After 17 years and myriad troubles, a Sri Lankan Tamil family was reunited in the city this week.

Dinesh (23), Dirani (20) and Dennis (19), who bid goodbye to their mother, Pushparani in 1996 at the Sevalur Sri Lankan refugee camp, met her just a few days ago.

The three siblings underwent a series of harrowing ordeals – they lived on the platforms of Chennai Central Station for a few days, went hungry for days together and would have been sold off by a man who said he would help them, if they had not managed to escape, thanks to a good Samaritan. But now, the youngsters’ happiness cannot be measured.

Under the watchful eye of the Chennai District Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Dirani has completed her B.A. in history and Dinesh, who completed a degree in mathematics, is now working at an auditor’s office. Dennis has just completed class XII.

“I always had this feeling that our mother was alive and that we would meet her some day. Today, she is with us and we have been exchanging stories and are now in the process of getting passports to go back to Sri Lanka,” said Dirani, who keeps hugging and kissing her mother and who had even appeared in a tele-serial hoping someone might recognise her and help find her mother.

Dirani’s drive was what led to CWC and two NGOs — Madras Christian Council of Social Service (MCCSS) and ADRA — deciding to search for their mother.

“We had to come to India back in 1996, as the war was raging in Sri Lanka at that time. Dennis was born in India and Dirani was just a day old when we landed here. We were unable to support three children with the funds we were getting, and so I decided to leave the children with their father, Francis Xavier who was a bank employee back home, at the camp, while I went to Saudi Arabia to take up a job as a housemaid. After four years of hardship when I returned to the camp, I could not find them and so I went back to Sri Lanka,” said Pushparani, who has already found a groom for Dirani in Sri Lanka.

Sometime after their mother left, the youngsters came to Chennai with their father, but lost him in the crowds at Central station. They never saw him again.

“After we got off the train, we told our father that we were hungry and would buy some food. But when we returned, we could not find him. That was the last time we saw him. When I was in class V at Udavum Karangal, we read a news item in a Tamil daily stating that he had died. After that my resolve became stronger to find my mother,” said Dirani.

“It was sheer providence that we were able to locate their mother. About a year and half ago, I went to Sri Lanka and visited ADRA, which works with Sri Lankan refugees. At the end of a programme there, I gave the names of the children and their details to the audience. The NGO searched among the refugees. Last month I got a call from a person who had studied under their father at the refugee camp saying he had met Mrs. Pushparani at a market in Vavuniya. We then spoke to her. The children were delighted to hear her voice,” said R. Isabel, executive secretary, MCCSS.

Alfred David, district probation officer, said, when the children were brought to the CWC back in 1996, they were unable to even communicate their basic details. “Since they were foreign nationals and wanted to learn vocational skills along with their schooling, we ensured that they had additional training. “After the youngsters go to Sri Lanka, MCCSS will go to their home and ensure that all is well with them. The CWC will help them with procedures for their passports.”

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