Ram Singh and Gurjan Singh looked relieved. They had left the wheat fields back at Sangrur, the small town situated at the intersection between roads connecting Delhi with Ludhiana and Patiala with Bathinda, and come down to Kochi.
The trip means end of a search they had started eight years ago for their missing brother. “We are farmers, who do not travel a lot. Once in a year or once in two years, we take out jatras (pilgrimage). Karemjith was lost during one such pilgrimage to Maharashtra,” said Gurjan Singh.
That was in 2002. For the next four years, the family searched for him and then resigned to the belief that he might have died. He had a history of mental instability, which he developed following fever when he was 11 years old. He was not fully cured, even though the family took him to many hospitals, including the Christian Medical College, Ludhiana.
“He was usually left to himself, without much work. He used to roam around, but never too far. The only time he went far away was to the jatra and he lost his way back. We asked those who were with him, but got no information.”
Even Karemjith does not remember what happened during the trip. He was one among the 14 persons found wandering in the city during night and picked up by the health squad of Kochi Corporation on January 23, 2006. There were put up at the Palluruthy Relief Settlement (PRS).
“He is too scared now to give any details. But he could recognise us at first sight, when we came over here.” As part of the rehabilitation process, the PRS officials tried to trace the little information about home that Karemjith could give them after four years of treatment.
The search ended with City Police Commissioner Manoj Abraham passing on the information to the Director General of Police, Punjab and alerting the family about Karemjith being put up at PRS, said P.J. George, Superintendent of PRS.
Even when he gave them his address, neither the officials nor the inmates of PRS realised that he was a Sikh. The turban that the brothers put on him when they met him at PRS brought a tired smile to Karemjith's face.
Five years in a strange land where no one could understand his language could be traumatic for anybody. Even as his brothers were talking to him, Karemjith broke away to join other inmates of PRS when refreshments were served in the evening.
“I am sure he will get along well with the children in the family. We will take extra care of him and will never let him out of our sight now,” said Gurjan Singh, as they packed their bags to catch the Ernakulam-Hazrat Nizamudin Express on Saturday evening.