Two and a half years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit the headlines for a different reason. He united a Nepali boy, who had left his home to earn a living in India in 1998, with his family in Nepal after 16 years. Now, another Modi -- Nandlal Modi -- a chaiwallah from Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district, has done a similar act by uniting a man with his family in Bihar after more than 14 years.
It was 5am on December 30, when Nandlal opened his tea stall at Mukundgarh and found a middle-aged bearded man shivering in the cold outside. Nandlal offered him a beedi and tea and made him sit near a fire.
“He told me he was Mukhtiar Rai, and from his accent, I figured out that he was from Bihar. He seemed mentally weak. I had a barber shave his beard, took him home and gave him clean clothes,” says Nandlal, who lives alone, as his wife is no more and his two daughters and accountant son are settled elsewhere.
Police had found Rai a night before after someone, suspecting him to be a terrorist, had tipped them off, said Bhanwar Singh, station house officer of Mukundgarh police station.
After interrogating him and finding him harmless and homeless, police left him near Nandlal’s tea stall because of the tea seller’s reputation for helping the poor and needy.
The warmth and comfort of home helped Rai open up. He told Nandlal that he was from Sargati in Bihar’s Chhapra and that he got lost some 8-9 years ago. One day, while talking to a customers at the tea stall, Modi found that he too was from Chhapra and had come to meet his son who worked at the Mukundgarh Mandi.
Nandlal got printed a few posters carrying information about Rai and asked the man to go and put them up in Chhapra.
“He left on the next day of Sakraat (January 14), and five days later a person from Chhapra called me and said Rai was their long lost son,” says Nandlal.
“They begged me to keep Rai with me until they arrived and said they would pay for all the cost incurred in keeping him. They told me to lock him up fearing that he might get lost again. I told them not to worry and that Rai won’t go anywhere,” he adds.
On January 26, four people -- Mukhtiar’s father, brother, brother-in-law and an acquaintance -- arrived at Nandlal’s place. On seeing Mukhtiar, they hugged each other and cried for hours. “Aisa tha ki marte ko amrit mil gaya (It felt like a dying man had found elixir),” he says.
His father told Nandlal that he had got lost in Mathura 14 years ago when the family had gone to visit the Jai Gurudev temple in Mathura. Nandlal came to know from them that Mukhtiar has three daughters, one of whom is now married.
Police in Mukundgarh checked the papers that Mukhtiar’s family had brought as proof, before letting them take him. Mukhtiar and his family reached their village in the afternoon of January 29.