Orphaned at seven, he ran away from home to escape the tyranny of his uncle and was taken care of by an affluent Muslim family in northern India. Now at 20, Rakesh Singh has through Google Earth traced his village near Agra and is fighting to get his property back.
Rakesh, who developed an early fascination for computers, has found his village in Kiraoli, about 22 km from the Taj Mahal city, thanks to his interest in the internet.
"Google Earth helped me locate the village that was faintly in my dreams. I knew the name of the village but did not have any idea where in India it was," Rakesh told IANS.
For the past few weeks, Rakesh has been running from one office to the other to get his house and land back from his uncle. He accuses his uncle of torturing him, beating him, and even trying to get rid of him after his father Jagan Singh's death when he was just seven. His mother was kicked out of the house and died under "mysterious circumstances".
Desperate, little Rakesh ran away. Railway stations became his home. Then one day, a university couple from Delhi spotted him on a train, took pity and asked him to accompany them to their home where they looked after him, educated him and gave him a decent life.
"Every now and then the days of my childhood would wake me up. My village would appear in my dreams. I kept thinking hard about my roots but with no success. All I could remember all these years was Kiraoli. I did my diploma in computers and got involved with this fascinating technology. Then I searched various districts, one by one, on the internet.
"I looked up the maps on Google Earth and finally zeroed on Kiraoli in Agra district. A visit to the village confirmed this was the place of my birth. I found my relatives and my uncle and now I am trying to win back my property," Rakesh said.
Retired professor S.W. Hassan, his foster father, recounting how they got Rakesh, said he and his wife were going to Varanasi from Delhi when they saw a little boy on the train with high fever and crying endlessly. The couple asked him about his whereabouts, which he did not know as he was hardly seven at the time. The boy was brought to Delhi and a First Information Report filed at the police station. In the school records his name is Bilal alias Rakesh.
"I filed an FIR (First Information Report), on June 8, 1996, describing how the boy came with us from a railway station. Rakesh has a copy of it. But no one came to claim the boy, so we brought him up to the best of our ability, got him educated, gave him whatever he wanted. I have a son in America. Our family considered him as a member and there were no differences," Hassan told IANS.
Hassan's wife is also a teacher.
"We are happy and relieved that he has found his home though sad he will be leaving us," Hassan said. "Please do whatever you can to help him get his lost identity and property. I am a kidney patient on dialysis."
Rakesh has all the documents and is even prepared to have a DNA test because his uncle is not accepting him for fear of losing the property. But the villagers are solidly with him.
Tall and well built, Rakesh is also a trainer at a gym. He is keen to settle down among his people and do something for those similarly distressed - making the best use of the technology he loves.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )