Saturday, Dec 20, 2003
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By Divya Ramamurthi
When Mr. Neeraj, a clean-shaven youth wearing a plaid shirt, saw his father for the first time, he halted in his tracks and stood a distance away from him. Both glanced at each other for a few minutes, waiting to see any sign of recognition from the other.
After 10 minutes, a worn-out Mr. Dubey, who came all the way from Jabalpur, slumped down on a bench, below a clump of Royal Palm trees, and asked Neeraj slowly, "Do you know who I am? Do you remember me?" The tears that rolled down Neeraj's cheeks were proof enough for Mr. Dubey, a retired labour inspector. He then rushed towards his son and held him in a tight embrace for a minute before going on to stroke his face.
Still recovering from the shock and excitement of having found his son and as if wanting to re-confirm the fact to himself, Mr. Dubey asked Mr. Neeraj about his family roots. "What is your sister's name?" and "Which college did you study in?"
Only when Mr. Neeraj answered the questions to his satisfaction, did the elderly gentleman give a large smile and said, "He seems to remember everything. I think he is feeling better."
After searching frantically for Mr. Neeraj, the past five years, the family lost all hope of finding him at the beginning of this year, says Mr. Dubey. "I cannot believe that we have found him now."
"Even on my way here, I had my doubts. I kept praying that it should be my son," Mr. Dubey says.
Mr.Neeraj left home at Jabera, near Jabalpur, in March 1998, after telling his parents that he was going to meet his uncle in Baroda and that he would return shortly. Even after the Dubeys got information from Mr. Neeraj's uncle that he was not there, they were not unduly worried as their was in the habit of disappearing from his home often, sometimes even for a week.
"I was also putting a lot of pressure on him to find a job and live independently," says Mr. Dubey. "He used to get angry with me and walk out of the house often."
Mr. Neeraj had got into the wrong train and was lost. From then on, he wandered from State to State, until he reached Tiruchi early this year. Mr. Neeraj has no idea how he came to be in Chennai. He was found wandering around Anna Square here from where he was picked up by the Chintadripet police station and handed over to Anbagam on July 2.
As Mr. Neeraj kept calling himself Sanjay and referred to Indore, where he had stayed earlier, the search got more difficult, says Mr. Rafi.
Anbagam immediately got in touch with the local police at Indore, but Mr. Neeraj did not match with any of their missing persons' profile. After several attempts, Mr. Rafi got in touch with a labour inspector in Indore, who led him to the Dubeys new residence.
Since its inception in April 1999, Anbagam has rehabilitated more than 214 mentally-ill persons. At present, there are 39 such inmates at the home at Tirunilai, near Ponneri.
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