Khomdram Gambhir, who was thought to have been missing for the last 40 years, had survived on the streets of Mumbai as a daily wage labourer working at textile mills and restaurants, before an accident forced him to beg for a living. Originally from Imphal, he has not been home since 1978. It was only on Saturday that Gambhir’s nephew Romen Leichombam chanced upon a video on YouTube of him living in Bandra. He showed the video, posted by a photographer in Mumbai, to Gambhir’s brother Khomram Kulachandra. The family went on to contact the local police station at Khumbong in Manipur and Gambhir was traced to Bandra’s Hill Road the next day.
Now, the 66-year-old is likely to fly to Imphal either on Wednesday or Thursday. Speaking to The Indian Express at an old age home in Virar, which has been his home since Sunday, Gambhir said he came to Mumbai in 1983 because he “wanted to see a new city.” Deployed in the Assam Rifles in 1970, Gambhir had got married eight years later. However, that marriage was short-lived and the couple parted ways after a few months. He left home in 1978, but doesn’t remember where he went.
“In my first year, I worked as a labourer at textile mills in south Mumbai and earned Rs 13 a day,” he said. After leaving his job at the mills, Gambhir found work at Mini Punjab hotel in Sion’s Sindhi Camp and worked there until 1986 on a daily wage of Rs 15. “Between 1986 and 1988, I did a number of daily wage jobs in Khar and was paid Rs 35 per day,” said Gambhir. He then found steady work at a shop selling floor tiles in Khar west. He continued there until 2006 until he met with an accident.
“I got hurt in a hit-and-run accident in Khar and was admitted at Bhabha Hospital for six months… The accident left me with an injured right arm and leg. My body began to give up after the accident and I had to beg for money and food,” said Gambhir. Since then, Gambhir has been begging outside mosques and churches in Khar and Bandra. Bandra police constable Madhukar Shingade, who has been patrolling the area for the last three years, said: “I used to spot him at Bandstand, Carter Road and Hill Road. He would salute at me whenever he saw me. I have never received any complaints about him causing trouble, so never stopped to ask him about his life.”
When the Bandra police was contacted by its counterparts in Imphal on Sunday, Shingade was deputed to trace Gambhir. “When I was shown a picture of a missing Manipuri man, I couldn’t believe that it was the same man that I had seen so many times,” said Shingade. Themthing Ngasangva, Imphal West SP, said: “The man’s family gave us a written application saying that Gambhir has been missing for 40 years. After verifying the details with the Mumbai Police, we have sent two policemen to bring him back.” He added that his officers would verify Gambhir’s identity before flying him to Imphal either on Wednesday or Thursday. After so many years away, Gambhir has mixed feelings about returning home. “Now that my family is coming to take me back, I will go with them. I want to eventually rest where I was born,” he said.