonably high mark in the HSC – a miracle considering how unhappy I was at School) I worked for 3 months. I then left Australia to go to Israel on a one way ticket, without a re-entry visa (I had a British Passport). Once I arrived in Israel I studied Hebrew full time and worked on a Kibbutz. I started drinking very heavily in Israel and some people called me the “Kibbutz drunk”.
I had my first physical relationship with a woman in Israel and I got very drunk both times. She was older than me (most women in my life were older than me) and from South Africa – I used to wonder that she wanted to go with me when people with my colour skin were called coloureds in her country. I acted very immaturely and she left me for another older guy on the Kibbutz.
This was a pattern for the rest of my life – I would begin a relationship and then begin acting crazy – deliberately saying or doing terrible things to provoke my partner. I could never understand why I did and said these things. I was obsessive about being touched. I wanted my partners to always cuddle me, stroke my hair, and scratch my back etc without ceasing.
After approximately 1 year in Israel I fell sick with Hepatitis A and was put into a hospital in isolation 3 days before my 19th birthday. On my birthday I was very unhappy – no one was allowed into my room and then at 11am in the morning they announced that John Lennon had been shot dead. I was already in a depression from the illness and this plunged me into an even deeper depression. It seemed to me that life was very unfair and that I was destined to suffer more than most. This thought has been a constant in my life.
I often considered that my future was to die on the streets an alcoholic – alone and destitute. This was such a powerful drive that I used to joke to my friends, when I saw the Salvation Army in the pubs, that I was investing in my future when I gave them some money ie that I would be destitute one day and they would be looking after me on the streets. I would always get a laugh but inside my head I would be telling myself that I meant it. I believed it was my deserved destiny.
I returned to Australia after 5 weeks in hospital and still too unwell to work. After a few weeks my mother threw me out of the house when she found 30 empty bottles of Sherry under my bed.
I then spent the next 2 years using drugs – whatever I could get my hands on. I used Cocaine, LSD, Hashish, Marijuana, Ephedrine Hydrochloride, Codeine Phosphate – anything that would help me escape reality. I literally spent 2 years stoned.
At the age of 22 a significant event occurred that caused me a great deal of pain. I had become very friendly with a girl at the Church and over a period of time we became very close. I started to have quite strong feelings for this girl and one day I was at home and I decided that I would tell her that I wanted our relationship to become a more serious one. I believed that she was the one that God had chosen for me. That very night, and without prompting from me, she arrived at my door step. I opened the door and she told me “R, I’m sorry but I don’t ever want to see you again”. I left the Church that I had been going to and began a downward spiral – drinking heavily. A girl that had been flirting with me and to whom I’d paid little attention suddenly became more important to me. I soon married Robyn, a girl 4 years older than me (I was 22 and she 26). She was very domineering and strong willed. Her interests included her 18 month daughter from a previous relationship (of whom I was very jealous) and Satanism (eg, Satanic Bible and the Occult etc).
Of the 15 Church friends I invited to the wedding only one turned up. All the rest told me that I was making a big mistake. Even my parents told me I was making a mistake. I think that down deep I knew it was a mistake but I kept telling myself that I would be “left on the shelf” if I didn’t marry her. I really believed at the time that it was my last chance to be with someone – as insane as that sounds now. When we married (I never asked her to marry me – I just followed her lead) she told me on the wedding night that she didn’t want to sleep with me so I emptied the bar fridge in the hotel room and slept on the carpet.
The honeymoon was a nightmare and I had to beg her to sleep with me. I remember that we “made love” 5 times in the first 3 weeks and I felt totally rejected. She pined for her daughter and I was so sick of it that I drove her back from Cairns to Sydney in 3 days. Our marriage lasted 4 1/2 months and I was drinking heavily towards the end of it.
One night we had a big fight over sex and she tried to stab me with a carving knife. I had been trying to force her to have sex with me. She stabbed the knife into my Bible when she couldn’t catch me. When she again tried to stab me I slapped her once and then I was arrested and spent a night in the cells for “drunk and disorderly conduct”.
