A real story corresponding to that of the hit Bollywood movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan, started doing rounds on national print and electronic media this summer. The story was of Geeta, a 23 year old deaf and mute Indian girl who had been living in Pakistan for the past 15 years. Geeta is believed to have mistakenly strayed into Pakistan at the age of seven, after being lost in a fair in Ludhiana which shares border with Pakistan.
In Pakistan, she was found by the Karachi based charity, Edhi Foundation in Lahore about 15 years ago, a bewildered little girl of seven, crying, alone in a foreign country with no proof of who she was and a hearing and speech impairment. But beyond all imaginable humanity, the owner of the foundation Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife Bilquis took her in, raising her as their own, giving her a Hindu name and providing for her a small temple in their house in Karachi, the city where she spent her years in Pakistan.
Edhi and his son sought the help from the Indian Embassy several times in an attempt to reunite Geeta with her land and people, but since she had no papers to proof her identity as an Indian, their attempts always ended in failure. The muddled up Indian phone number that she remembered and the information she wrote in Hindi, did not help, since they could not be deciphered by anyone in Karachi. As the years passed, Bilquis supposedly hoped to find a suitor for Geeta from among Pakistan’s Hindu minority, but Geeta refused, lingering to the faintest hope of returning home.
Geeta’s story gained the attention of the two countries after Edhi’s son decided to re-expose her plight this year, taking advantage of the strong public interest that the film Bajrangi Bhaijaan- which portrayed a similar story about a mute Pakistani girl lost in India, received. Capitalising on the film’s success proved beneficial and Geeta’s story soon attracted the attention of both the country’s media and masses, and prompted intense cooperation between the two enemy governments. Fresh efforts were made to search for the woman’s family in India, which proved fruitful as Geeta recognised a family from Bihar as hers from the photographs that were sent to her through the Indian Embassy in Islamabad.
Geeta set foot on her homeland after 15 years on Monday, arriving at the Delhi airport where she received a warm welcome from her fellow countrymen. In fact, on the very first day back to her country, Geeta has been busy meeting the Minister of External Affairs, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, and the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, who tweeted, “It was truly wonderful to have you back home. Was truly a delight to spend time with you today.” The former confirmed that a DNA test will be conducted to prove that she belongs to the family she accepted as her own in the photographs. She was reported saying, ‘It does not matter if we find her parents or not, she is a daughter of India and we will take care of her.’
The attempts to send Geeta back home come at a time of rising tension between the two rival countries, with both the countries accusing the other of supporting terrorist groups and struggling to even reach a settlement on international cricket contests. It is thus a hopeful assertion of the possibilities of peaceful international cooperation between the two countries. The Pakistani High Commission in Delhi even planned to host a reception to pay tribute to Geeta which was sadly cancelled in solidarity with the devastating earthquake that shook the capital on Monday.