Saira Khan: I need to locate the lost pieces in my family jigsaw

Family reunions always set me off.

Sure enough I got all teared up this week ­hearing about singer ­Rochelle Humes being reunited with her long-lost sister.

The Saturdays star had not seen Lili in 23 years and the two of them look incredibly alike.

I’m sad they missed out on all that time but I’m happy they can make up for it.

They say they’re never off the phone now, like siblings should be.

The average person has six family members they have completely lost touch with. I know lives are busy, people drift apart, fall out and years fly by. But you can lose out losing these connections.

Knowing who you are is a shared ­experience – it’s not just about you, it’s about your tribe.

Unfortunately for me, I can’t reach out to my tribe that easily.

My parents came to this country from Kashmir in the 60s, when they were both in their early 20s. They came alone.

They talked about their brothers and sisters to me, so as a child I knew I had aunties, uncles and cousins.

But I never knew about their family life – what they would get up to as children, who was their favourite sister, who was the naughty one, the clever one.

I always felt like ­something was missing.

Then I found out just how much. I must have been 18 when my mum told me that I wasn’t her first child.

Before me, there was a baby boy, born in Kashmir.

He was born with spina bifida and due to the lack of knowledge and medical care, he died when he was just three months old.

His name was Ramzan. He was my big brother.

I totally understood why my mum waited so long to tell me. She’s never talked about it to anyone, she is of that generation encouraged to bottle things up and get on with it.

I fought many mixed emotions. I was angry for not being told before and upset for my mum who’d had to endure such a tragedy.

I also felt an intense desire to see photos of my brother and know everything about him – did he have my eyes, my nose?

But Mum had no photos. She didn’t even know his birthday – back then, people there did not keep a record of dates of birth.

Even though I’d never set eyes on him, I felt the loss of a brother and ­imagined what my life would have been like with him around.

As heartbreaking as it all was, I came out of it closer to my mum, feeling as if a missing piece of my jigsaw had been found.

Knowing our family members is important – whether we get along with them or not is another thing.

Family to me means everything – a sense of purpose, belonging and identity. So I’m going to do some digging and find out more about my family tree. It might lead to unwanted truths but I’d rather know.

Because it will help me feel complete.

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