Meera Devi hugs her son Ravish in front of the remand home, while her teenaged children look on. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, Dec. 11: He did not smile. Neither did his eyes dart here and there. The guards at the Boys’ Remand Home at Dumardaga, Ranchi, had barely opened the gate when he just ran towards his mother Meera Devi.
Ravish, now 11-year-old, was meeting his mother after two-and-half years. Too unsure to hug, he just tugged at her hand.
For a bulk of the 30 months, he had lived as Sunil, the son of Bolo Oraon (not Orain as she was erroneously referred to, as tribal experts say indigenous titles like Oraon and Munda are not changed while referring to women) in Ganeshpur village, Chanho block.
In November, a DNA test ordered by Jharkhand High Court proved he was Devi’s son.
Chromosomes had indeed spoken, but the mother and child had not. Today, too, for quite a few minutes, neither the lady nor her new-found son spoke. They found themselves speechless.
Ravish’s elder siblings — brother Pankaj Kumar and sister Reena Kumari — waiting with Meera Devi also found themselves tongue-tied.
“Hey, smile, smile,” the guards shouted. On cue, Ravish did.
“Do you recognise them?” asked someone from the crowd outside the remand home. Ravish just nodded as his mother finally enveloped him in her embrace.
It was a perfect shot, straight out of Bollywood lost-and-found melodramas. Only, it was happening outside a remand home in Ranchi around 12.15pm. And there was no megaphone-wielding director to say “Cut!”
“This (the reunion) is like giving birth to Ravish all over again,” Devi said, her face breaking into a grin.
Life had not been easy for the mother of three after her husband Sameer Verma left her — she confesses this after some prodding. But, she had picked up the threads.
“I work with my neighbour Urmila Choudhary who runs an NGO, Samarpan Seva Dal,” said the Sukhdeonagar resident.
Ravish’s disappearance in 2009 was a bolt from the blue.
“He was eight years old and studied in Class II in Rajakiya Bal Vidyalaya, Garikhana. After school, he was walking home but never reached. For a long time, there was no trace, no news. I hadn’t stopped crying. Just four months ago, we came to know there was a boy studying in a Chanho school who looked like my son. That’s when we began to investigate,” Devi said, fighting back tears.
Ravish, who didn’t want to speak, has huge gaps in his memory, said both Devi and Choudhary.
He remembers that someone had bundled him in a sack. He doesn’t know how a trucker, whom he only recalls as Punditji, found him inside it near Pandra.
“The trucker lived somewhere near Chanho. He took Ravish home but made him do menial jobs like washing utensils and the like. So Ravish ran away,” Choudhary said, adding that was what the boy had haltingly said.
A twist of fate later led the runaway to Bolo Oraon’s house in Ganeshpur, Chanho block. One of the sons of this tribal lady, around Ravish’s age, had gone missing. So Oraon took in Ravish as her missing son Sunil.
Ravish Verma became Sunil Oraon.
“Har jotat rahi, garu chhagri charat rahi aur school bhi jat rahi (I used to plough, graze cows and also go to school),” Ravish said in Nagpuri, the dialect he learnt in Chanho.
He still calls Bolo Oraon “mother”. She loved him and fed him well, he added.
“But, I won’t go back now,” he said. Perhaps, he is trying to shed the life of Sunil. It is a tough job for any 11-year-old.
Devi, standing with her elder two children, brother Madan Ram, sister Priya Verma, employer-cum-neighbour Choudhary and others, knew she had almost reached the last lap of her long journey.
“Now, I have to get him admitted to a good school,” was all she said quietly.