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.