by Anura Guruge
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People get confused as to why I call myself adopted and make references to my adoptive-father and adoptive-mother. It is because I too was “The Other Son“, the Ceylon version; “The Other Son” a very powerful Israeli movie about babies accidentally swapped (i.e., mixed up) in a hospital shortly after birth.
So that is what I am, a hospital mix up.
How do I know?
Because ever since I can remember, say around age five onwards, I would be told AT LEAST once a day, usually many times more, that I was a ‘mix up at the hospital‘ and that my REAL FATHER was a ‘GAMBLER’. Wow. Doesn’t that explain it all? I later worked out that ‘gambler’ in 1950, still very Victorian, Ceylon meant that my real father, my biological father, was a rake (in the British sense). A playboy. Yes, Yes, YES. It all adds up. The very boring, teetotal, academic, with zero interest in sports, who was afraid of dogs, could NOT have been my father. It all made sense. Yes, it would be my adoptive-father who told me, daily, that I was ‘mix up at the hospital’ and how much he regretted that he never got his real child. But, my adoptive mother would also tell me the same thing, as did other relatives, and sometimes even the servants. I was the MISTAKE. And I am proud of it.
Why they did NOT fix it when they discovered the mistake — which was pretty obvious since I was nothing like my adoptive parents — is a mystery. I never asked. I guess I thought it was outside my control. Plus, I guess, deep down I did NOT want to be taken away from my “Ambili Amma” — Moon Mother — my adoptive mother’s mother, the person who brought me up.
My adoptive parents did NOT have much to do with me when I was growing up in Ceylon, 1953 – 1967. It was very Victorian. But rather than a nanny, I had my Ambili Amma. She is the one who brought me up from the time I came home. She is the one who made sure I had food, clothing, care and some amount of love. My adoptive parents were very busy. My father was a hot shot with multiple VIP jobs — Assistant Secretary of Education, Vice-Chancellor of a Buddhist university, a famous author etc. etc. My mother taught Pali at a Baptist Girls School. But they had a beyond hectic social life. They had engagements every evening, every day. They were part of the creme de la creme of Colombo society. So every day around 4pm my adoptive mother would start getting ready to go out. My father would arrive from one of his many jobs around 6pm and then they would be gone. Did not matter. Ambili Amma was always there. The house, a BIG house, was never empty. My adoptive mother’s youngest sister lived with us, as did a female cousin whose father had died. Plus we had servants and on top of that, at any given time, we might have another distant relative, usually male, living with us.
I saw my adoptive parents on a strict schedule. They would take me to school. That was when I mainly saw my adoptive father. 75% of the time we would pick me up, at 1pm, from Ananda College. We would then pick up my adoptive mother and her sister and come home for lunch. Those two car trips was when I mainly had interactions with my adoptive father. The rest of the time he was gone or working. Between 2 and 4 my mother, a teacher, would TEACH me. It was formal. That was basically the time I spent with her. The rest of the time she was gone or getting ready — and ‘getting ready’ was an elaborate process with lots of make up, getting hair put up etc. Think Victorian Britain and the Lady of the house. That was our house.
Then, when I was about 18 my adoptive father came up with a new line. He would tell people, most people, referring to me: “the devil looks after his own”. Nice. He was making it very clear that he was NOT my father — not that anybody needed to be told that. He, a very religious man (though 40% was for show because it helped with his politics), was disowning me and assigning my parentage to ‘the devil’. Yes, remember that gambler? I was always confused as to which devil was my real father — whether it was the rather ineffective Buddhist devil or the more, potent and interesting Christian devil. I was just glad that it just wasn’t the real devil that made my life a daily hell, i.e., my adoptive father.
So that is the story. I am a hospital mix up.
I should have done this earlier BUT I am now going to try and find out who my biological family was. It would be neat to meet the ‘real’ me! I assume he must still be alive, if not my biological parents. If they are alive I would love to meet them. Thank them for making me what I am. My real father has to be a character. I owe so much to him. He gave me the DNA that in the end, despite all the hardships I endured at the hands of my adoptive father, allowed me to lead a life where 99% I had a grin on my face.
Yes, one of my four kids, as is somewhat plain to see, is adopted and I made sure that I would try and be a good father to her because I knew, at first hand, the misery of being brought up by a father who hated you because you were not his — a hospital mix up.
I, Anura Guruge, the very proud and grateful son of a gambler that, alas, I have yet to meet.
