It was a regular weekday and Yunus reached his home in Punjab at 2 in the afternoon. His little girl was about to come from school soon. However, she did not come home for a while, and he began to panic. He called up his wife Thanu. Together, they made many frantic calls before realising that their daughter had just gone for her tuition class. The couple heaved a sigh of relief.
The fear that Yunus experienced in those few minutes made him think of his father and mother back home in Kerala. He had left them two decades ago, without a word, and had never called them.
He didn’t think much. A week ago, Yunus left Punjab and arrived in Malappuram, the land he’d left behind as a lad of 18. Reuniting with the family had been predictably emotional, and a week later, he still sounds excited. “I was so stubborn back then, angry for silly reasons and wanted to leave Kerala as soon as possible,” Yunus says.
He had once attempted to run away from home as a boy of 12 or 13, on his bicycle.
“But I was caught and brought back home. I didn’t want to go to school or study. So then I was made to learn some mechanics work. But I was still used to my old ways and when I turned 18, I ran away from home,” Yunus says.
He had 11 rupees with him when he got on a train to Mangaluru without a ticket. On arriving at Mangaluru station, he got onto another train to Kannur. After that, he embarked on a random journey, visiting several cities across the state, staying at each for a few days, working some odd jobs to make a living, and then onto the next. “After Kannur, there was Mysuru, Ooty, Rajasthan, and then Kashmir.”
At Kashmir, he stayed put for two and a half years, learning how to drive a bus and making a living out of it. “After that, I went to Goa, and there, I learnt to perform magic. I became a magician,” Yunus says, with a little chuckle.
At one point, he wanted to go out of India and was advised by someone to get a certificate of work experience. Magic wouldn’t do then. So Yunus went to Manali, got trained in hotel management and then worked at a hotel in Chandigarh. His life changed at that point. “That’s when I met Thanu and fell in love with her. She’s a Punjabi.”
Three years later, they got married and moved to Goa. When they had a baby girl, they moved back to Punjab. Yunus began working as a fruit supplier and Thanu became a beautician. Life went on smoothly till their nine-year-old daughter was thought to be missing one day and then Yunus suddenly wanted to meet the parents he had left behind long ago.
Yunus with his mother Nabeesa
“Coming to Malappuram, I couldn’t remember the name of my village or even the language properly. I had not spoken Malayalam all the years that I lived away. I was speaking in Hindi when I came here. I just knew that my home was between Edappal and Kuttippuram and got on a bus through that way. When the conductor announced ‘Pulluvanpadi,’ I remembered that was the name of my stop. I got down and went to a shop and asked a lad if he knew Siddique (that’s my brother). The lad immediately recognised me. I had become sort of famous by my running away,” Yunus says.
His family reached him in half an hour. There were hugs and tears. “Uppa didn’t scold me. He was happy that I chose to come at least now.” Moosa and Nabeesa hugged their son. Siddique joined into the reunion on a video call from a Gulf country. Two days later, Yunus could remember all the Malayalam he thought he had forgotten.
“I will go back to Punjab in a few days but I will come again in March when Siddique comes home. And I will come with my wife and child,” Yunus smiles.