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Singapore

Sisters adopted by different families reunited after 50 years, search on for 5 more siblings

Adopted by another family shortly after she was born, Mdm Parameswari Govindasamy thought she was an only child. But with one phone call, she found out she had a sister - and five other siblings she’s now hoping to find.

Sisters adopted by different families reunited after 50 years, search on for 5 more siblings

Parameswari Govindasamy (left) with her birth sister Fathima Bibi. (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

SINGAPORE: It was an emotional scene: Two women embracing each other for the first time, tears flowing freely on both sides. 

The family members of both women looking on proudly, mobile phones out and ready to capture the moment on camera: The reunion of two sisters, separated at birth, adopted by different families and finally, after more than 50 years, meeting each other in person. 

Videos and photos of the meeting, taken and shared by family members, found their way onto social media a few days ago, paving the way for the pair’s next step: Looking for their five other siblings - and maybe even their birth parents. 

For 57-year-old Parameswari Govindasamy, the moment was something that she never imagined would happen. After all, she had always thought that she was an only child. 

But all it took to change that was one phone call. 

“YOUR SISTER WANTS TO MEET YOU”  

It all started with a phone call from a friend, Seeni, who sometimes performed with her on television. 

“He told me, ‘your sister wants to meet you’,” she said, recounting the incident. “I said, ‘Are you sure? I don’t have a sister.’” 

It turned out that Seeni was in fact her brother-in-law: He was married to her birth sister, 53-year-old Fathima Bibi. “I was really in shock,” said Mdm Parameswari. “I was thinking all this while, I don’t have anyone. But I have a sister … I’m very happy.” 

Mdm Parameswari and Mdm Fathima are two of seven children born to a Chinese family with the surname of Lim. Both were given up for adoption: Mdm Fathima to an Indian Muslim family, and Mdm Parameswari to a Hindu family. 

She explained that while she had been kept in the dark by her adoptive parents, Mdm Fathima and her husband had been told by her adoptive father almost three decades ago. 

And while Mdm Fathima’s adoptive father and Mdm Parameswari’s adoptive mother were close friends, the paths of the two siblings had never crossed. 

Mdm Parameswari (left) and Mdm Fathima (right) as children. (Photo courtesy of Seemren Krishna)

 “My brother-in-law (Seeni) told me that her father had told her everything … that I am her sister, and when the right time comes, she has to tell me the truth, which is why he called me,” she said. “He knew for more than 30 years, but kept it from me. 

“When I asked him why, he said he was afraid of how I would react, and worried about the repercussions." 

"But Fathima saw me performing on TV and said, I want to talk to my sister," she said. 

“When I first heard it, I was still in doubt because my adoptive mother never told me. I wondered why she never told me ... and she’s not around now,” she added. “After she passed away, I thought I didn’t have anyone, but now my own blood sister is coming back to me.” 

THEY ARE STILL THE BEST PARENTS I HAD  

She had no idea about her siblings, but she had known as a child that she was adopted - ever since she was 12 and had to collect her identity card. 

“The registrar asked me who my birth parents were,” she said. “It didn’t occur to me that I was adopted, but slowly, it came to me … why am I so fair-skinned?” 

She went home and questioned her mother, who brushed it off as a mistake. But in her heart, she knew the truth. 

“I never had the courage to think of my mother as my foster mother, so I just let it go by,” she recounted, visibly emotional with tears welling up in her eyes. “But when I was 16, I asked my mother again and I told her she had to tell me the truth.” 

“I said, ‘I am always your daughter, but I need to know the truth. Who are my parents?’ And she started crying and told me that my parents were very nice people, but could not afford to take care of me,” she said. 

“So she said, once you deliver this child, I will adopt her.” 

Despite her shock, she decided not to probe further as she did not want to hurt her mother. 

“She was crying and did not want to reveal any more, because she was worried I would leave the house,” she said. “So all this while I didn’t bother to look for my birth parents, and I thought I would leave it and carry on.

But then her brother-in-law called her. 

Mdm Parameswari said she was sure her adoptive mother had known that Mdm Fathima was her sister. But when asked if she bore any resentment towards her for keeping her in the dark, she smiled and shook her head. 

“They are still the best parents I’ve had,” she said. “Even though I cried, I was thankful to God for giving me to this family who loved me so much.” 

MAKING THE FAMILY EVEN BIGGER … AND THE SEARCH FOR FIVE OTHERS

Only a few days have passed since the two siblings embraced one another, but even in that short time, it is clear that each sibling’s respective family members have also embraced each other as part of their own family. 

It is a lively, boisterous atmosphere in Mdm Fathima’s house, with children playing with toys in the living room, family members sitting around chatting to each other, and in the middle of it all, the two siblings sitting together on the sofa, arms around each other. 

“Now that we’ve got to know each other, I want to spend more time with her,” said Mdm Fathima, who spoke in Tamil with her daughter translating. “Time is very precious … we should treasure the time we have together.” 

The two families have become one big happy family, with Mdm Parameswari’s daughter Seemren sharing photos of herself with her newfound cousins on social media, pointing out the physical resemblance. 

“When I posted a photo of us, people commented that we look like triplets,” said the 35-year-old, who also voiced her excitement at celebrating Hari Raya with her new, larger family.

The families of both women have embraced each other and become one big family. (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

But the family warmth and the emotions stirred up by the reunion have also triggered another desire in Mdm Parameswari: To find the rest of her siblings. 

“At the start I was wondering why I should bother finding them,” she said. “I was given away and they don’t want me, so why do I need to go and find my parents, or my siblings?” 

“But then I met her, and it’s so nice to have a sister,” she added.   

“And then she told me that in total, there are seven of us - four girls and three boys. So I started thinking about what my brothers would look like, whether they have families … and maybe my birth parents are still around.” 

This prompted her to go public with her story on social media, in the hope that someone would be able to connect the dots. Seemren, too, has shared the story on her social media accounts. 

“My mother would always tell me that my father has seven siblings but I don’t have anyone,” she said. “So I really hope that all her siblings will be reunited.” 

She admits that it could be a challenge: All they have to go on are the documents Mdm Fathima has that prove she has been adopted, and indicate that her birth parent had the name PH Lim. And as Mdm Parameswari pointed out wryly, there are many people in Singapore with the surname of Lim. 

But she continues to wait, hoping beyond hope that her family could become even bigger. Because good news could just be another phone call away.

Source: CNA/lc

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