The three siblings were separated around 11 or 12 years ago.

Separated by fate reunited by strangers Story of these 3 siblings will fill you with hope
news Hope Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 17:45

The three siblings stood looking at each other, grasping hands and smiling at each other through teary eyes.

Shivshankar, aged about 27, met his younger sisters Kavitha and Sujatha for the first time in more than a decade after being separated by life’s misfortunes and a cruel twist of fate. They met at “Abhaya” short-stay home for women in Athani, Thiruvananthapuram district. Had it not been for the dedication of Abhaya and Child Line staff, they may never have found each other again.

Their joy at being reunited far overpowered their inability to speak a common language. Kavitha and Sujatha were brought up in Kerala and spoke only Malayalam, while Shivashankar, who grew up in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka could only converse in Telugu and Kannada. Throughout the meeting, they smiled and cried in happiness.

The three siblings were separated around 11 or 12 years ago. None of the siblings know some details for certain as they were very young when tragedy first struck their family of six in Masinakapalli village in Ananthapur district. Their father worked as a daily-wage labourer, and their mother looked after the four siblings: Shivashankar, Lakshmi, Kavitha and Sujatha.  

Although the details are hazy, a fire at their house killed their mother and Lakshmi. Their father, who was accused of harassing Lakshmi and setting the fire, fled with the three other children.

According to Sugathakumari, poet and activist who runs the Abhaya home, the father abandoned the three kids in Aluva in Kochi district.

“A beat policeman found them walking on the road. The father had simply run away,” says Sugathakumari, while speaking to The News Minute. The state police took them to a child care home in Aluva.

“I was a teenager then. People at the childcare home asked me if I wanted to stay there or go back to the village to live with my grandmother. I chose to go back and they dropped me to the village,” recalls Shivshankar, who estimates that he is probably 26 or 27 years old.

While their brother made his way back to their native place and grew up there, Kavitha and Sujatha who were around nine and five respectively, found themselves handed over to another home in Aluva. The next year they were shifted again, this time to the Abhaya home in Thiruvananthapuram.

For some years, Shivashankar and his grandmother visited the two girls at the second home in Aluva, but then lost contact. “We knew they had been moved to a second home and we had the address. We somehow lost the address when my grandmother fell sick once.”  

There was no contact between the siblings after that. As years passed, both Kavitha and Sujatha forgot their Telugu roots, became proficient in Malayalam and completed their schooling. Kavitha did not study beyond Class 10. When Kavitha was about to turn 21, the shelter authorities had to make arrangements for her future rehabilitation.

Kavitha then and now

All Kavitha could recollect were the words ‘Kathiri’ and ‘Moollappally’ from her vague memories of a long-forgotten childhood. The shelter home figured out that Kathiri was a village and sent out a request to the Child Line in Ananthapur for help. A photograph of the two girls when they were kids and the latest one too were attached.

“Childline authorities were so enthusiastic and they told us they will try their best. They reached Kathiri village and learnt that Shivshankar no longer lived there,” says Sugathakumari.

Childline worker Niranjan recalls that it was only after a prolonged search in over seven surrounding villages in and around Kathiri that they were able to zero in on the right village – Masinakapalli. Kavitha had got the village name wrong.

Villagers quickly identified the two girls from their childhood photograph, on account of their turbulent past. After putting together the missing links, they were able to trace Shivshankar at Usmana Halli in Bengaluru where he currently resides. 

Shivshankar and his grandmother had made several trips to Kerala over the years, but in vain. “We didn’t know Malayalam. We would just go ask people on the road about the home, no one knew anything,” Shivshankar said. His inability to speak Malayalam did not deter him.

It was just when he had almost lost hope of ever finding his sisters that Abhaya and Childline had started their search for him. On October 4, Shivshankar along with a relative landed at Athani to finally reunite with his sisters.

Sujatha's old photo

“You should have seen their happiness. The brother was standing stunned, he only had a faint memory of his sisters. It was beautiful to watch them. They could not converse with each other, but the language of love is greater than any other formal language,” Sugathakumari said.

The sisters learnt that their father who was later recaptured by the police died in 2005 at the Kadapa Central Jail.

Kavitha left for Bengaluru with Shivshankar and currently lives with him and his wife Renuka, who work as construction labourers.

Sujatha is a Class IX student at the Malayinkeezhu Government High School in Thiruvananthapuram, and is expected to join her siblings after she clears her Class X Board Exams next year.

Abhaya authorities hope that Sujatha who is talented in music and dance is allowed to further pursue her passion under the guidance of experts at Kalamandalam in Thrissur.

As for Shivshankar, he says he and Kavitha still mostly smile at each other. His relatives have advised him to wait for a couple of years and learn to communicate with each other before looking for a match for her.

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