Chasing the Why

Image & Style Magazine

The first rule of journalism for any story is to answer the five Ws—who, what, where, when and why.

Today, we’ll cover the first four rather quickly. Who? Taj Rowland (although at the time, he was called Chellamuthu). What, where and when? He was a little boy, living in southern India in 1978, when he was kidnapped, thrown into a van, driven to a city three and a half hours away and sold to a Christian orphanage. He was adopted by a loving family in the United States who couldn’t understand when their new son tried to tell them that he already had parents back home. By the time the child had learned enough English to communicate, it was too late. His horrified “new” parents made repeated attempts to contact the orphanage, but it was pre-internet days when communication with countries on the other side of the world was slow, difficult and expensive. When the orphanage wouldn’t respond, his new mother and father tried anyone who would listen. Every answer that came back sounded the same: “There are nearly a billion people in India. What do you expect us to do?”

So, the child’s name was changed to Taj. He was enrolled in school, was loved as a member of his American family—and his story may have ended there, had it not been for that last pesky “w”. It was the question of why, that the boy could never get out of his head.

Taj didn’t wonder why the kidnappers had taken him. He understood they did it for the money. Nor was he asking why didn’t the orphanage owner seem to care? He guessed that the man who ran the orphanage truly believed he was giving Taj a better life. No, the why that stuck with Taj for years, as he grew to be a man, was bigger, broader, more persistent: Why, he wondered, did it feel like he still had a family in India, loved ones who were still searching? Why did he feel so compelled to return to India to find them?

Taj’s questions, like many of life’s doubts, smoldered over the years—until one day, circumstance blew in and they caught fire.

As a young man, in a predominately white community, where he’d seldom seen another dark face, Taj met a girl, Priya, who’d been born in India. When he brought her home to meet his parents, and his mother pulled out a scrapbook, the handwriting on one of the letters looked familiar. It was one of the letters his mother had received when searching for answers about her son—and it was written, shockingly, by Priya’s own father, a man who had been friends with the Indian orphanage owner, the very one who had taken Taj as a child.

The coincidences didn’t stop. Taj and Priya married (against her father’s wishes), and a year later the couple returned to India for Priya’s brother’s wedding. While Priya was taking the trip to reconcile with her family, Taj had determined he’d use the time to try and find his long lost family. It was finally time to seek answers to the questions that had been prodding him for years. It was time to chase his why.

I won’t tell you what happened with Taj, as that would spoil the book’s ending. Rather, I’d like to highlight the story’s lesson:
We are all chasing answers to the questions that bother us, those that smolder in our lives. Who? What? Where? When? Those are the easy ones. Where greatness occurs, where peace comes—with Taj and everyone—is when we grapple with the difficult questions, those that begin with why.

How we ultimately react will make all the difference. So press forward in despite of life’s roadblocks and doubts and find your answers! They’re certainly out there and will feel like home when you find them.

To learn more about Taj and his astounding journey, pick up a copy of The Orphan Keeper, available at bookstores everywhere or visit