The three-year-old fell asleep in a vacant auto rickshaw standing in his colony in Marol. Unaware of this, the auto driver drove to Dahisar, while the boy’s policeman father roped in locals and cops for a search party
Three-year-old Yash Bhendekar, who loved sitting in auto rickshaws, now cringes every time he looks at one. On Friday, he led his family on a wild goose chase after he went missing for three hours, while all the time, he was simply fast asleep in one of the autos that had stopped in his residential society in Marol Police Camp.
Three-year-old Yash Bhendekar, with his mother and elder brother Ganesh. Yash burst into tears when he woke up and found the auto rickshaw was not in his colony in Marol, but far away in Dahisar
Meanwhile, unaware that the toddler was hidden in a nook at the back, often used to keep baggage, the auto driver drove all the way to Dahisar.
Around 9 pm on Friday, Yash’s family realised he was missing. His father Uttam, a constable at the Meghwadi police station, put together a search team comprising local residents. When all attempts to trace the toddler went in vain, Uttam filed an official police complaint around 10 pm, and the Powai police, who hold jurisdiction in the area, set up a nakabandi to find the boy.
A description of his clothes and appearance was sent to locals in a WhatsApp message, and Uttam passed on the same information to the police control room. “Five teams comprising 20 residents of the colony went to Powai, Bandra, Andheri, Jogeshwari and Aarey Colony in search of the boy.
We even put on nakabandis at important signals and roads so that we don’t miss the boy,” said an inspector from Powai police station. The family informed the cops that Yash was extremely friendly and curious and would often interact with strangers.
He was quite attached to the residents of the colony and would often ask them to take him for joyrides on their bikes. “His relatives informed us about his habit of talking to strangers, so we sent teams to search neighbouring grounds and houses to ensure the boy wasn’t there,” said the police inspector.
‘Take me home’
The auto driver had, by this time, picked up a passenger whom he was ferrying to Dahisar. No sooner had they reached, however, than the driver and passenger spotted the sleepy child in the baggage compartment. Yash was only just waking up, and was alarmed to find himself in unfamiliar surroundings.
The driver asked him where he had come from, where he lived – to no avail. The only thing Yash said in response was “mala ghari nya” (take me home). The driver finally realised that the boy must have climbed into the rickshaw while it was waiting at Marol Police Camp.
Concerned that Yash’s father was probably a cop who might jump to the conclusion that he had kidnapped the boy, the driver first gathered a couple of his friends for support, and then went all the way back to Marol to find the boy’s home.
By midnight, Uttam’s family had nearly given up hope of finding him any time soon, when an auto rickshaw suddenly turned into the colony with Yash safely sitting on the back seat. “The rickshaw driver said Yash couldn’t tell him his address. He remembered that he had dropped the last passenger in this colony and thought Yash might also be a resident here.
I owe my life to this person who brought my beloved son back,” said Uttam. Relieved to have Yash back, his family thanked the police and the locals who had helped search for him, and assured everyone they would keep a closer watch on him.
According to Yash’s elder brother, Ganesh, however, the three-year-old seems to have learnt his lesson: “He loved auto rickshaws and would often go and sit in empty ones standing in the colony, but since Friday night, he won’t even go near one.”