A 94-year-old grandmother who went missing from her Indian village has been reunited with her grandson after 40 years of living with a surrogate family who took her in.
Panchu Bai, who suffers with memory problems, vanished in 1979 after leaving her home in Maharashtra in western India.
Panchu got stung by a swarm of bees while trying to get back and, injured and confused, wandered on to a national highway.
She was found in a dishevelled condition and with severe bee stings by kindhearted truck driver, Noor Mohammad.
Mr Mohammad brought Panchu back to his family home in a neighbouring district, and took care of her as his own sister.
She was welcomed by his family and received utmost love and care.
Throughout the years, Mr Mohammad’s family tried to find out about Panchu’s past but because of a language barrier they could never understand the exact name of her village.
This was until Esrar Khan, Mr Mohammad’s son, asked her again while he was living at home during the coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Khan said: ‘We asked her several times about her village and all she could say was Khanjum Nagar.
‘We tried to find it out but nobody could help us. But my quest to find her place never ended.
‘Recently, I asked her again and this time she said a different name – Paraspur.
‘When I checked it on Google Maps, Paraspur was shown in Maharashtra.’
On May 7, Mr Khan found the phone number of a local shopkeeper and contacted them to check if the village exists.
He sent a video of Panchu – who he dubbed an aunt – to the shopkeeper.
He also hailed from Panchu’s community and spread the video.
Mr Khan said: ‘I sent him my aunt’s video on May 7, which he shared on a WhatsApp group of the Kirar community.
‘I received a phone call around midnight, saying the woman had been identified and her relatives traced.’
While Panchu’s son died three years ago, her grandson Prithvi Bhaiyalal Shingane, 43, was astounded to see that his missing grandmother was alive.
On June 17, he, along with other relatives he met his grandmother at Mr Mohammad’s village and took her home.
Mr Shingane said: ‘I cannot tell you how happy I am! It feels wonderful to finally have a grandmother. I was just a young boy when she went missing.
‘All these years, my father searched for her. He died without finding her but I am grateful to Khan family, that I could bring her back to her home.
‘I am extremely grateful to the Khan family for looking after grandmother all these years and never failed to find the whereabouts of her family.’