When the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of Hassan rescued a teenage girl from an estate owner's house in Sakleshpur two weeks ago, they never imagined the happy turn it would take.
On Tuesday, 13-year-old Aadhya* was reunited with her brother, her only family from whom she was separated from nearly a decade ago.
Around 15 days ago, members of the CWC rescued Aadhya, who was working as a domestic help, after receiving a tip from Childline.
She told her counsellors that her mother had died when both her brother Gopi* and she were very young. Their father remarried but he too passed away within a couple of months and the two children were left in the care of their step mother. One day, she took them to a temple in the village and left them on the steps, never to return.
Scared and hungry, the children started to cry alarming the villagers. A teacher from the village offered to raise the boy whereas a woman said she'd take care of the girl.
The sibling's destinies turned out to be starkly different.
The boy was accepted by the teacher's family as one of their own. He grew up in a loving family and today is a class 10 student.
The girl was sold, allegedly by the woman who took her, and ended up as a domestic worker. It is from here that Aadhya was rescued earlier this month.
Geetha V, a CWC member who counselled Aadhya, asked her questions about her childhood and realised that the teen could recollect certain aspects from her former life.
"She could not remember the name of her village, but she remembered her house and school and the village temple. She remembered the name of her brother as well," Geetha says.
On further questioning, the counsellors made a calculated guesses that the place she was referring to could be Shanthigrama in Hassan taluk, or at least near it. Childline staff along with two officers from the District Child Protection unit took Aadhya were able to trace her village.
"Their house was not there anymore. But when the officers were asking around for information, one very old man remembered the children and directed them to the house where her brother now lives," Geetha narrates.
The teacher had passed away some years ago, but old photographs of Gopi obtained from the family helped the officers confirm that he was Aadhya's brother.
Gopi was not home at the time and a meeting was fixed for January 16 at the CWC office in Hassan.
"They were so happy. They hugged each other. They wept. Everyone's eyes were filled with tears," Geetha says.
According to her, Gopi even said that he wanted to start working so that he could take care of his sister.
Currently, Aadhya is living at a CWC home where she will be taught skills that will help her get a job. The CWC is also looking for a foster home that will be willing to bring up both the children together.
Meanwhile, authorities are looking for the woman who is suspected to have sold Aadhya.
"When they met, the sister asked her brother, 'Anna why did you leave me with that woman?', and the brother replied, 'I will not leave you anymore. I will take care of you'. He also said he would come and meet her. It was the happiest day for all of us," Geetha says.