Abdul Latif (18) was barely eight years old when he was found wandering and crying on the streets of Fatehgarh Sahib in 2010 by a Sikh villager, Gurnam Singh.
Ten years on, while his family in UP’s Farrukhabad district had almost lost all hope of finding him, the hearing and speech impaired teenager used the his special school’s decision to provide students extensive access to Internet during the Covid-19 lockdown to track down his family.
Now a Class 11 student of Patiala School for the Deaf and Blind, Abdul found an old friend whose name he remembered on Facebook and eventually managed to find his parents.
Tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of his father, Tahib Ali, who works as an embroiderer, when he reached the Patiala school Wednesday to meet his son and take him home.
“We moved heaven and earth when we lost Abdul in Ghaziabad ten years ago. We put up posters, we advertised, we tried everything we could but there was no clue as to where he had gone. We do not know how he landed up in Fatehgarh Sahib,” said Tahib.
The father says that a friend of Abdul managed to find their address after he connected with Abdul on Facebook and sent his photograph a month back.
“When I saw the photo I realised that he was my son. My neighbours and relatives also identified him. Abdul also recognised everybody and could also write about many things that he knew as a child,” he said.
Abdul’s mother, Salma Begum, made repeated phone calls inquiring about her son as the father completed police formalities to take custody of his son from the school.
Colonel Karminder Singh (retd), Secretary of the society which runs the Patiala School for Deaf and Blind, where the Sikh family had got Abdul admitted for the past several years, said that it was nothing short of a miracle that Abdul had found his family.
“We give limited access to our students normally. However, in lockdown we increased their access of internet to help them with online studies under supervision of teachers. Abdul utilised this time to launch a search on social media platforms to hunt for some of his old friends whose names he remembered with whom he had been in school in UP. It is pure luck that he managed to find one on Facebook and recognised him and that friend made considerable efforts to locate Abdul’s parents,” said Col Karminder.
Abdul’s father heaped praise on the Patiala school management and the Sikh family that looked after him for all these years.
“Paida humne kiya lekin iski parvarish inhone ki. Badi mohabbat se rakha. Sabhi yahan iss se mohabbat karte hain. Itni mohabbat hum nahi de paaye kitni ye sabhi log kar rahe hain (We gave birth to him but these people have raised him.
They have all kept him with lot of love. All here love him a lot. We could not give him this amount of love which they give him),” said Tahib Ali.
Abdul was looked after by Gurnam Singh and his family from Fatehgarh Sahib district like one of their own. They also tried hard to find his family members despite the difficulty that Abdul faced in communicating with them.
“I had found him roaming on the roadside and crying. He must have been around eight years at the time. I could not bear the sight of the child crying and took him home. We reported him as a missing child with the local police and registered a complaint. Since he was deaf and mute, it was difficult to get information from him but he would write the names of his father and mother,” said Gurnam.
He added that initially they got Abdul admitted to a school in Fatehgarh Sahib, but later he was taken for admission to Patiala when the family learnt that there was a school there for special children.
“We had come to know that he was a Muslim and also tried to get help from Muslim organisations. We encouraged him to practice his own religion,” said Gurnam Singh.
“Assi koi kasar nayi chhaddi ennu apne bacheyan vang rakhan vich. Mehnge to mehnga cricket da bat lya ke dinde si te changey to changa branded kapda. Assi socheya si jadon padh likh jaayega te ennu chhota jeya ghar paa dayange. Rab ne bahot kuch ditta. (We did not spare any effort in treating him as our child. We got him costliest cricket bats and the best branded clothes. We had thought that once he completes his studies we will build a small house for him. God has given us a lot),” added Gurnam who could not make it to Patiala Wednesday due to illness.
The family said they will give a proper send off to Abdul once he returns after Covid-19 restrictions. “Rab da hath si ede upar. Bilkul jiddan filman vich hunda (God had his hand on him. Just like it happens in movies),” said Gurnam.
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