.by Anura Guruge
While, of course, it was opportunistic, my real motives was to make SOME of the contents of ‘The Next Pope 2011‘ available as an eBook and do so at a cheap price. I will never publish ‘The Next Pope 2011′ as an ebook. It is a large format book. So what I am trying to do is to provide some of its content, complete and self-contained, as Kindle ebooks. This, for those familiar with the book, is ‘Appendix C’ in its entirety, with a stripped down ‘Appendix A’. I wrote ‘Appendix C’ in 2009 and spent a whole year writing it — which by my standards is a long time. People have enjoyed that Appendix. So, here it is as a cheap eBook. Deanna, who helped format it, is giving me grief for not pricing it higher.
I can honestly say that this is the 1st book I have produced, from the get go, as an ebook. So, I was not really familiar with the process and that stressed me out. I like to know what I am doing when it comes to publishing. Yes, I have other ebooks, but they were all published first as paperbacks and I then gave Amazon a PDF and said ‘go for it’. PDFs aren’t the best way to produce ebooks, but my MS Word files for those books are way too huge to be uploaded.
Yes, I have published books in a day before — publishing very different from writing them. I did one for my father a few years ago. He sent me a Word file and I had it published in a few hours.
The idea for this book came to me, around 10:30 am, while I was shoveling snow! I started working on it at noon yesterday. Deanna helped me with the formatting. In the original text I had used word highlighting to emphasize headings. All of that highlighting had to be taken out and the underlying words, appearing in ‘white’, changed to black and bold. Deanna did all of that. I had to still do some other juggling around. Stripping down a table and appending it. Creating a cover. Writing a quick ‘Preface’.
I had a face-to-face interview with a Citizen reporter at 3pm. So I had to prepare for that. Interview lasted till about 4. I worked on the ebook for about 3-4 hours. By 7:15 pm I had the finished Word file and the cover. Logged onto Kindle and submitted these. I have published 3 other titles with Kindle. So, to them, I am a known entity. The Word file and the cover JPEG have to be converted by them. You have no control or say. But, no problems. Converted fine and converted quickly. So by 7:30 the book was in Kindle Review. They ask for 12 hours. But, at 1 am, the book was up on Amazon — around the World. I was chuffed. Amazon/Kindle know me. They have an amazing ‘ranking’ system. If you are already an established author, whose books sell ‘OK’ and you have got ‘decent’ reviews — they fast track your publications. Make sense. They want to sell new books as much as the author. So, I like that. If it is your first book, they check it out more thoroughly.
I dedicated this book to my maternal grandmother. I really can’t remember WHO I have dedicated all my books to! Yes, I know that some were to women from my past. But, I know Deanna has one and I am sure the kids have more than one dedication. I will have to go check. I am sure I haven’t done one for my grandmother. This morning Deanna was commenting on the wording since she know the background. I have mentioned it on these pages before.
I was born kind of deformed, which is why even today I look rather strange. My arms and legs were twisted and intertwined and my foreskin was fused so that I could not pee. I am eternally grateful to my maternal uncle, the doctor, who delivered me, for not circumcising me on the spot, as they would have done in any other country. We don’t circumcise. We are very civilized in Sri Lanka even if we just climbed down from the trees. Instead, he and my grandmother forced the skin apart using coconut oil. This was 1953 and Ceylon was a 3rd world country. Coconut oil then became my main medication for the next 3 months — which might explains why I am still shiny. My grandmother, from what I am told, spend 8 or more hours a day massaging my limbs, with coconut oil, to get them somewhat straight. She seems to have done a good job. I get about! I used to hear that watching me walk, run, get into all sorts of trouble and play cricket, was a source of great satisfaction to my grandmother. She followed me most places. Other kids have puppies. I had a grandmother. She watched me all the time. So, it is only fitting to dedicate this book to her. My name for her, ‘Ambili Amma’, were the first words out of my mouth. That too changed my life. ‘Amma’, is ‘mother’ and is what kids are expected to say. ‘Ambili’ is Pali, a dead, classical language that people do not speak, though both my parents (just like you can have Latin or Greek scholars) were Pali scholars — Pali (analogous to Greek and the bible) being the language used to document Buddha’s life. So as soon as I said: ‘Ambili’ my parents knew what it meant! They were shocked. It was never a word they had used. It was not a word I would have heard. Akin to a 8 month old in Alton using the Greek word for ‘moon’ and appending that with mother. Buddhist believe in reincarnation. So, if this 8 month old kid, who was born deformed, was talking Pali, then I must be able to remember a prior life — when people spoke Pali. Kids who were thought to remember prior lives were ‘special’. The rest is kind of history. Never uttered a word of Pali after that!