They say that every cloud has a silver lining.
And the story of Galiman, a speech and hearing-impaired girl from Assam, would seem to bear that out.
Now a young woman, she was separated from her family after accidentally boarding the wrong bus in India’s crowded capital when she was 15 years old.
Today, after 12 long years apart, she and her brother Jalil Ahmad can hold each at last thanks to the help and generosity of a Delhi police officer.
The saga began after the death of Galiman’s father, when her mother and brother decided to move to Delhi. Initially, they stayed near Nizamuddin in the south of the city.
Jalil found work in a plastic factory in Khanpur, and rented a place nearby with the intention of moving his family there.
Hoping they would join him quickly, the young man asked his mother and sister to board the number 419 or 423 bus to Khanpur.
But somehow, instead of boarding a bus to Khanpur, Galiman got on a coach going to Daryaganj, in north Delhi.
That was on November 16, 2000. Galiman was unable to communicate where she wanted to go, and her frantic family were unable to locate her.
Though her mother tragically died without seeing her daughter again, Jalil kept faith that one day he would track her down.
“We failed to trace her whereabouts.” he said. “We kept searching for her, but in vain. After a few years my mother passed away, unable to bear my sister’s loss. But I stayed in Delhi, hoping that some day I would find her.”
Meanwhile, Galiman had been found wandering around Rajghat by policemen in a PCR van. Concerned, they took her to Nari Niketan, a home for girls near the notorious Tihar Jail.
The task of tracking down Galiman’s family was handed to Nirpal Singh, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) at Kamla Market.
Moved by the girl’s plight, Nirpal became her guardian angel. “I have handled many cases of lost girls and women. But this girl’s condition shook my conscience,” Nirpal said.
First, he took out advertisements in newspapers, then put posters featuring Galiman’s details and photo all over walls and pillars.
In January 2013, a villager from Assam who knew Galiman’s family saw her and informed Jalil.
He also told Nirpal, and the police officer went to meet Jalil. Wary of raising false hope, Nirpal asked Jalil to undergo a DNA test – which proved the lost girl was indeed his sister.
“The DNA test came back positive and I breathed a sigh of relief,” Nirpal said.
His duty done, the officer completed the formalities and Galiman returned to her brother on January 8 this year.
Perhaps their smiles say it all.