Geeta, dressed in a red and white salwar kameez, her head covered with a dupatta, smiled as she boarded a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Karachi on Monday morning. In a few hours the 23-year-old will land in Delhi to be re-united with her family after 11 years.
Geeta is hearing and speech impaired. She has lived in Pakistan ever since she accidentally crossed the border as a child. Earlier this month, she identified her father, step-mother and siblings from one of many photographs sent to her by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
Janardhan Mahto from Bihar, the man Geeta identiified as her father, is waiting in Delhi to receive her. “I am very happy and back in the village it is just like Diwali, the atmosphere is festive,” he said.
Mr Mahto has five sons and two daughters. Geeta, he has claimed, is his first born Heera, who was lost in a fair in 2004.
In Karachi, where Geeta has been taken care of by the charitable Edhi Founadtion all these years, she was given an emotional farewell. She is traveling to Delhi with Bilkis Edhi of the foundation, who has been a mother to Geeta since she was found in Pakistan in 2004.
Bilkis Edhi’s grandson Fahad told news agency PTI, “She will be accompanied by me, my father Faisal Edhi, my mother and my grandmother Bilqees Edhi…We are going with her because she recognised the family in the photograph sent to us by the Indian High Commission as her family. But DNA tests will confirm this.”
Fahad Edhi said they had been assured by the Indian government that they could remain in Delhi till the DNA tests were done and that if they were negative, Geeta would be placed in safe custody.
Geeta was reportedly just 11 or 12 years old when the Pakistan Rangers found her sitting alone on the Samjhauta Express from Delhi at the Lahore railway station.
Her story has been compared to the Salman Khan’s blockbuster “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, about a little girl from Pakistan stuck in India. The actor plays Bajrangi, a man who made it his mission to take the girl to her family in Pakistan.
Geeta broke down in tears on watching “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” and yearned for home, something she shared with actor Salman Khan on NDTV. As Geeta’s story gained fresh media attention after the film, the Indian government vowed to bring her back in a movie-style happy ending.