It was a happy family reunion for Geeta Kumar, her husband, son and extended family members, last month. A middle-aged woman from Gandarvakottai, Geeta had reportedly gone missing over ten years ago from her hometown in Tamil Nadu's Pudukkottai district.
Her husband, who flew down from Singapore, to meet his wife after more than a decade never thought he would see his wife again.
Geeta was found in the village of Nimbekaipura near Hoskote, around 60 km away from Bengaluru, in 2008 by a lorry driver. She was then brought to Abayashram, a shelter home where destitute women are rehabilitated and provided occupational therapy.
She was starving and hadn't had a bath in days when she was found. The shelter home also realised that in the many days that she had spent on the road, Geeta had also been raped and abused.
The traumatic episode had also affected her memory.
"Upon arrival, Geeta had no memory of her hometown, name of family members or how did she end up on the street," says Joby Jacob Varghese, Executive trustee at Abayashram.
It would take nearly a decade for Geeta to get back to her family.
She started undergoing medical treatment along with regular visits to the psychiatrist, and was diagnosed with residual schizophrenia.
Gauging by her Tamil accent, Joby and the staff at Abayashram reckoned that she could be hailing from Salem, Dharmapuri or nearby places.
A year later, she was taken to Salem, Dharmapuri and Tiruchirapalli, in the hopes that she'd be able to find her family. But Geeta could hardly recognise any road or landmark that could lead to clues to her hometown.
Eventually, Geeta was provided with occupational therapy, medications, food and a means of livelihood at Abayashram.
Almost as a miracle, nearly eight years and six months of living at the shelter home later, Geeta began to get glimpses of her past life.
"She kept on murmuring the name of 'Khadirkottai' and we tried multiple times to find such a location. Unfortunately, there was no such location on the map. She had also mentioned a movie theatre and a rice factory in her vicinity," recalls Joby, who takes care of the 40+ individuals who now reside in the destitute home.
"She kept saying her only wish was to see her son, and she even ran away once from the house. But luckily, we traced her back and promised to do our best to find her family," he adds.
After a little more searching, a taluk by the name of Gandarvakottai was found with specifications that aligned with the clues given by Geeta.
"In a few days, we took Geeta to Gandarvakottai and she was luckily able to recognise a bridge and a few roads," says Joby.
Around six months earlier, her house was finally Geeta’s located.
Nobody in the area could recognise her as she had changed considerably since the day she left the house.
During the tearful reunion, she finally managed to see her son Dhanaraj who had grown up by now and had enrolled into an engineering college nearby.
Her husband however had moved to Singapore by then and was able to meet her only when he returned in March.
"The husband is trying to get her a visa for Singapore and the permit being processed," says a proud Joby.
Abayashram says it has helped rehabilitated over 400 destitute women and the institution is abound with such stories of tearful reunions. The shelter home looks forward to increase its reach to more women in need.