Every family has a story that’s told and retold till it becomes a part of family lore. The character involved becomes a celebrity and attains cult status among junior lot. Our family, and by that I mean my extended family of cousins young and old and their children on my mother’s side, has one such story, which I must say started off on a sombre note, but ended well.
One of my cousins was kidnapped at the tender age of eight.
Those were the staid sixties. Life moved at a much slower pace as did the few motor cars that made occasional forays into the village in our part of the world. Children walked on the errands they ran, just as my cousin was doing that fateful day. Down the road that cut through his village he went, his mind probably full of whatever it was eight year old boys thought those days. One can be certain though that being kidnapped was not one of them
From what he told everyone later it was surmised that a white van stopped next to him. That was all he recalled. The next thing he remembered was waking up in an unfamiliar house surrounded by fields in a totally unfamiliar neighborhood. Surprisingly, as also thankfully, there was no one about in that strange house. The door was open too. Without delay, he got out and ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. Considering that he had been unconscious for a considerable time and had not eaten since he left home, it was quick thinking on his part.
I am a little hazy about the events that happened after that, whether it was at a railway station or on a track nearby that he saw a train standing. Wherever it had been, with the instinct of flight still functioning on well-oiled wheels, he climbed into one of the compartments. Soon the train started. Unfortunately though, the train was headed away from his own village. But he had no way of knowing that. The topmost concern of the child after all was putting as much distance between himself and whoever it was had brought him there.
So the train he got into went north, taking him further away from home. At the very next stop, he got off the rain and went straight to the station master. A boy of eight he might have been, kidnapped, disoriented and away from loved ones, but he knew what had to be done. Talk to a figure of authority and give his details. He went to the Station Master and told him everything. He also gave them details about his home and the names of his people. The good man that the Station Master was, he seated the boy in his office, had some breakfast brought for him, bought him a ticket for home and found someone to accompany him too.
Well, that’s it. He returned home much to the relief of his worried beside themselves family. Theories notwithstanding, no one knows to this day the whys and wherefores behind the kidnapping. Who kidnapped him? Why was he kidnapped? Why was he kept in that house? Whose house was it? Why had there been no one around? At least the last question worked in our favor because my cousin could escape and come back to us unharmed.
When my children first met their uncle, I introduced him as, “This is Uncle So-and-So. Remember the story I told you of how he was kidnapped as a little boy?” Immediately there was a light of recognition in their eyes. It has become THE family tale, eh? my cousin laughed. All the children know me by this story.
What sends chills down the spine is the thought that things could have ended differently. So many children out there, lost and never found. Families just barely surviving on faint hopes of their children being found and returned. The numbers I am told are staggering. At least ours is a story with a happy ending.
Postscript: Dear Brother, in case you read this and find there are discrepancies in the description of the events as it happened, my apologies.
©Shail Mohan 2017