A few weeks ago, when her friends at school told her that she resembled Jesna Maria James, a young woman who had gone missing in March this year, 17-year-old Aleesha Sainilladdeen laughed it off.
Aleesha bears a striking resemblance to Jesna, especially as she wears similar spectacles and also has braces on her teeth. Being mistaken for Jesna has become a daily feature in Aleesha’s life. Aleesha says she feels disturbed because of the unwelcome stares and constant enquiries from strangers. The question they all pose to her is, "Are you not Jesna?"
What is perhaps more eerie is that Aleesha hails from Mundakkayam, a place in Kerala's Kottayam district, where Jesna was last seen.
Jesna went missing on March 22, while on her way from her house in Vechoochira in Pathanamthitta district, to her aunt's house near Mundakkayam. While the police have confirmed that Jesna took a bus from Erumeli to Mundakkayam, it is not clear what happened to her after that.
Speaking to TNM, Aleesha, who has completed her 12th standard and is waiting to enrol herself in an undergraduate course, says she is fed up of telling people that she is not Jesna.
"I cannot go to the town, you see. People keep staring and they come up to me and ask if I am Jesna. I have to constantly face such questions now," Aleesha says.
In one instance, even the local police turned doubtful when they happened to see her in Mundakkayam town.
"I was with my friends and my mother, when we saw this police jeep going past us. The jeep then reversed and stopped near me and the police officer asked me for my name and where I lived. He then left. As I wondered what had caused the police to ask me all this, my friends told me that it was because of my resemblance to Jesna. That's when I realised that this was getting serious," Aleesha says.
Her mother Ramlath says that the family is worried, since Aleesha feels uncomfortable venturing out of the house. While the family did not initially take it seriously, the questions kept coming.
"It is getting difficult for her to venture out of the house. People see her standing on the roadside and shout that they have spotted Jesna. Once, she was traveling in a bus and people standing on the road pointed at her and screamed Jesna's name," Ramlath says.
Things grew increasingly difficult, after the police revealed that they have retrieved CCTV visuals from a shop in Mundakkayam, in which a woman resembling Jesna was seen on March 22.
Aleesha saw the visuals in the news and says that it is not her in the CCTV footage. And with the mystery around Jesna’s disappearance deepening, Aleesha knows that life is not going to become easy for her any time soon.