'I will never eat ragda pattice outside again,' says lost and found child
“I am meeting my mother tomorrow,” was a sentence that seven-year-old Megha kept repeating like a chant all of Tuesday after she was told that she would be reunited with her family in Mumbai the next day. So excited was little Megha that she slept only at 1 am yesterday, said the Shaikhs, who have been taking care of her since they found her crying near Dal Gate in Srinagar a fortnight ago.
Megha with her grandfather Rakesh Thakur and her saviour Abdul Shaikh in Srinagar yesterday morning
As the reunion with her family neared, however, Megha also grew a little fearful. She was afraid that wandering off to have ragda pattice in June last year, which led to her going missing, might get her a beating from her mother. The Shaikh family did everything possible to the last few hours of Megha’s stay with them memorable.
(From left) Megha’s mother, grandmother and a neighbour after she reached Mumbai last evening. Pic/Suresh KK
A special chicken curry was cooked and her favourite sweet was made on Tuesday night. “Megha barely ate, though. She was too excited about returning to her parents in Mumbai,” Abdul Rashid Shaikh told mid-day from Srinagar.
“We planned to put Megha in a madrassa after November if her parents or relatives could not be traced till then,” said Shaikh, when he was asked if he intended to adopt Megha and send her to school.
mid-day’s report yesterday
Having got up at 7 am yesterday, Megha dressed up in a new t-shirt and sweater, salwar, sandals and hair band, all bought for her by Abdul’s wife Dilshad. Megha asked for a special Kashmiri roti (baqerkhani) for breakfast and asked for some of it to be packed so that she could make her family in Mumbai taste it too.
Around 8 am, the Shaikhs and Megha were called to Nehru Park police station in Srinagar, where her grandfather Rakesh Thakur and ACP Vasant Dhoble were waiting. Megha recognised her dadaji and ran into his arms.
Grateful at having found his grandchild after looking for her in more than five states for over a year, the overwhelmed grandfather was in tears and thanked the police and the foster family repeatedly.
“Her grandfather was carrying a huge picture of her and we used it to confirm that he was who he claimed. He also pointed out an injury mark on her head, which was clearly visible in the photograph as well,” said Shaikh.
Head Constable Gulam Ahmed, attached to Nehru Park police station, said, “We recorded the statement of the family and handed the girl over to her grandfather. A medical examination of the girl was conducted before we allowed them to return to Mumbai.”
The excitement over the reunion, and completing the legal formalities at Nehru Park police station delayed the medical visit, because of which Megha, her grandfather and ACP Dhoble missed the afternoon flight to Mumbai that they planned to take.
ACP Vasant Dhoble told mid-day, “We completed the formalities at Nehru Park police station, where the statements were recorded of the members of the family which had found her. As per procedure, we had to take the girl for medical examination to G B Pant Paediatric Hospital in Sonawar, Srinagar.
But, since we got held up at the hospital, we missed the 2 pm flight and had to board another one in the evening.” Megha left Srinagar with R220, which she received as a gift from her new family on Bakri Eid. The family also packed a bag for her, which contained a new pair of clothes, toys, biscuits and chocolates.
Reunited, at last
“Maa mujhe daategi kyunki main unko chhod ke gayi thi,” is the first thing Megha said when she landed at terminal 1A around 8.15 pm yesterday. She came out of the arrivals section with a smile and kept saying that she would not eat outside home and would even shun her favourite ragda-pattice.
When Megha was taken to Nirmal Nagar police station, her mother, Seema, who was waiting for her there, was too stunned to speak. She could not react or even speak to Megha, but she held her hand as soon as she got off the police jeep, and didn’t let go of it the entire time.
Megha’s grandfather Rakesh Thakur said, “It is Diwali for us today. This girl had taken away our hearts with her and now that she is back, we will make sure that she is never ever left alone.” “We weren’t sure whether we would be able to see her today as the flights were taking off late from Srinagar airport.
Megha is fond of dal-rice and kaju katli and we have kept all of it ready for her at home. Her coming back has given us a second lease of life a tension-free life!” exclaimed Megha’s grandmother. The chawl members were at the police station to welcome their little daughter and they also promised that they would take care of the little girl.
ACP Dhoble said, “We thank god that the girl is completely safe. She is a child and hence we cannot question her, We have asked her family members to get information as she may open up to them after she feels at home.”
Abducted, forced to beg
Megha told the police about a person called Nasir, who abducted her, took her blindfolded to various places and forced her to beg. The Mumbai police will start tracking Nasir after speaking to Megha and piecing together the incidents that led to her being abandoned outside a dargah in Srinagar a year after she went missing from a street in Naupada, Bandra (East), last year.
Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said, “We will explore this case in depth and look for those behind the abduction. We will get them, wherever they may be hiding. We are glad that the child could be reunited with her parents with a little assistance from the Mumbai police. After the election bandobast gets done, I will set up a dedicated team of policemen to search for other missing children.”