After 6 weeks separation we got back together again for 2 weeks and then we broke up for the final time. I left to return to my parents and a few days later returned to her place to get all my work clothes (I was working for the railways and needed my uniforms). She called the Police and the Police told her to give me my clothes and then told me to leave. At this time I was telling myself that “I have no reason to live” and I was telling myself this all the time. I hated myself and wished that I’d never been born. I’ve wished that I would have been aborted. (I have returned to these thoughts many times in my life).
Back at my parents place I took a packet of tranquillisers (I was on tablets for depression because of the break-up) and drank a lot of alcohol. I went into the bush at the back of my parents place and used my scuba knife to cut my wrists. I woke up in Hospital and they pumped my stomach out and put more than 30 stitches in my wrists. I spent some time in a Psychiatric ward and when I left the ward, my Dad whom I always loved a lot and who treated me as his favourite, nursed me back to health. It took a few months.
I then returned to the Church and after a year or so I met a really nice woman called M (she was 2 years older than me) and we became engaged. Whilst we were engaged I fought and argued with her many times.
Racism was always just a little distance away and I remember one day I was working on the railways and working at a North Shore station. I was only working at the station one day as the Station Master and there was a girl working with me who was selling tickets. I asked her if she wanted a break and I took over the selling of tickets. An elderly well dressed woman came up to the ticket window and asked for a return ticket. I started looking for it as I wasn’t familiar with the layout. She looked past me to the girl sitting behind me and said, referring to me, “I think that it’s a disgrace that they let these Indonesians into the country when they can’t even speak the language. The worst thing is that my husband fought against people like him”. I told her that she was a racist bitch.
Another particularly vicious example that caused me a lot of pain occurred when I was driving in my car with M and R. I accidentally cut someone off on the road. At the next lights the woman driver got out of her car and walked up to my window and said “You f***** wog c***”. I remember shaking.
One of my bosses on the railways called me the “black pearl” in front of all the other staff – I never complained but inside I was hurting.
When I was studying on the railways in the Station Master’s school there was a Lebanese guy who was being racially taunted by two Australians from the country. I stepped in and the situation became so violent that the lecturer had to let me and the Lebanese guy go early everyday for the rest of the course so that the two Australian guys couldn’t catch us and beat us up. I was about 25 when this happened.
When my daughter R was born I felt isolated and useless. I began to have affairs. I would start an affair and then whilst I was seeing one woman I would see another. We separated for 18 months and I returned to Israel to have a series of affairs. In Israel I met a German girl and began an affair with her. She told me that she wanted to have a physical relationship but not an emotional one.
I fell totally in love with her and she began to reject me. I decided to destroy the relationship first by having another affair and then by running away so I went to Egypt by myself. I was very suicidal at this time and I didn’t care what happened to me. I got into trouble in Egypt with the Police on two occasions and was threatened with jail. I just didn’t seem to care what happened to me. I returned to Israel and I was drinking Vodka around the clock out of the bottle. So, after 7 months in Israel, I returned to England where I checked myself into a hospital in Maidstone to detox from alcohol.
I then returned to Australia and M forgave me and we started again. For more than 6 years we were together but there were always fights and she told me that I was very controlling and threatening. Birthdays were always difficult times for me and I would always behave badly. My behaviour has often been very odd. I would describe my behaviour as bizarre at times. I would often wonder why I did and said things.
After 5 or so years I found that I was no longer interested in M although I believed that we were good friends. I started flirting with a girl at work, J, and soon I was emotionally attached to her. I went through quite a dilemma and M and R went to stay with a friend in Canberra for a week. I didn’t want the marriage to fail and I wanted to be good but I felt destined to follow the hard road.
During this week I started drinking again and I was feeling quite suicidal. Suicidal thoughts had been with me for a long time and I often planned how I would kill myself. I think that the thing that has stopped me making another serious attempt has been the thought that it would be worse on the other side of the grave and also fear of the act itself.
We separated and I moved out to live by myself. I placed a lot of pressure on J and she left her husband of 2 years and we moved in together. Immediately we began to fight over our sex life. I wanted sex everyday and, of course, she didn’t. I treated a no from her as a personal refusal – a rejection. This has been a life long experience. Sex for me has been an affirmation of love and a refusal a rejection. I have equated love and sex and have sought them again and again and again. I estimate that I have had about 35 partners of various durations.
