It’s been fifteen years since the three Sri Lankan children saw their mother. Their last memory is of a woman waving them off as they left the Sri Lankan refugee camp in Sevalur. Having grown up in various homes around Chennai, that memory is probably the only reminder that they’re refugees who escaped to India.
All that changed for Dines (23), Dilani (20) and Denis (18) last weekend, when news reached them that social workers in Sri Lanka had found their mother Pushparani. Their story is almost straight out of the script of Mani Ratnam’s film Kannathil Muthamittal, except that the real heroes are social workers and government officials. “Dines was the first child who came to us in 2010,” recalled Isabel Richardson, Executive Secretary of the Madras Christian Council of Social Service (MCCSS). “When he told us his story, we spoke to the home that had custody of his sister Dilani and brought her in a year after,” she added.
According to records created by the officers at the camp in Sevalur, the three children and their parents, Pushparani and Francis Xavier, had arrived there in late 1990 and had stayed there for seven years. “My father was a teacher,” said Dines, who is now pursuing a degree in Mathematics.
After securing some funds to get passports for them to return home to Vavuniya, a district that had been under LTTE control for a while, the father brought the children to Chennai. Unfortunately, he had become weak as they stayed in the station for a few days. “We were really hungry and took some money to buy food and went outside,” said Dines. They never found their way back, nor did they see their father again. As they kept searching for their father outside Chennai Central Railway Station, sleeping on the pavements and begging for food, an auto driver offered them assistance. “He gave them shelter but also sent the two older children to work. Luckily, someone informed the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and they rescued the children and sent them to different homes. When they contacted the refugee camp, they were shocked to find that newspapers had reported that their father had been found dead at the station,” said Isabel. Over the next 13 years, Dines was the thread that kept the family together as they grew up as Indian kids. “He would come once a month and visit us. We would have drifted apart otherwise,” said Dilani, now team leader at a pizzeria.
Faith paid off
During a visit to Sri Lanka, Isabel left the children’s records and photos with an NGO called ADRA. As luck would have it, one of the social workers there remembered being taught by a man named Francis who had three children and so set about tracing the family. “I sent their details in 2010. I was really shocked when I received a call from Sri Lanka that they had found the children’s mother Pushparani,” said Isabel.
Apparently, an overwhelmed Pushparani easily provided details of her children and family and was aching to speak to her lost offspring. The trio can’t rush to their mother, like they want to, because they don’t have passports. But their mother has one and she promises that she will come within a week or two. (Courtesy New India Express)