It is an adventurous life that lies before us and an incredible story Kamila Zahno is telling us in her unique and insightful biography Chasing Ghosts.
A touching and fascinating true story about a woman struggling with her origin, with who she is and where she came from. Kamila Zahno craves the answers necessary for her to feel whole, to accept who she is for the first time in her life, now that she is facing her mortality.
An upper-class Indian woman brought up in England, falls in love with an Englishman. When they settle in Birmingham they become a family of mixed racial backgrounds because of the four children they adopt. Camilla is fascinated by her mum’s birth country and feels a need to meet her relatives in India. But her mother is opposed to the plan and it is only after her mother’s death that Camilla travels to Calcutta in India where she enjoys connecting to her mother’s huge family. This is an incentive for Camilla to find out more about her mother’s background. After studying at Edinburgh’s Medical School her mother went to work in India as a paediatrician. When Camilla’s father was stationed there during WWII they fell in love and eventually, she followed him home and tried to fit in in England as best she could. When they could not have children, they decided to adopt four children of mixed race as a child of their own also would have been.
Camilla is the youngest of the four children and has trouble remembering feeling close to her parents, even if they provided them with a stable environment and encouraged their children to study. When Camilla moves to London in the eighties, it is then and there realisation hits Camilla: she wants to find out more about her biological parents. It turns out that her birth parents are a Swiss woman, Margareta Zahno, and an Indian father called Lakhan Raja Rao who named her Monica Zahno. To honour both her Swiss and Indian side Camilla feels the need to from now on call herself Kamila Zahno. The name change makes her feel more recognizant of who she is “from the frightened feminist and invisible black lesbian of 1982 I emerged into the ’90s with a fighting spirit and new confidence.” It takes a malignant ovarian cyst to confront Camilla with her mortality and to finally act upon her wish to learn more about her birth and adopted parents.
It is a fascinating read about an interesting and courageous woman who took her life in her own hands. By finding out about her adoptive parents as well as her birth parents, she’s creating a new self. Is this what everyone needs in life? To know where you’re from, how you came into this world? Is it a feeling of missing out, of not belonging, that makes you yearn for the explanation of why your parents gave you up? For Kamila it was. She needed to know, to understand who she is, in order to feel whole for the first time in her life, especially now she is confronted with her mortality.
About the Author
Kamila Zahno was born under a gooseberry bush on Hampstead Heath on 1st April, 1952. What started as a journey into the unknown ended by untangling the branches of that bush and reclaiming her identity as a British/Swiss/Indian adopted woman. After a career as a consultant devising and evaluating socio-economic policy for local and central government, the time had come to focus on her own story. Chasing Ghosts is an account of her quest to find her family, enabling her to find the truth behind her birth.
|Publisher||Rona Books (1 Nov. 2016)|