Pooja Ben (name changed) was seven months pregnant when she was found straying in the streets and was rescued by the Manjeri police around three years ago.
Totally upset over landing in a strange land by accident and not being able to effectively communicate with anyone, she was soon referred to the Government Mental Health Centre (GMHC), Kozhikode, by the Manjeri Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM).
Despite being almost stable mentally, Ms. Ben, in her late 20s, spent her days at the GMHC.
Three months later, she gave birth to a healthy boy child at the Government Medical College Hospital here. Meanwhile, the GMHC authorities went on trying to get in touch with her relatives in rural Rajasthan, based on the very little information she passed on to them.
An illiterate, Ms. Ben spoke certain rustic dialects of Hindi and Telugu. She was not able to clearly state the details of her whereabouts, making the search for her family a tough task.
As per the information collected by Shobhita Thopil, a Psychological Social Worker (PSW) at GMHC, Ms. Ben boarded a train from Alwar in Rajasthan to Kerala by mistake as she was going to her mother’s house at Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh after a traumatic spell of physical and mental harassment at her husband’s house.
She was not in a state to even pick her elder daughter, who was hardly six years old when she left her husband’s place. “Her only aim was to somehow escape from the unbearable torture,” said Ms. Thopil.
According to Ms. Ben, her lorry-driver husband, Balbeer Yadav, was an “extremely loving and caring” person, and was away when she left her home that ill-fated night. It was some relatives at home who constantly “abused her.” For over two years, the efforts to find her family in Rajasthan were in vain even as she continued to be under the custody of GMHC.
Meanwhile, Ms. Ben’s son was quietly growing up at the St. Vincent Fondling Home at Vellimadukunnu here under the Social Welfare Department. He was named Vishal.
A mirthful chubby boy, he was raised most lovingly by the caretakers at the centre. “He was never allowed to feel the absence of his parents,” said G.S. Sneha, a member of the fondling home.
A breakthrough came about in February when the duo had already spent around three years in Kerala. Vihsla had even started speaking Malayalam by then. Ms. Ben had also picked up a working knowledge of Malayalam from the GMHC.
Help from police
During a casual phone call to a police control room in Rajasthan, Ms. Thopil happened to talk to a civil police officer, who took a special interest in the case of Ms. Ben.
He soon found that a woman with the identical features of Ms. Ben was missing from Samochi in Alwar. He soon came in touch with Mr. Yadav, who was at his wit’s end searching for his wife.
To verify that the person was Ms. Ben’s husband himself, a phone conversation was also facilitated between them. The first thing Ms. Ben told her husband after exchanging their initial excitement was: “Ladka hain” (It is a boy).
On Tuesday, an overwhelmed Mr. Yadav arrived in the city to take his wife and son back home amidst heart-rending scenes at the GMHC and at the St. Vincent Fondling Home.
For the young Vishal, the sisters and caretakers at the Home had been his only relatives ever since he was born.
“For us, giving him off is like giving away some part of our body. The only comforting thought is that he is going to live with his biological parents,” said a Sister from the Fondling Home amidst Vishal’s cries over separation.
By evening, Mr. Yadav completed all the formalities for relieving his wife and son and got ready to leave for home in Rajasthan.
When asked if he would come back to Kozhikode some day to visit those who safely gave back his son and wife, Mr. Yadav said: “Definitely, after a year. I will make sure that Vishal speaks Hindi by then,” he said.
Mr. Yadav’s only concern when he reunited with his son was that Vishal did not speak even a single word of Hindi.
Who knows if, by then, Vishal would remember the little Malayalam of love he learned here.