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Durham man reunites with mother, sister in India after 40 years

Posted September 21, 2011
Updated September 22, 2011

— For four decades, Kisan Upadhaya searched for the mother and sister he lost halfway around the world.

Last month, in a tearful reunion, his mother got to say the words she had longed to say all that time: "I did not intentionally leave you."

Upadhaya, who now lives in Durham and works as an information technology specialist at Duke University, grew up in an orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal.

He worked hard and valued his education, attending Tribhuvan University and eventually Durham Technological Community College. He got married, got a good job and settled into life in the Triangle.

But he felt a persistent void, a void that only his family could fill. The fuzzy memories of his early childhood – the day his mother vanished when he was just 4 years old – continued to haunt him.

She told him to go into the kitchen and eat an orange. Then, she fled.

"By the time I finished eating the orange, I came back outside. I started yelling for my mom," Upadhaya said. "She was nowhere to be found."

Family reunites in India after four decades apart Family reunites in India after four decades apart

His mother, Umoti Devi, told Upadhaya that she had no choice but to abandon him and his sister to escape their abusive father. His sister, Maya Devi, was forced into marriage at the age of 8. Upadhaya begged on the streets of Kathmandu and worked in a restaurant to keep food in his stomach. The 4-year-old eventually caught pneumonia, was hospitalized and then taken to an orphanage.

He never stopped searching for his mother and sister. On Facebook, from his home in Durham, Upadhaya met some Indian police officers earlier this year who were able to help him track down his mother, who was living in a remote Indian village. They also helped him find his sister, who was living in Nepal.

The officers contacted a Indian television station to see about setting up a reunion live on the air. The station contacted Upadhaya on Aug. 12.

Then, suddenly, the culmination of Upadhaya's 40-year journey was at last before him. He, his mother and his sister embraced on a television set, ending a long period of separation and heartbreak.

"It is amazing to get a hug from my mom after so many years," Upadhaya said. "It still hasn't sunk in me, honestly. It really hasn't."


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  • upadhaya1 Sep 22, 2011

    It has been an amazing adventure. I would suggest you don't judge folks from the side lines when you don't understand the culture, the time or the situation.

    Take it for what its worth - - its been an amazing reunion.

  • oMzziG123 Sep 22, 2011

    Agreed. I have voiced my opinion and disgust and others have voiced their opinions and belief in what the mother did. It..... is..... time to move on and I will do such.

  • KermitDFrog Sep 22, 2011

    @pmw - It happens right here in the good ole USA also. Many of those kids that are "missing and last seen with their mother" are hiding from abusive men. Restraining orders don't mean squat when some guy is beating the daylights out of his estranged wife.

  • Minxi23 Sep 22, 2011

    pmw - well said! NO ONE can judge this woman unless you were there at the time. There are several sides to a story and we don't know all the facts.

    oMzziG123 - Calm down. I agree that what the mother did was terrible and in our society, we wouldn't do that nor hear about such a thing. But like pmw said,things are different in India so we can't judge because India's society is different than ours. And from what I've read in the story, it looks like the son forgave the mother and is moving on with his life and not holding a grudge - there's no point in getting angry, we should just be happy for them. Forgive and move on.

    I hope they cherish the rest of their lives together and catch up on lost time.

  • pmw Sep 22, 2011

    Maybe everyone here making comments forget that things are different in India where this occurred. The laws and social laws are different there and they look at women differently as well, so I don't know how any of you can judge what happened those years ago. I am pleased this story had a happy ending between all involved.

  • scarletindurham Sep 22, 2011

    Riiight. A mother leaves her young children starving and homeless. The daughter gets "married" at the age of 8 -- AKA legally baby raped. So inspiring.

  • oMzziG123 Sep 22, 2011

    Obviously you must not be a very good abuse counselor. No mother or father would abandon a child with an abusive father/husband. They would take them with them. Why would you abandon a child. Would you abandone yours. I certainly hope not.

  • skyyekatfromafar Sep 22, 2011

    oMzziG123--in the small chance that you may return here to view other viewers comments, I will add the following: You have not a clue as to what this man--let alone his mother, went through at that time. As a former abuse counselor I do have first hand knowledge of such horrors and as a result of abuse the mother did what she had to do in order to prevent her children being further exposed to--or physically hurt, by the cruelty they were ALL living with at that time.

    Even if she had made no decision and simply remained, no doubt he and the sister would have suffered as well--but the fact that he sought her out after all these years says that he had loving memories of a mother. And that, my dear is why I don't think God will ever die--and leave the likes of you in charge of the decisions made by others.

    I think anneonymousone and faylcox have "hit the nail on the head" with their input. Maybe you need to rethink your highly opinionated comments, oMzziG123.

  • oMzziG123 Sep 22, 2011

    Why on earth would a mother leave her kids with an abusive father/husband. That's insanity. This woman should have never been able to see her kids. I pray that the son and daughter never allow her to see her grand kids. My heart goes out to the son and daughter. What an awful, awful, awful woman. I'd have a few nasty words for her, then I would walk away and never speak to her again. This whole story is beyond belief. Beyond horrible. That's an eveil, evil, evil woman. Why did she not take the kids with her instead of abandoning them. Makes no sense. We have a four year old and an 8 year old. How in the world would they be able to take car of themselves. Awful......

  • anneonymousone Sep 22, 2011

    It is my hope that all people involved make peace with the past.

    Let us remember that family violence has a body count and that the damage it brings to the human psyche can not be measured.