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Monday, September 13, 2010

Unforgettable family reunion

On April 30th, a little boy of 9 years old was brought to us by a local NGO who in turn received the child who was rescued by the Railway Protection Force. Child – Mohammad Fazulu, looked healthy & proportionately built for age but nervous. When asked about the location, he says ‘Bombay’. We put an esc ort to send the boy to Mumbai so that the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) there can restore the child back to his family.


Child had been staying with two other boys (one boys is from Assam and the other boy is from Rajasthan) at a government reception home in Vellore. Last month, when I went to Assam as a resource person for National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD), I took the information of Assam boy with me. When I made enquiries, and sought the help of CWC members there, family was tracked in two hours time. Then I thought to work on the other two children as well when I return to Vellore. Rajasthani boy is from a small town and when I googled the police station of that place, appeared a number. I called and asked for someone’s email address so that I could send the information. Information was exchanged and the child’s family was tracked in 10 minutes time.


That left us with Md. Fazulu. My feeling was that when the other two boys leave, he is going to be all alone and he kept talking about upcoming Ramzan. I really wanted to do something so I contacted the CWC member and a representative of Childline 1098 (emergency phone service for the children in distress) of Mumbai and gave all the information that the child gave. Unfortunately, the information shared was inadequate so the search didn’t go any further and that left us with the only option to wait to send the child back to Bombay with the escort.


I still wasn’t convinced that we had done everything that is possible so I approached an activist friend in Delhi Ms. Shabnam Hashmi. I requested her to find someone for me that would help us make an announcement in all the masjid’s on Ramzan day because the probability of Fazulu’s family attending the masjid on Ramzan day is very high. My friend disagreed with my thinking and suggested that we take it to the larger audience through the media. She agreed to help me with contacts in the media when I expressed my inability to reach out to any media outlet.


On September 8th “Times of India” published an article on Fazulu and here is the link to it. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/City-kids-ball-hunt-lands-him-in-Vellore/articleshow/6516147.cms). First call I got was from a retired assistant commissioner of police suggesting that this boy might be from Karnatake than the state of Maharashtra. He also gave me few investigative clues so I hurried back to the reception home and tried the investigative clues and I was also convinced that this child might be from Karnataka. I do not know how the electronic media got my mobile number but there was a sudden rush of calls from all over the country asking me for an interview. I couldn’t say no to anyone as my only objective was to locate Fazulu’s family. It was headline news on some channels while it was breaking news on the others. Suddenly it felt like the whole country is on search for Fuzulu’s family. My mobile phone wouldn’t stop ringing and I didn’t want to miss even a single call.


Evening at 8:00 PM I was on a national television channel doing a live shot asking people in the state of Karnataka and Maharashtra to help us locate Fazulu’s family. I was getting all kinds of calls but not the one that I was hoping for. Disappointed and tired, at about 11:00 PM I fell asleep.


At 4:03 AM my mobile phone started ringing and the gentleman on the other end started to talk to me in Kannada (language of Karnataka). When I told him that I could speak Tamil, Englihs, Hindi and Telugu, he started to talk to me in Hindi and told me that he is Fazulu’s father. I don’t even recollect what I did, but I was up in the chair. I cross questioned him in several ways and it appeared that he might be the father. I told him to come to Vellore immediately with any evidence that he can produce about his son. I had to leave to Bangalore to attend a family function so I requested Fazulu’s family to come soon.


Media found out from me (they called for an update and I told them the truth) that Fazulu’s family is located and again the channels were on breaking news. At 12:00 PM, family arrived. I received them at the bus stand and took them to the reception home. I handed them over to the Superintendent and left the facility as I was already running behind on my personal travel plans. As I was driving to Bangalore, I knew my heart was in Vellore and wanted to witness the reunion but I couldn’t let my family down. I heard from a reporter friend of mine that the event became so big that the district collector came to witness the reunion.


Next day, I got a call from Fazulu’s father. He thanked me in every way that he possibly could. I knew then it was all worth working for and I did the right thing. I was also glad that we didn’t send the boy to Bombay otherwise it would have complicated the matters even worse. Knowing that I was in Bangalore, father invited me to come to their house for Ramzan (next day) and I couldn’t resist so I said ‘yes’.


Family lives 17 KM from where I was staying at in Bangalore and I reached their house around 5:00 PM on Ramzan day. Fazulu was wearing all traditional muslim outfit. He had henna applied to his hands and Kajal to his eyes. His entire family was waiting for me. They live in a single bed room house with a kitchen. There was palpable excitement to have me in their house. The whole time I was there, we talked about Fazulu. For the first time in my life I ate the traditional Ramzan dinner in a Muslim home. We took pictures and then at about 7:00 PM, I gave a big hug to Fazulu and told him to study hard which he agreed to do and then I left.


There are many unanswered questions but what counted is that a child is with the family today. There are many things that I would do it differently if I have to do it again, but my only conviction is that I rather stretch the rules to be right than to follow the book to be righteous. I couldn’t thank all those who wrote to tell me from all over the world that they watched me on television by name so I am going to say this: Without your encouragement, I would have given up on the first day itself. THANK YOU.

Fazulu and the other two boys taught me this: Every child can have a family if adults can work harder to find one.

3 comments:

Lakshmy said...

Amazing and inspirational Ruby - brought tears to my eyes...This is such a valuable lesson on sticking to your conviction and not letting go.

Preethi said...

What an amazing story Ruby. You are a blessing to these children. May God Bless you & your family.

Julia Rollings said...

What a wonderful story, Ruby. Thank you for sharing it. I wish these children and the families that have welcomed them back home all the best for a happy future.