A big river. Two huge stones on the banks. A curved road leading to a small temple. A mud house.
45-year-old Mark Madappan Neilson's memories of the village he grew up, in the first few years of his life, are distant and vague.
When he left his village to meet his siblings nearly four decades ago, he probably never thought that returning "home" would be such a difficult journey.
A businessman in Madurai, Mark has been searching for his biological parents for eight years now. He does not remember their names, nor the village he hails from.
A victim of illegal adoption, Mark's story goes back to 1979. Then a 7-year-old, one day he took a bus to meet his brother and sister in Coimbatore. With no clue about where they lived, he soon realised how lost he was in a big city.
Alone and starving, one night he was lying on a pavement when a car stopped in front of him. A man emerged and asked him where he wanted to go. Mark agreed to go with him when the man assured that he could take him to his siblings.
The man also offered him a spiked juice, and several hours later, Mark regained consciousness in a dark room in which he was locked up.
"When I shouted for help, a man came to me and threatened to beat me up if I did not stop," he recollects.
He was soon taken to Delhi and stayed in an orphanage for a year.
In June 1980, he was adopted by a couple from Denmark and was taken to Copenhagen. In a new country and with his new family that Marks says always loved and supported him, he started living his new life.
"My (adoptive) parents had been given the wrong paperwork about me," he states.
A photograph of Mark on the day he reached Denmark.
However, a decade ago the thought of looking for his biological parents occurred to him, after he came across a programme for missing children in Denmark.
In 2009, he flew to Delhi. The orphanage he had stayed in Delhi had been shut by then. Mark happened to get in touch with a lawyer who took care of arranging passports for adopted children, and the latter told him to look for the woman who used to teach children in the orphanage.
"My friend and I went looking for her. She had become old but recognised me instantly. When I saw her, my body started shaking. She couldn't tell me much about my past life, she was sure that I had been brought to Delhi from Coimbatore," he says.
Mark took the next flight to Coimbatore. He says though he approached the police, the latter told him that they would not be able to help him.
Around 2010, he met his wife in Madurai who has since been helping him in his quest. After numerous attempts at getting her a visa failed, earlier this year, Mark shifted base to Madurai. He has branched out his adoptive father's business of dealing in medical equipment, to Madurai.
"I have a 6-year-old daughter. She is teaching me to speak Tamil," he laughs lightly.
Mark with his daughter.
Over the past few years, Mark has followed his instincts and whatever leads he has managed to get. He's gone to an orphanage in Coimbatore he believes he was taken to, by the man who offered him pineapple juice; that too has closed down. He's spoken to numerous people and even consulted an astrologer.
The astrologer told Mark told his parents lived in Trichy and in Trichy he also found a place that is identical to what he remembers.
There's a river. And two huge stones on the banks. However, everything around it has changed dramatically. It's not a remote village anymore. He couldn't find his mud house. Nor the sugar factory his mother used to work in.
That many of the details provided in his adoption documents have been altered, is also making his search difficult.
"The paperwork says that I was two years old when I was adopted, when in fact I was seven then," he says.
Forty years is a long time and Mark realises that the odds are stacked against him. But he does not let that affect his resolve.
"When I ran away, I am sure my family would have looked for me and they probably never got to know where I went. I am still searching for them. My wife tells me one day I will find them. We don't know if they are still alive or not but I at least want to know what happened to them," he says.
"I have been suffering for a very long time. There is a big hole in my heart that I want to fill. I will never give up," he adds.
(If you have any details regarding Mark's bioloical family, send us an email at email@example.com)