|Jaba Rani with doctor Liza Saikia and two
sisters at Missionaries of Charity in Jorhat,Jaba’s sister-in-law and her daughters at their
Harishnagar house in Hailakandi district. Telegraph pictures
Jorhat, Oct. 8: Dr Liza Saikia could not have known that a casual mention of Hailakandi would turn the clock back by 16 years for Jaba Rani Das and set her on course for home and a reunion with her family.
But that is exactly how events unfolded and Jaba Rani, whose family had performed her shraddha a few months after she went missing, will embark on a long journey home on October 18, 16 years later.
Jaba Rani, an inmate of Nirmal Hriday, a home run by the Missionaries of Charity here, was found by sisters at Bongaigaon station in 1997. As she could not recall anything about herself, she was given shelter at Nirmal Hriday at Bongaigaon, from where she was later shifted to Guwahati. After spending a few years there, she was shifted here in 2004.
Things took a new turn for Jaba Rani, in her early fifties now, about a month back when Dr Saikia, who visits Nirmal Hriday on Sundays to treat the inmates, started interacting with her.
“I had not visited Nirmal Hriday on two Sundays recently as I had gone to visit my father who has been transferred to Hailakandi. When I visited Nirmal Hriday after my return, I told Sister Sanjivana, the in-charge, about my visit. Jaba Rani was near us when we were talking and when she heard the word Hailakandi she suddenly reacted and said she hails from Hailakandi and expressed her willingness to return home,” Dr Saikia told The Telegraph.
Thus began a hunt for Jaba Rani’s village, initiated by Dr Saikia with help from her father, a senior forest department official. Jayanta Kumar Das, forest beat officer of Ramnathpur, told this correspondent from Hailakandi that it took more than a week to locate Jaba Rani’s house there.
“We were provided with a photograph of Jaba Rani and the name of her brother, Sushanta. It was a Herculean task. First we concentrated on villages where there are people with the Das surname. Finally, we managed to locate Jaba Rani’s home and her brother recognised her photograph. It, however, turned out that Sushanta is known more by his pet name, Sushil. Besides, he is a carpenter and not a mason as we were informed,” Das said.
Quoting Sushil, the forest official said Jaba Rani’s family, residents of Harishnagar (Part II) village under Katlicherra police station in Hailakandi district in Assam’s Barak Valley, had believed that she had died in a train accident soon after she went missing from her cousin’s house at Jacobpur, about 35km from Harishnagar, where she had gone visiting. A villager had told them that her body had been recovered from the railway tracks. Jaba Rani is said to have been mentally unstable when she went missing.
Sushil also performed his sister’s shraddha along with that of their mother, who died a few months after Jaba Rani went missing.
Sushil, who lost his parents long back, now lives with his wife and two daughters. Das said Sushil and his family were ready to welcome back Jaba Rani but it was unlikely that they would be able to take the burden of an additional mouth to feed.
Sister Sanjivana said Jaba Rani has recovered from her mental instability and has started recalling her family and her village. However, she still can’t recall the circumstances under which she went missing and landed at Bongaigaon.
“She might recall more when she is back with her family. At present, she has a small heart problem for which she is taking medicines. Otherwise she is fine,” she added.
Sister Sanjivana said Jaba Rani would be handed over to Missionaries of Charity at Silchar from where she would be taken to her family. “She can return to us if she wants, but right now she is desperate to return home.”
Dr Saikia said if Nirmal Hriday authorities had not taken the initiative for Jaba Rani’s return, she would have done it personally. “She has been pleading with me to help her return home.”
As for Jaba Rani, she has already started packing her meagre belongings. “I can’t wait to return home to my family,” she told this correspondent, her voice excited, hope and yearning in her eyes.