Finding Family after Forty Years

Duke IT Specialist Kisan Upadhaya rediscovers his family in Nepal and India

Kisan Upadhaya, back row, was reunited in 2012 with his family in India, including (from left) his mother, his step-mother, and his great aunt. Photo courtesy of Kisan Upadhaya.

Name: Kisan Upadhaya

Position: Departmental User Services Specialist, Social Science Research Institute

Years at Duke: 18 (but not continuous)

What I do at Duke: I provide information technology support for three groups. I spend three days a week at the LSRC building providing computer support to people in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. The other two days, I am on Campus Drive providing support for the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

To start a conversation with me, ask me about: My life. My older sister and I were abandoned by my mother in India when I was only 4. We went to Katmandu, Nepal, and I washed dishes in a teahouse, but I got sick and was fired and ended up on the streets, begging. I was hospitalized with pneumonia, and when I recovered, I had lost touch with all of my family. So I grew up in an orphanage. I've been hunting for my family for 40 years, without success. Then last year, because of information I had posted on Facebook and the work of some friends in India, I was contacted by News Live TV in India, and they aired my story. A few days later, I was on vacation at the beach and I got a phone call asking if I could get on Skype because the TV station thought they had found my sister. I spoke to her in Nepalese, and she told the whole story of our separation as I remembered it. A few days after that, the station tracked down my mother in a village in the Himalayas. They brought her to Katmandu, and I was able to Skype with her live on the TV program and hear her say she hadn't wanted to abandon me but had left to escape an abusive relationship. It was very emotional. But the best part was that a few weeks later I was able to get a visa to travel to India to meet my family in person. It was unforgettable.

My first job: My first real job, if you don't count washing dishes at age 4, was here at Duke University as a computer repair technician. I was lucky. I completed my education in Nepal and was able to come to the U.S. I graduated from Durham Tech in 1991 and Duke hired me. I left for a while in 2007, but in 2009, I decided it was time to return home to Duke.

The best advice I ever received: Never give up. I had made many attempts over 40 years to look for my family and they had all failed because of lack of money and resources. But my friends and colleagues and wife kept encouraging me to try again.

If I could have one superpower it would be: The ability to rescue children from the streets and give them what I have now.

Music I listen to: Old love songs I remember from Nepal that I have found on the Internet.

Kisan Upadhaya's book
The book I'm reading: My own. I have written a book about finding my family, called "The Last Orange." I named it that because the day my mother abandoned me, she told me to go into the house and eat an orange and not come out until I was done. When I came out, she was gone.

Something most people don't know about me: All my life I was taken care of by others. My wife and I decided to give back, and we have adopted an orphan girl from Nepal.