Baby Aarti has always been the apple of her parents’ eyes. However, the chubby four-year-old attracted the attention of the police after a photo was circulated on WhatsApp, showing her sitting beside footpath-dwellers near Haji Ali, raising suspicion whether the slum-dwellers taking care of her were her actual parents. The power of social media brought Mumbai Police to its knees and the Deputy Commissioner rushed to the spot; his team later catching hold of one Bansi Marwari.

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(Left) Bansi Marwari with his wife Anita and their children Aarti and Krishna. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
(Left) Bansi Marwari with his wife Anita and their children Aarti and Krishna. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

However, the truth behind their connection turned out to be touching. It emerged that the curly haired, brown-eyed tot is actually Bansi’s daughter. “This is not the first time her presence has raised suspicion over us. She stands out among the people living here and that’s the reason why everyone around keeps doubting if we are her real parents,” said Bansi, who is a daily wage worker at the stalls near Haji Ali.

(From left) Anita, Aarti, Krishna and Bansi Marwari stand next to their home in Haji Ali
(From left) Anita, Aarti, Krishna and Bansi Marwari stand next to their home in Haji Ali

Dad detained
However, Bansi’s claim of being Aarti’s father was not enough for the cops, who detained him at the local police chowkie. A team was sent to check the records from the Tardeo Municipal School where Aarti has been enrolled for nursery school. The staff there gave a copy of her birth certificate and the same was verified from the records of JJ Hospital.

Aarti’s school ID card. She has been enrolled at the Tardeo Municipal School.
Aarti’s school ID card. She has been enrolled at the Tardeo Municipal School. 

DCP Pravin Padwal of Zone (III), who interrogated the couple, said, “I had visited the school while my staff approached JJ Hospital for verification. There is no doubt that Aarti is the daughter of the Marwari couple. We have enquired with the neighbours too and they also confirmed it.” Bansi, who is originally from Nadiar Kheda in Rajasthan, came to Mumbai 25 years ago. He began working with caterers, and met his wife Anita, who was also an employee there. Anita’s previous husband had abandoned her and her son Adesh, who is now 14 and works with local fishermen.

Baby Aarti sips on juice
Baby Aarti sips on juice

Most precious
Speaking to mid-day, Bansi said, “From Anita, I have a son named Krishna, he studies in the seventh standard. Aarti was born on February 23, 2013, after the deaths of two baby girls. She is the most precious thing to us. We ensure all the comforts for her, starting from food, clothing and education. Of the Rs 300 I earn every day, I keep aside R100 in her name in the bank.”

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The parents say they never think twice about money when it comes to Aarti’s health. Anita, who is suffering from a severe heart ailment, compromises on her treatment but ensures that Aarti is in safe hands if she falls ill. “We only refer her to private doctors if she falls sick. There is no compromise on her health.”

Everyone’s favourite
Holding her daughter tightly in her arms, Anita said, “Earlier this year, a foreigner approached and said that he wishes to adopt Aarti. When I refused, he even tried to bribe us with Rs 2 lakh. Aarti is the favourite of all shopkeepers and other hutment dwellers in the area. We fear for her safety at times. We never let her stray from our sight even for a minute. Once she grows a little older, we will send her to my brother-in-law’s house in Rajasthan.”