In 1999, a poor farmer in western Assam’s Kajaikata village, Sabed Ali, agreed to his his brother-in-law’s suggestion that he send his five-year-old daughter with the latter to state capital Guwahati where he would provide her a good education. To Ali, who lived in a village that gets ravaged by floods every year and is bereft of development, the offer made sense. Besides, he was struggling to provide for his six children.
Little did he know that his daughter, Lilima Begum, now 22, would be sold off as domestic help.
Ali did not hear from Lilima or his brother-in-law again. But there was no way for him to trace them while living in a village 285km from Guwahati, near Bilasipara town of Dhubri district. After an endless wait, they presumed her dead and performed her last rites.
After arriving in Guwahati with her uncle, Lilima Begum was handed over to a police officer and his family who made her do household chores. She was not given enough to eat and was often beaten up
Child rights activist Illias Rahman Sarkar clicked a photograph of Lilima on his phone and posted it on Facebook on the evening of April 4, sharing her story… He appealed to his Facebook contacts to share the post and contact him if anybody had any leads.
Within a day, the post had been shared 168 times and he started getting calls. Two days after writing the post, he got a concrete lead. One Abdul Hussain from Bilasipara’s Adhani village called Rahman. He thouhgt he knew Lilima’s family. He told him about Sabed Ali, who was an Imam at the mosque, and had lost a daughter many years ago. Since the girl’s face resembled her siblings’, he had a hunch that Lilima was the Imam’s missing daughter. He gave Rahman the family’s address the next day.
Rahman sent his cousin, who lives in Bilasipara town, to the village. The narrative the family shared about a relative disappearing with their five-year-old girl matched with Lilima’s story. Rahman got the family’s photograph on his phone through his cousin and showed it to Lilima, who was able to identify her father.
“I had been carrying the picture of my father in my mind for the past 18 years in the hope that I would meet him someday if he happened to come to Guwahati. I can’t tell you how I felt when I saw my father in the photo!” said an emotional Lilima.
“I had been carrying the picture of my father in my mind for the past 18 years in the hope that I would meet him someday if he happened to come to Guwahati. I can’t tell you how I felt when I saw my father in the photo!” — Lilima Begum
“When I stepped in my father’s house, I felt like I had a rebirth,” Lilima said, adding that more than a thousand people had arrived at her house. “They had come to see a dead girl arriving out of nowhere after 18 long years. I can’t tell you how it felt, but certainly it felt the best,” she said.
Now, Lilima is catching up on the lost time with her family at her home in Kajaikata. Eventually, she plans to go back to Guwahati and make something of her life.
Examples abound on the internet of people finding long lost family and friends — perhaps the most famous being the example of Saroo Brierley, adopted as a child by a Tasmanian family, finding his birth mother and family in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, using Google Earth. The story was made into a movie The Lion last year.
In an example similar to Lilima’s, in May 2016, the collective effort of a few individuals who circulated the photo of four-year-old Avani Jain who had got lost at Nagpur railway station through WhatsApp and Facebook helped the girl reunite with her parents in less than an hour.
We at FactorDaily wrote the story of Puujita, a 13-year-old girl from north Bengaluru, who was found using Facebook and WhatsApp messages.