The women I have been involved in fall into 2 categories: the first and larger group I used purely for gratification and then ‘dumped’. The second group were women I “fell in love with”. I behaved in a particular way with the second group. I would be overly zealous in pursuing them and in displays of affection. I would write love poems, give them flowers etc etc and eventually they would reject me because I had smothered them.
After 3 months I began drinking and within a year I left. I have now lived alone for 2 years although my relationship with J went on for a long time after I left.
I have had a very difficult relationship with my daughter since I left. In the last year I have not seen her very often and the last few times I have said dreadful hurtful things to her – sending her home absolutely distraught. I had no idea why I was so cruel to her. Some times I would meditate on something that she had done and then when I saw her the next time it would be inevitable that I would say someone. This is a pattern I have repeated with many others in my life.
One thing that made me wonder a lot was that I didn’t seem to have any feelings for R. I didn’t seem to miss her or think of her. In my life when a relationship finished I would throw out all of the mementoes of that person eg photos clothes etc. I did this with R’s photos. Thankfully R has started to communicate with me again and one day I hope to be able to explain why I have behaved the way I have to her.
My consumption of alcohol continued to increase and I was soon drinking every day and binging all weekend. My moods and personality began to get worse and I started fighting with my boss at work who is the Executive Director of my organisation and a very powerful woman. Powerful women have always frightened me and I have had some very difficult experiences with strong women. I once had several weeks off of work on stress leave after fighting with a female boss.
One day I had a particularly difficult situation with my boss and she was very angry at me. Instead of fighting with her which was my normal response when anyone challenged me, I put my hands in the air and said, “I can’t take this anymore – please just sack me” and I walked out. I then went on a 5 day binge.
I drank very heavily and gambled more than $3000 on the machines. I drank Bourbon straight from the bottle and flagons of Sherry until I had no money left. I picked up the kitchen knife and dragged it across my wrists wishing I had the courage to kill myself. I was on a train and saw someone I knew and told them I was going to throw myself under the train. I planned to gas myself in my car, to throw myself off a building – all I thought of was destroying myself. My life seemed like a total disaster. I felt like I had no friends, no reason to live. I told people I knew that they could have my possessions. I said to myself that as everyone else had rejected me that I should reject myself too.
I constantly played the Queen song, The Show Must Go On. Some of the words are below.
The Show Must Go On
What are we living for?
I guess we know the score
On and on does anybody know what we are looking for?
Does anybody want to take it anymore?
The show must go on
Inside my heart is breaking
My makeup may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
Whatever happens – I leave it all to chance
Another heartache – another failed romance
On and on does anybody know what we are living for?
I guess I’m learning
I must be warmer now
I’ll soon be turning round the corner now
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside in the dark I’m aching to be free
The show must go on
I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
I have to find the will to carry on
On the 5th day I woke up with empty bottles all around me on the floor as well as the kitchen knife. For some reason I cried out that I needed help to God and then I went to the phone and called a friend. The friend took me to hospital and they sent me to a private hospital to be treated for alcoholism.
In the hospital we were required to “id” which means tell our story, e.g., “Hello I’m R and I’m an alcoholic”, and then explain how we began to drink etc. The first few times I told my story I would mention the circumstances and people in my life that I believed had “caused me to drink”. After reading a small book called alcoholism and the family by Doctor George Wilson I realised that I had been deceiving myself all these years. I was powerless over alcohol and my life was truly unmanageable. Once I realised this my heart began to slowly change.
At the hospital I met with my psychiatrist and I asked him what he was going to write on my medical certificate. He said “Alcohol Dependence”. I said “You can’t do that – I’ll get sacked”. I started panicking. He said “I can’t tell lies for you but I can call you GP and he can put down nervous anxiety for you if you want”. I was very happy with this and I left his office. I then had what may turn about to be the most profound 2 hours of my life.
