When a 26-year-old journalism student ran away from her home in West Bengal in 2017 following a fight with her father, he chose not to file a police complaint — it was not the first time she had done so, and he expected her to return. But it eventually turned into a two-year-long wait, which ended with the Delhi Police tracing his daughter to central Delhi’s Paharganj Monday.
“When she left, she was angry. But when I finally saw her, she appeared mentally unsound… I broke down and cried. I should have found her sooner,” he told The Indian Express.
When policemen from Paharganj station found the woman, they said she was starving, surviving only on tea and cigarettes. The last time she took a bath was two weeks ago. She tried to communicate in English, only to stop and resort to hand gestures.
“We are not well versed in English. We sent her to a shelter home, from where she tried to escape. We then booked her a hotel and a woman constable spoke to her like a mother. We kept telling her she is beautiful and we are there for her,” an officer said.
Police said the woman was in her final-year when she ran away. She went to Haridwar, Shimla and Goa. She called home from each place, only to cut the phone abruptly. “She would always talk about her mother. I visited all the places she called from, only to find she had moved,” her father said.
The woman made her final stop in Delhi, where she misplaced identity documents. She begged a tea seller for some food and managed to make one last call to her father.
“All I could make out from the conversation was Paharganj. I searched for the SHO’s number on the internet and called him,” the father said.
SHO Sunil Chauhan constituted a team, led by constable Manoj, and looked for a woman with a blue trekking bag, tattoos on both arms and pink sunglasses. “We found her wandering around the market. We suspect she may have become addicted to drugs,” the officer said.
At the hotel, police gave the woman chicken biryani and asked her about her travels. “She told us she survived by hanging around with foreigners… sometimes she begged for food,” the officer said. Her father reached the capital Monday and took her back to West Bengal.
“I bought her an ice cream like when she was a child… she grew very upset soon… I will take her to a deaddiction centre… I don’t want her to run away again,” he said.