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February 21, 2019

Book Review: Rejection, low self-esteem and an identity crisis: The story of an adoptee

Farhan's book
Farhan's book

From being ridiculed by fellow children in school who told him, “Uliokotwa (you were picked up),” to being emotionally abused by his uncle, who went so far as to frame him for forgery to see him behind bars, Farhan Yusuf grew up experiencing the bad side of adoption.

In his book ‘Dropped to the world, adopted by fate’, Farhan takes the reader through his struggle to find his place in the world as an adopted child, and finally letting go of the hurt he experienced at the hands of his uncle, Rustam.

Farhan was born in Pakistan, but his parents gave him up because they couldn’t afford to take care of him. He was adopted by older relatives who were unable to get children.

His adopted father had two wives.

Farhan didn’t understand what adoption meant until he was eight years old and a child at his school threw the ‘umeokotwa’ jibe. “The image that immediately formed was the tiny me covered in an old, rough blanket and left by the roadside, before a barking dog led my adoptive parents into finding and rescuing me. I was frightened and lost,” Farhan describes.

The search to find his identity thus began. He confronted one of his mothers, asking whether he was adopted, and all she said was, “You are my son.”

A couple of years later, Farhan’s uncle Rustam, who conjures up the image of a relative from hell, took him for a walk to confirm to him he was adopted in a most insensitive manner.

“You are not Afzal’s son. That is not your family. You are not blood. You are not one of us,” Rustam said.

Farhan says his uncle threatened to “return me to where I came from” if he told his adoptive parents what he had been told.

Adopted children sometimes question whether their adoptive parents love them the way they do or would their biological ones. This may have crossed Farhan’s mind when, during a family visit, a button fell off a sofa and Rustam gave him a dressing down.

“His eyes popped out in rage and he said: Don’t you know what a sofa is? Do you know how expensive sofas are?”

His parents did not intervene, and when he asked his father why during the drive back home, he first said the uncle was only trying to correct him. But when Farhan persisted and asked what wrong he had done, his father dismissed him.

Rustam was a constant thorn in Farhan’s flesh, from not wanting his school fees paid to not wanting him involved in the family business.

Years later, out of the blue, one of Farhan’s adoptive mothers offered to take him on a trip to Pakistan to meet his biological parents.

Farhan was skeptical about the meeting, being an adult now. “I thought, what is the need now? I needed them most when I was younger. My childhood was full of fantasies on how my first meeting with them would be and how they’d shower me with love and reassure me I wasn’t abandoned. But now the bubble had burst.”

When Farhan returned to Kenya, he tried to keep in touch with his biological family, but the gap was obvious.

Farhan went through two tragedies - first when one of his adoptive mothers passed on when he had gone to visit the UK. When he got the news, Rustam told him not to bother travelling for the internment because, after all, she wasn’t his ‘real’ mother.

The next tragedy was when his adoptive father died and the tussle that followed the division of property afterwards.

Farhan’s motivational speaker role comes out strongly throughout as he ends each chapter with a quote of encouragement. He also applauds adoptive parents for their courage and care.

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