Finding a father: A real life detective story

Chennai, July 17 (IANS) There were tears in everyone’s eyes, including hardened crime investigators, when a deaf and dumb father made noises on a telephone that his daughter in the Gulf recognised even after 24 long years of separation.

The case of 32-year-old Nazeema from Tamil Nadu, now living in Saudi Arabia, is what one would call a typical case of child trafficking.

Nazeema’s mother died when she was born. Her grandmother raised her and her two elder siblings while her deaf and dumb father worked part time to support the family. He often carried her piggyback to school.

But in 1984, Nazeema was picked up by some women relatives and sold to a couple in Chennai, to work in their house as a maid.

The husband and wife were both police personnel and cruel. Nazeema ran away after two years and was on Chennai’s streets soon.

Luckily for Nazeema, a Mysore Brahmin family found her. They raised her as one of their own, educated her and married her to a young entrepreneur from her own community.

Nazeema soon went away to Saudi Arabia with her husband Sayad. But she was haunted by memories of her loving father, sisters and the home she once lived in with her grandmother.

R. Vardharaj, who runs the detective agency that helped reunite Nazeema and her father, said: ‘It was when she was giving birth to her first child, she said that she first acutely felt the need for her parents to be near her.’

Nazeema’s tears made Sayad contact the Chennai police and Vardharaj’s detective agency.

Vardharaj said it was very difficult to trace Nazeema’s roots. She remembered that the place she had lived in was Anna Nagar and her elder sister worked in a handloom unit.

For 10 days, Vardharaj and his men looked for a person called Ibrahim Sherrif, Nazeema’s deaf and dumb father, in Kancheepuram — the textile hub of Tamil Nadu. It was a Herculean task that ended with no leads.

‘I then started looking for the police couple in Chennai. Nazeema recalled the man’s name. I contacted around 50 police stations in and around Chennai to find out if anyone knew of a constable whose wife was also in the police force.

‘Finally, in one police station we got information that there was a sub-inspector of such a description who had retired a few years ago. His wife was still in the force,’ Vardharaja said.

‘We were told that they lived in Royapetah area of Chennai. It was a very delicate operation. One cannot barge into a man’s house and accuse him of mistreating a maidservant 24 years ago.

‘We questioned the grocery shops on every street in the area until we found the shop from where they bought grocery and the street where they lived,’ he said.

Nazeema’s former employer said his dead sister-in-law had found them the maid.

He remembered that there were two other women with his sister-in-law when she had brought Nazeema and one of the women had a son. The detective agency found the son.

Through him they traced an 80-year-old woman who was Nazeema’s relative. She finally admitted to having sold Nazeema to the couple.

The agency then traced her father Ibrahim Sherrif, who works in a teashop in Arcot, 150 km north of Chennai. Vardharaj telephoned Nazeema June 20 to tell her that her father had been found.

By mid-August Nazeema is expected to be in India, with her children, to meet her father.

‘Sherrif is so poor and handicapped, no one would own him easily. It is amazing to see his daughter happy to find him and wanting to look after him, 24 years after being lost and separated from him,’ said Vradharaj.

According to a 2006 study conducted by the NGO Shakti Vahini, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are the states from where the maximum numbers of people are trafficked.

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