I thought over the conversation and I was very nervous wondering if I would lose my job and be destitute. Then I thought that I needed to face myself for the first time in my life. I considered that having alcohol dependency on the certificate was like looking into a mirror for the first time in my life. I would be looking at the truth for the first time. I decided that I wanted the Doctor to write alcohol dependency on the certificate and I asked God to look after me. I felt an intense sense of well being and a feeling of love. It was like a feeling of ecstasy. I knew that at that time I would be telling the truth and I didn’t care if I lost my job or not. I believed that God would care for me.
I then told my Doctor and told him I was going to tell my boss. He was surprised.
My “id’s” after this were different and I no longer spoke at length about reasons I drank. Rather I spoke of my experiences as an alcoholic. I have wondered since then which came first – the problems and circumstances or the alcohol problem. Obviously I was adopted before I drank but what caused the problems? I decided that for me it was best to accept that I was an alcoholic by heritage – that is that I was born an alcoholic. Of course being adopted has had a devastating impact on my life but to believe I was born an alcoholic means that I’ll never be able to convince myself that I’m cured of my drinking problems and can now start drinking like normal people.
I asked my Personnel Manager to come to the hospital and see me. I knew that she was expecting me to talk about what had happened and she thought that I was in the hospital for stress because of my boss. Some people at work had wanted me to make a formal complaint against my boss for screaming at me. When she arrived I said to her “Thank you for coming to see me – I want you to know the reason that I am here is that I am an alcoholic”. I was nervous but elated to tell her. She responded “Alcoholism is a treatable disease and we will do all we can to help you”. I then asked her to ask my boss to visit me and I made my peace with my boss – telling her that I was an alcoholic. Since that time my work has been extremely supportive in helping me.
I left the hospital after 12 days and participated in its 10 day out patient program. The very day after I finished the program someone knocked on my door and was looking for someone I didn’t know. I tried to help and the guy, who had a carton of beer on his shoulder, asked me if I wanted a beer. I said “You know, I don’t think I will – but thanks for asking”.
The last few weeks I have started to see a psychotherapist and my first words to him were: “I have 3 issues in my life I need to learn to deal with and accept. One is that I was transracially adopted. Two is that I suffered a great deal of racism and three is that I was sexually assaulted by my uncle. I am an alcoholic but I go to AA meetings to deal with my drinking. These 3 issues are triggers for my drinking”.
I now attend 8 or so AA meetings a week and have found a wonderful Church with real people. I still have problems with low self esteem and self doubts. I still wonder if anyone really likes me. But I am letting more and more light into my darkened soul. I have started to explore my feelings about being adopted and even to express some very painful emotions. Today I cried when I was explaining some of the issues to my ex wife. This is probably the first time I’ve cried when sober in many many years. I have started reading books about adoption and whilst reading the “Primal Wound” I found myself in it’s pages again and again. One statement I particularly identified with was that the adopted child has an identity like “Swiss cheese” – ie full of holes. My personality was a front that I had created to protect myself from further hurt. I have been hiding behind this false representation of my persona as I knew no better. I didn’t even realise this until I read the book.
The one thing that made any chance of overcoming my adoption issues nearly impossible was my personality. I had developed a very strong sense of humour and was always the class clown. I laughed a lot on the outside and whilst alone cried bitterly on the inside. People couldn’t tell that I was in pain. I often felt like the boy who cried wolf. When I cried out for help no one believed me. I also suppressed the thoughts in my head and wouldn’t think about them except to feel bad about myself.
I have never truly loved anyone in my life – I understand this now. I think that in my present state that I’m incapable of love and trust. What I’ve thought is love is me reaching out for someone to replace my missing mother – to touch me constantly, to suckle me at her breast, to be there always. It has been a very childish and immature concept of love. My affairs with women, as though they were a game, have always been to the accompaniment of music like the following Queen song:
I don’t want my freedom – There’s no reason for living with a broken heart
This is a tricky situation
I’ve only got myself to blame…
You win you lose
It’s a chance you have to take with love
Oh yeah I fell in love
And now you say it’s over
And I’m falling apart….
I try and mend the broken pieces
I try to fight back the tears
They say it’s just a state of mind..
