On Tuesday, as she visited the Godavari river at Basar in Telangana, she looked along the banks to spot a temple she remembers from childhood. She also walked into the town looking for one tiny hospital next to the railway tracks. She found none.
A day before, she had looked for the same things at Jalna in Maharashtra. Before Jalna, it was Lasur in Aurangabad and Dhule.
Geeta, a hearing and speaech impaired 28-year-old woman, who was repatriated by Pakistan five years ago, has one goal in her mind – to find her home and long lost parents.
Since December 12, in her fuchsia pink suit and green dupatta, Geeta and three social workers are canvassing the Maharashtra-Telangana border, as multiple social organisations have come together to trace her parents.
They sleep in dharamshalas and gurdwaras, visit railway stations, meet the local police to look into missing persons’ records and walk around town after town hoping that Geeta would spot one landmark from her childhood.
Geeta had accidentally landed on Pakistan soil after boarding the Samjhauta Express when she was around eight-year-old. She was named Fatima by Karachi’s Edhi Foundation but it quickly changed her name to Geeta and built her a temple when it realised that she did not offer namaz.
In 2015, the external affairs ministry had facilitated her return to India and placed her at a shelter home at Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
Geeta has shared nuggets from the life she lived 20 years ago – a village with sugarcane, rice and peanut cultivation, a temple along a river, a tiny hospital near a railway track and an idli-dosa stall near her home. She lived in a family of five siblings and her parents were farmers.
“She has her right nostril pierced. Several Maharashtrians along this border have their nose pierced and sugarcane cultivation is common. So, we decided to start looking for her parents here,” said Gyanendra Purohit, a disability rights’ advocate with Anand Service Society in Indore, where Geeta has been living for the last four months.
After pouring over Google maps, they have narrowed down on Telangana and Maharashtra. The Madhya Pradesh DGP had written to all states to help Geeta find her parents.
Geeta and Purohit had hired a car for Maharashtra on December 12 and reached Lasur. “She looked at the rail station and said it resembled the one where she lived. But in the town, she found no other link,” Purohit said.
Manoj Patwari from the State Level Association of the Deaf, is also on the road with them. He has hearing disability but tries to reach out to local residents. “When we reached Nanded, the railway police said a village matches her description. But even there she remembered nothing,” he said.
They boarded a train from Nanded to Dharmabad in the district, stopped at every station to look around. They suspect Geeta may have boarded Sachkhand Express from Nanded and accidentally got on to Samjhauta Express in Amritsar, Punjab. But she does not remember any station en route.
Based on tip offs offered by the police and the Railways, they have visited several villages in Aurangabad, Dhule, Nanded and Telangana.
On Wednesday, they will visit Nashik where a man has claimed to be Geeta’s father. “We will conduct a DNA test on Geeta and the man’s wife,” said a doubtful Purohit.
Several couples have stepped forward to claim Geeta as their daughter after former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj appealed in a video for her parents to step forward and also announced Rs 1 lakh cash reward.
Since 2018, Geeta has also been part of several swayamvars looking for a groom. But eventually she decided to trace her parents first.