Monday, March 19, 2007

Lost for 25 years after catching wrong bus

A THAI woman who was lost for 25 years after catching the wrong bus home was finally reunited with her family thanks to simple song. The last time Jaeyaena Beuraheng saw her seven children was in 1982 when she left the southern Thailand province of Narathiwat on one of her regular shopping trips across the nearby border with Malaysia. She disappeared, and police later told her family that she had apparently been killed in a traffic accident.

In fact, Jaeyaena had simply taken the wrong bus home - an error that would have been easy to fix except that she only speaks the local dialect of Malay known as Yawi, according to officials at the homeless shelter where the 76-year-old has lived for two decades. On her way back from Malaysia, she mistakenly hopped on a bus to Bangkok, some 1150km north of her home in Narathiwat province. Unable to read Thai and speaking a language few Thais can understand, she again took a wrong bus, this time to Chiang Mai, another 700km further north. There she ended up as a beggar for five years, until she was finally sent to a homeless shelter in the central Thai province of Phitsanulok in 1987.

An official at the shelter said she was known as "Auntie Mon" because her speech sounded similar to the language of ethnic Mon living along the border with Burma. But still no one could understand her, until last week when three health students from Narathiwat arrived on an exchange program to research the problem of homelessness at the shelter. She sang a song for the visitors, one that the staff at the shelter had often heard but never understood.

"She sang her same old song, one that nobody could understand until those three students from Narathiwat told us that she was singing in Yawi, a Malay dialect," the official said. "So we asked them to talk to her and find out if she had relatives." Jaeyaena told the students that she had a Malaysian husband and seven children, recounting her entire story of the bus and how she had become lost in northern Thailand.

Her shocked family sent her youngest son and her eldest daughter to meet her and bring her home on Tuesday, the official said. "She remembered all of her children's names. But at first she couldn't recognise her youngest son, but she recognised her eldest daughter," said the official, who was at their reunion. Her children have taken her back to their family home in Dusongyo village, in a remote corner of Narathiwat. The village chief said she had arrived home yesterday, some 25 years after she left to go shopping.

Someone drew my attention to this story on an online forum and this blog was the source. I also found a news source for the story. It really is a fascinating story. Gabriel Garcia Marquez would have loved re telling it to us. But if the hindi film guys pick this story, imagine the elements that would go into making it worthy for our melodrama hungry audiences. As for me, I like it just the way it is. Bare of any human machinations, just a rather innocuous unfortunate event, turning a few lives upside down. A world of contrasts in this global age when familiarity is the norm rather than an exception.


svety said...

yaadon ki baaraat nikli hai....

Abhigyan said...

Quite neat eh..And did you hear about that US skiier - some Toby - who apparently was split from his Korean parents, and then adopted by a US skking couple...
His bilogical dad found him familar when he was him winning a medal, and DNA tests confirmed that he was that long-lost son...

Satyabrat Sinha said...

Yes, Svety, the song and lost/found formula are Hindi Film copyrights and Yadoon Ki Baraat is a good example. But I like the story just the way it is and my mention of Hindi films was just to drive home the point that they would add elements of revenge and love to this whole issue.

I mentioned Marquez because this is the kind of writing he excels at. There are two books which are so similar to this story that I am tempted to get in touch with him and send him the link. The first book is titled The Story of the Shipwreacked Sailor, in which a ship lost all its men in a storm in the Carribeans but one sailor made it back to land after 10-12 days at sea. The story made big news in Colombia and Marquez's book delves into the facts and the fiction's that the sailor's story might have entailed. The mention of this episode in his autobiography Living to Tell the Tale is quiet engrossing.

The second book is Chronicle of a Death Foretold, where in he deals in journalist fashion with a person's assasination. I cannot remember for sure if this story was fact or fiction.

The third book is News of Kidnapping, where in Marquez recreates the kidnapping of a group of people by the Colombia Communists or the drug guys, I cant remember for sure.

Abhigyan, I am not aware of the story you mentioned. But there was this other story from Malaysia which was exciting. I will paste the link and the text here. Read it and I think that deserves a post by itself, let see if I can resist the temptation.

Chance meeting solves baby mix-up
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

A Malaysian Chinese couple are considering taking legal action against a hospital for sending them home with the wrong baby nearly 30 years ago.

The couple, who had always suspected a mix-up, were reunited with their biological son after a chance meeting in a shopping centre.

But the family may now face a battle with Malaysia's religious authorities.

As well as taking a Chinese name, the son wants to renounce Islam - something which is very difficult in Malaysia.

Teo Ma Leong had always suspected his fifth child was not his own.

The young boy's dark features led neighbours to whisper that he was the result of an affair.

Meanwhile, Mr Teo's biological son had always suspected he was not really the child of the Malay Muslim couple who took him home from a hospital in Batu Pahat in southern Malaysia in 1978.

So Zulhaidi Omar left home at 13 because he felt he did not belong.

Supermarket spot

Then eight years ago one of his sisters spotted him working in a shopping centre.

Convinced he was the spitting image of their father, she brought the rest of her family along.

After staring at one another for a while they found the courage to speak and the truth emerged.

DNA tests subsequently proved that the two men were father and son.

Now the family has gone public with their story because Zulhaidi wishes to take a Chinese name and renounce Islam.

That is very difficult in Malaysia, where the Islamic authorities regard abandoning the faith as a grievous sin.

However the Malaysian government has started to encourage a more pragmatic approach from its religious departments, so the Teo family may yet be reunited in name as well as deed.

Abhigyan said...

Stunning..And that Toby guy had a very similar story..without the non-feeling element..and reunited via worldwide televison...