Shantha’s family spotted her when Manorama News played a clip of Christmas celebrations at an old-age home – there she was, right in front, taking part in the festivities.

How a 2-minute news clip helped a Kerala family find their missing motherShantha (left) with daughter Lakshmi.
news Human Interest Sunday, December 24, 2017 - 14:23

December 19 would be just another day in his life, or so Behuleyan, a native of Karunagappally in Kollam district, thought.

But this was not meant to be. It turned out to be the day he found his missing mother.

Two years ago, 74-year-old Shantha took a bus from her son’s house in Karunagappally to her daughter's house in Mavelikkara, in the adjacent Alappuzha district. But Shantha, who had traversed this route alone many times before, never made it to Alappuzha.

However, she suffers from a neurological condition where she has short spells of memory loss. Her distraught family launched a search for her, but in vain.

So on Tuesday, December 19, when Bahuleyan sat down to watch the news, he could barely believe his eyes when he saw his mother on TV. Manorama News was playing a short clip of some school students celebrating Christmas at Snehasadanam, an old-age home located in Thiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district. And there was Shantha, right in front, gleefully taking part in the celebrations.

Two days later, Bahuleyan and his sister, Lakshmi, were on their way to bring their mother back.

Speaking to TNM, Lakshmi said that the family had spent two years looking for their mother desperately, when she was quite close to them all along.

“We don’t know where she wandered around before she was found. We had filed a missing person’s complaint, but the police couldn’t track her down. The staff at the old-age home told us that the local police had brought her in,” added Lakshmi. “She could not remember her name or any of our addresses. All she could remember was that she had 5 children, and she kept repeating this to the staff.”

Since the staff could not help Shantha find her family, for she couldn’t remember anything, she stayed back in the old-age home.

"We visited so many temples and would walk around, showing her photo, asking if anyone had seen her. If anyone from our neighbourhood went to Sabarimala, we would send a photo of our mother with them, in the hope someone somewhere would give us a lead. This TV programme came at a time when we had all lost hope of finding her," said Lakshmi.

The journey back home

The family was dumbstruck to find their mother on TV.

"After all, children will recognize their parents no matter how much they have changed. Amma had put on some weight, but we knew it was her immediately. We contacted the Manorama office, following which we located a local Panchayat member in Thiruvalla. He helped us get in touch with the old-age home," said Lakshmi.

Although the family had contacted the old-age home, Shantha was not told that she was going back home.

Shantha with inmates from the old age home.

According to Lakshmi, they reached the old-age home a little after 9 a.m. on Thursday, and found Shantha, dressed in a bright pink nightie, sitting with a group of people.

"The moment she saw us, she ran to us and hugged us. She remembered us. After coming back home, her memory has slowly gotten better. She is on medication for her neurological condition," Lakshmi said. 

For the family, Christmas has come early.

"This is no doubt that this is the best Christmas gift we could ever ask for. Amma is happy now, back to her familiar surroundings. We are thankful to everyone who prayed for us. This Christmas cannot get any better," Lakshmi laughs. 

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