When your love has cut you down to size
Yes it’s a hard life
There has always been an underlying current that the relationship will fail once they get to know me. And who is me anyway? I don’t know me so how can I offer me to others? I have tested everyone who has tried to care for me and I have eventually found them all wanting. I have sabotaged every relationship – male and female but especially female relationships. I have thought that it was my destiny to be alone and I have worked subconsciously and overtly to that end. I hope that this recently acquired knowledge of the self destructive nature of mine will help free me from this vicious cycle.
I hope that one day I can love normally.
Even my relationship with God has been warped and unhealthy. I have always had a strong faith but I now understand that I never really believed that God could love someone like me. To me God was angry with me for being adopted – born in adultery and God hated me when I did bad things and only liked me when I was good. The concepts of grace and forgiveness were beyond my comprehension. Thinking of God this way has added to my unstable ways. As I am constantly falling in and out of favour with God I can never be at peace with myself. God is waiting to punish me. Obviously awareness of this is helping me to reform my attitude to God and learn to accept myself. I now believe that I have projected my own poor self image of myself onto God.
Perhaps the hardest part of this adopted life has been the loneliness that it induces and the lack of people who understand or give credence to my experience. I did try several times in my life to explain my pain and never found an understanding person. I hope to remedy this with a network of transracial adoptees that I have joined. If anyone asked me what I think of transracial adoption I would say that it can prove to be an unspeakably horrible and hellish experience. Not belonging anywhere – not fitting in my family – looking different – being constantly reminded – not knowing my racial background – not being able to defend myself against racism – terrible terrible loneliness – never ending sadness – rejecting oneself…. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Meeting my birth mother
I was 30 years old and had wondered about my mother and my father all my life. My mother always seemed more important to me than my father and I wanted to find her. However, I often told people who enquired that I wasn’t interested in finding her. I alternated between hating her and fantasising about her. I am sure that I transferred my hatred of my birth mother onto my adoptive mother and that all my relationships with women have been distorted as a result.
From time to time I wondered about my father and I have said many times in my life that I’d like to find out about the “dark side of me” and I used to call myself “the dark sheep of the family” – intended puns about my father’s racial background. At 30 I knew the name of my mother, C Taylor and that I was given the birth name Lal Shah Taylor at birth. I was in Scotland for a few days and about to return to Australia. I was staying with my father’s sister in Bearsden, Glasgow whom I liked a great deal and one Thursday I told her that I wanted to find my mother.
So I caught the train to Edinburgh and went to the General Registry House. I paid the fee and began my search. I felt a great deal of excitement as I searched and my head was spinning with many thoughts.
I found my mother’s birth certificate and traced a beginning of a family tree. Then I found a cousin’s Marriage Certificate who had been married in Dundee a few years ago and I took this information back to my aunt’s place on the Friday night about 6pm. I found the cousin’s phone number in the telephone book and in a state of high excitement (I was shaking) I called the number.
My cousin’s wife answered the phone and I explained who I was and that I wanted contact details to contact my mother. She said that she had the phone number of my brother J and that she would have him phone me. A few minutes later J, who is my older 1/2 brother by 1 year called. He was very emotional and he obviously knew about me. He was guarded when I asked him about C. I remember feeling very strange when I asked him about “our mother”. He told me that no one in the family had spoken to C for 4 years because she was an alcoholic. He briefly described the difficult and abusive life he and my other half siblings had had. He told me about my half sister, my dead half brother R and my other half brother P. (I remember thinking that it was strange that I now had 2 brothers called P).
I asked J if there was any information that he could give me that would help me find my mother and he told me that she liked drinking at a particular pub in Glasgow and that she was hanging around with a friend called John M. At around 6.30pm I caught a taxi from Bearsden into Glasgow and went straight to the pub. I asked many people in the pub and no one had ever heard of her or John. I then spent the evening going from pub to pub and asked many people. I got a lot of suspicious reactions from people as I asked.
The evening wore on and I started to get very despondent. I had to catch a train back to England the next day to make my flight back to Australia. I decided to give up when it was about 1am in the morning and I jumped in a taxi that looked like a black London cab. The Taxi driver said to me on the journey in a conversational way “You’re not from around here – what are you doing?”. At that time I thought to be smart and wanted to say that yes I was from around there but instead I said that I was from Australia and that I was trying to find my mother. He asked me what my mother’s name was and I told him. He said” I’m sorry I don’t know her”.
Almost as an after thought I asked him “Do you know John M”? He said “I know John”. I said to him “Can you please take me to John’s place -I’ve got to go back to Australia tomorrow and I won’t have another chance”. He took me to John’s place which was a tenement flat and I knocked on the door several times – it was about 1.30am. John eventually came to the door and it was obvious to me that he had had a big night drinking. I told him my name and started to explain my story. He stopped me and said “I know all about you – your mother has talked about nothing else for 20 years”. We talked for a few minutes and I asked him to take me to my mother’s place. He said “If I don’t take you and she finds out she’ll kill me”. So we walked to another tenement flat. It was about 2am. Ironically the flat was about 50 metres from a school where I had stood several times with my aunt when she was picking up her grand kids.
John knocked on the door and the Irish landlord opened it. John explained what was happening and we were let in. The Irish guy knocked on my mother’s bedroom door where she was staying with her new husband B. She came out in a night gown and I held my hand out and said “Hello I’m R M but you probably know me better as Lal Shah”. She started trembling and shaking and she fell down at my feet. She held my feet and started crying bitterly. She said “Please forgive me” over and over again. Her tears were falling on my shoes. I remember feeling like it was a dream – that I was having an out of body experience and that I was looking on. I do not remember having any feelings at all – neither good nor bad as this was played out in front of me.
B calmed her down and she and I sat down on the lounge. She was holding on to me very tightly and she started to talk saying that I had been stolen from her and that the matron at the hospital had forced her to give me up. She told me that she had never stopped thinking about me – she said that she once saw a boy that she thought was me and she had followed him. She thought that I lived in a nearby Glasgow suburb and was surprised that I was living in Australia. She had a very strong feeling that I had lived in Scotland.
I started asking her questions like: how did she meet my father, what was he like etc. She insisted that it was a one night stand. I deliberately asked her about the adoption papers (which I had) saying that she had been assaulted and she said that it was not an assault but a one night stand. She told me that she had hoped the baby was her husband’s and she was shocked when I was born. She told me that she was beaten up by two of her brothers a few days after she went home from the hospital. Even 30 years after my birth only one uncle from 5 uncles and an aunt would meet with me.
B got a bottle of whiskey and we all started drinking whiskey. It seemed to answer the question as to why I was an alcoholic (although at that time I would not have considered that I could possibly be an alcoholic).
Early in the morning I went back to my aunt’s place and packed my bags. My aunt drove me back to C. I spent some more time with her and took some photos. I remember being very excited to be with her. C was quite bitter when she talked of the hospital staff and she was also very angry talking about my adoptive parents. She talked as though they had stolen me away from her.
It was apparent that she had had a very hard life and it would seem that my birth had been a major event in her life if not the major event. She had mourned for me ever since I had been taken away. It seemed to me that I could not blame her for giving me away anymore.
Two years later I returned to see my mother with my then wife and my daughter. C was very friendly with M and especially R and had bought R an expensive present. Unfortunately on the third day of visiting her she had been drinking and she became very abusive to M and was saying quite nasty things about my adoptive mother and the Hospital staff. M and R then left. I remained and she calmed down. I stayed in touch for a few years but then stopped writing. The last contact I had with my birth family was a communication from my brother J to tell me that B and C had had broken up.
As I look back at meeting my birth mother I have no regrets that I undertook to search for her. Obviously I felt sympathy for her predicament but the feelings for her personally were not strong. I seem in later years to have trouble feeling strongly for anyone. I do want to re-establish contact with her if I can. I think it is important that we have contact. I think that in my enlightened state now I would get more of the relationship.
Recently I began a process to track my birth father down. I had wanted to find him a long time ago but Barnardos had informed that the chance of finding him was very slim. However, I feel I need to try. At the very least if I could definitely confirm my racial background I could then investigate it and try to absorb some of the culture – a process I think is absolutely essential for my personal growth and future well being.