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Reunited with family after 28 years – Udavum Karangal scripts another happy ending

Family welcomes back a brother they hadn’t heard from in almost three decades

It was a tale fit for the silver screen that played out in real life. A man who went missing 28 years ago as a young lad was reunited with his family, who couldn’t believe that the brother they had given up for dead was actually alive! The unkempt-looking man, wearing dirty clothes, came to the notice of Udavum Karangal functionaries when he turned up to collect the free food being distributed to pavement dwellers under the NGO’s Food Sharing Project on March 9. He was found to be mentally unsound, and social workers brought him to the Shantivanam Home at Thiruverkadu, Chennai.

Kumar, when he was brought to Udavum Karangal, with Vidyaakar.

After a bath and shave, some food and clean clothes, the man revealed that his name was Kumar. This seemed to be borne out by a tattoo on his hand, along with another name, ‘Samuthra’. But Kumar was uncooperative and kept trying to escape from the home. He was kept under medical supervision, and his case was entrusted to an expert in reuniting missing persons with their families. The expert gleaned the information that Kumar was from Vellore, but could not trace his relatives there. Then, a chance remark led to establishing contact with the owner of a business named Sun Mobiles in Vaniyambadi – and the man was able to give details of Kumar’s family.

After a bath and shave, some food and clean clothes, Kumar sports a new look.

On hearing the astonishing news that Kumar had been found, his five siblings – two older brothers, two older sisters and a younger one – immediately rushed to the Udavum Karangal home in Chennai.  The family told the Udavum Karangal officials Kumar’s backstory – he had left home at the age of 17 to work in a small hotel in Chintadripet, Chennai, in 1996. His relatives said he had fallen in love with a girl, who may have been called Samuthra, the name tattooed on his hand. They said either the girl cheated on him, or he decided he didn’t like his job. One day, he walked out of the hotel and hadn’t been seen since.

Kumar was reunited with his grateful siblings in the presence of S. Vidyaakar, founder-secretary, Udavum Karangal, and other officials of the NGO. He was given free supply of psychiatric medicines for a month and his family was advised to continue his treatment for at least a year, and to see that he was never left alone at any point. That’s one more success story in Udavum Karangal’s rescue, rehabilitation and reuniting mission.

Editor’s note: Mental health is a pertinent and important issue of our times and affects many, or probably all of us in some way or the other. Yet, it is a subject we’d rather not much talk about. A lot has to be done to raise awareness about mental health issues and to get more and more people to support those in need of mental health care. It is in this context that we highlight such stories, to show how ordinary, poor people are affected and how organisations like Udavum Karangal keep working ceaselessly at the grassroots to try and give succour. We need to talk more about such work and share similar stories.

(Based on a press release from Udavum Karangal)