A Thane police constable,who grew up as an orphan after separation from parents when he was seven,was reunited with his family after 23 years earlier this month. The constable served for three years in Thane,not realising his home was less than an hour away from his workplace.
Ganesh Dhangde,part of the Thane Police Quick Response Team (QRT),said he and a friend sneaked out of his municipal school and went to the Thane Railway Station in 1989/90. They boarded an outstation train.
He recounted that got off at a train station a couple of hours later and he attempted to get back home. When I got off,I was at another strange place and I started crying, he said. He later realised he was in Mumbai and after roaming around hungry and scared,ended up at Worli seaface,where he was taken in by a slum family.
The eldest son of the family took Dhangde out for training,so that he could earn money. We began by collecting discarded brooms and sweep compartments of local trains and beg for money. This went on till I was knocked down by a vehicle and injured my head, said Dhangde.
Painful and traumatic as the accident was,it changed the course of his life for the better. Doctors at the hospital where he was admitted sent him to Anand Niketan,a home for orphans in Worli. He started staying there and began attending a municipal school. After passing Class XII,he then joined the BA course at the Bedekar College in Thane but left it halfway to try his luck in police recruitment.
He was selected as a trainee constable and after a year of training,posted at the Thane Police Headquarters.
Dhangde had no idea his house was a half-an-hour journey from his posting and completed three years at the headquarters before being selected for the QRT.
After a year of training,he came back to Thane and on the first day of service,his commanding officer held an introductory meeting of all new constables. Every constable had to reveal his background and Dhangde dreaded his turn. When he hesitantly told the story of his life,the entire room listened with rapt attention and at the end of the session,resolved to help him reunite with his family.
I went back to Anand Niketan ,where the chairman told me all I remembered about my house was that it was in an area known as Mama-Bhanja in Thane. It seemed a good place to start, Dhangde said.
Accompanied by some colleagues,he went to the area on October 4 this year and started enquiries. As luck would have it,his mother Manda was still staying in the same one-room house she used to 23 years ago. Her disbelief gave way to tears as she saw her name tattooed on his wrist. She had herself drawn the tattoo when he was a child.
Dhangde has two younger brothers and a younger sister. His mother is a housemaid.
I shall forever be grateful to my superiors and colleagues who helped me reunite with my family, he said.