After languishing in Pakistani jails for 12 years, Subodh was repatriated to India in 2007. But his true homecoming was on Monday, after five more years of being presumed dead by his family in Akui, a hamlet in West Bengal. Subodh's wife, Pratima Rui Das, met him on Monday at the Amritsar Mental Hospital.
Words were not spoken, nor did they seem necessary. Subodh, who at first could not even remember his name but has improved a tad since he was admitted here, glowed as he saw Pratima. Pratima sat next to him, comforted by the knowledge that her husband had not been perpetually reduced to a name in the missing report register.
Dr BL Goel, director of the hospital, said, "Subodh had come from Pakistan in 2007 along with other prisoners. He was mentally disturbed and, as no one had come to receive him, the administration got him admitted with us. He couldn't even tell his name earlier, but his condition is better now."
His family got to know that he was in Amritsar thanks to some Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. "Recently we met some men from the BSF who understood his dialect and found out that he was from Bardhaman district in West Bengal. We contacted the administration there, and his house was located," narrated Dr Goel.
That was a month ago, when Subodh's family was told that he is alive. "My husband went missing suddenly, for no plausible reason. Most of our family members had given up hope. But I never shed the belief that I will meet my husband again. God has made it possible," said Pratima, who said she was shocked to learn that he was in Pakistan. "I don't know how he ended up there," she said, but now wants to start life afresh with her husband and their three children.
Pappan Mitra, Subodh's nephew who had come with Pratima, said, "We had thought that he died. The family has suffered a lot, but now it feels that all the pain has vanished." Given his condition, Subodh, who was a farmer, has never been able to put together his story. There are at least 13 others like him in the Amritsar hospital. "We are happy that at least one is going home now," said Dr Goel.