All Mohammed Boota (76) wants is his son back at home in Lahore, Pakistan.
His son, Mohammed Saghir (40), had left home five years ago for India. He wanted to follow the footsteps of his idol Shahrukh Khan and become a Bollywood actor.
Ten days ago, his mother Bano died of blood cancer waiting to know where he was.
Boota had to write to Hindustan Times last Wednesday for help to find out the whereabouts of his son. All he knew was that Saghir was lodged in an Indian jail.
Saghir is now Case Number 82 in Delhi's Tihar Jail.
He had left for India via Attari-Wagah border on May 14, 2004. Five months later, Delhi Police arrested him on charges of spying for Pakistan's ISI (Inter Services Intelligence Directorate) and carrying forged identity documents.
After two years, a Delhi court awarded him a seven-year jail term — beginning November 2004 — at Tihar Jail.
In an email to HT, Boota wrote that he had even submitted an application to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad urging the Indian authorities to “pardon” his “innocent” son and deport him to Pakistan. “The Indian embassy never replied,” wrote Boota.
HT found out Saghir's details and the news about his mother's death was communicated to him on Friday.
A source in the jail, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, described the moment in these words:
He covered his face with his hands. He was sporting stubble and ponytail, and he was wearing a black bandana. The black and white striped t-shirt he wore had the logo of Tetrapak, a Pakistani dairy products manufacturing company, on it.
After a few minutes, an inconsolable Saghir looked up, his eyes bloodshot, and asked: “Was it cancer, finally?”
Saghir, said the source, speaks Hindustani (a mix of Hindi and Urdu) and English fluently with a slight accent. “He has never been punished for any indiscipline,” the source said, adding he works as a stenographer (for jail officials) and is learning the work of a carpenter.
The source said Saghir also borrows clothes from his friends sometimes. “He misses his father, daughters Maryam (9) and Maham (7), and son Zahid (5) and misses home food, chowmein and chilly chicken, his watan (country) and family and friends,” the source said.
On the pages of his conviction papers, which were accessed by HT, Saghir is a wily spy who had carried contact details of army officers, sensitive maps, and even a sophisticated Sony camera. Saghir's defense, according to these papers, was that it was his international call to his father in October 2004 — in which he had asked for Rs. 45, 000 to enroll at a Noida film training institute — that was intercepted and led to his arrest and alleged "frame-up".
He came to Delhi, because he could not get a visa for “Mumbai”.
“I can take care of his children, but cannot give them the father's love. I have had two heart attacks waiting for Saghir, I will not survive the next,” Boota wrote to HT.