Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction and Manda R Dangde, who recently reunited with her 25-year-old son who went missing several years ago will attest to this fact. A resident of Thane, Manda never imagined that she would find her son at her doorstep, 18 years after he disappeared, bearing a tattoo of her name that she had inscribed on his arm.
Many years ago, a seven-year-old Dangde got lost while returning home from school. “I met a friend who was accompanied by an older boy. They told me they were taking me to a relative’s place. I followed them to Thane railway station and we boarded a long distance train. I didn’t know where we were going. We were hungry and both of them got down to get food. When they did not return, I went in search for them and lost my way. I got into a train that was going towards Mumbai.
Getting down at the last stop, I roamed around the platform, where I survived on the prasad from nearby Ganpati mandals. After a few days, a fisherwoman provided shelter at her house. I accompanied her son to beg and sweep the floors of trains to earn money,” he recalls.
A few days later, while returning home, Dangde met with an accident and was in a coma for four months. Since no one came to visit him at the hospital, he was sent to an orphanage in Worli-Anand Kendra, where he completed his education till Grade 7. “As I excelled in sports, my teachers got me enrolled in Krida Prabodhini in Thane. In 2010 I got through the Thane Police Force’s Constable level admission due to my sports achievements,” says Dangde, who is a commando in the Quick Response Team in the Thane Police force today.
Ganesh’s friends and colleagues played a huge role in reuniting the family. One of them is police inspector P Sonde, who sensed Dangde’s loneliness early on. “Every year, we host a Satyanarayan pooja during the month of Shravan and invite police officials’ family members. We noticed how Ganesh, who was otherwise always enthusiastic, sat gloomily in a corner,” Sonde remembers. “This moved our hearts.
We found out that he vaguely remembered the name of the durgah where he resided as a child. The Mama-bhanja durgah at Wagle Estate is not so well known in Thane. So, we spread word through police stations to find out if there was a police complaint. We discovered this durgah and landed up at Manda’s house. She said her son got lost at a young age and there was a tattoo of her name on his hand. Listening to this, Ganesh showed his tattoo to his teary eyed mother. It was an emotional moment for all of us.”