NPR correspondent Lauren Frayer stumbled upon a heart-wrenching account that would lead her to embark on a quest to reunite a brother-sister duo who were tragically separated in the Partition of 1947.
Once the segregation of India and Pakistan was announced, hundreds of happy families were ripped apart against the backdrop of violence, riots and communal clashes. Since then, many stories have emerged of how the Partition continues to affect people, even years later. Sometimes, these stories turn out to have happy endings, and we hope this story ends as such.
Modern-day Pakistan’s Sharifa Bibi lost her seven-year-old brother amidst the chaos of the separation movement. Decades ago he was last spotted sleeping at a railway station and eventually adopted by an Indian family who changed his name. Today, years later, Sharifa Bibi is still looking for her brother.
Read the full story here:
This is Sharifa Bibi in Burewala, Pakistan. In 1947, she lost her brother Mohammed Tufail in the turmoil of Partition. He was 7. He was spotted sleeping at a rail station & eventually adopted by a family in India. 75 years later, @NPR is trying to find him. Can u help? 1/ pic.twitter.com/COlEUU2Utk— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
In 1947, in the chaos of Partition, families were ripped apart. Mohammed Tufail’s parents & sisters ended up in the new nation of Pakistan. But their 7-yr-old son ended up in India — alone. He was adopted by a wealthy childless Hindu couple, and moved to Delhi. 2/— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
Mohammed’s adoptive family changed to his name to Arjun, or maybe Ranjit. Their surname may have been Singh. They lived in a bungalow near Indira Gandhi’s house. The boy loved horses. He grew up & became a veterinarian at the Delhi Race Club. He used to get off work at 2pm. 3/ pic.twitter.com/ur6C4y4sk1— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
Later, he lived in Chandni Chowk. A dhaba called Pehlewan was his favorite. He was a regular. We know this, because sometime in the early 1990s, Mohammed/Arjun went back to Pakistan to try to find his sisters. But in a tragic case of crossed paths, they missed each other. 4/— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
When Mohammed/Arjun arrived in Pakistan, he was clean-shaven. He wore a shalwar kameez & had a distinctive mark on the side of his head. He told locals he’d snuck across the border from India, with help from a smuggler in the Punjabi town of Kasur. 5/— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
Rumors spread thru Pakistani villages, that a man from India was here, looking for his birth family. But Sharifa was traveling. By the time she got home, the mysterious stranger — her brother? — had left. This was the early 1990s. No cell phones & very few landlines. 6/— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
So Mohammed/Arjun had no phone number to leave behind. Only the info above. I work at the Delhi Race Club. I get off work at 2pm. Come find me — someday, somehow. That was 30 years ago. He would be 82 now. 7/— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
This story struck a chord with a lot of people & the journey to finding Mohammed Tufail is in full swing:
My colleagues @diaahadid & Abdul Sattar interviewed Sharifa in Burewala, and shared the video w/her permission. @Raksha_Kumar & I are searching for Mohammed/Arjun in India. Everyone we tell about this wants to help. So many families have similar stories. 8/12— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
The president of Delhi Race Club, Mr. Sudheer Uppal, was so inspired — his own parents were born in Pakistan — that he called all his veteran staff, and let @NPR sort thru decades of yellowed personnel records. The name rings a bell, 1 or 2 ppl said. But nothing on file. 9/— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
Sympathetic Delhi police said they’d give us access to records of all Indians who got visas to Pakistan in the 1990s. But Mohammed/Arjun said he crossed with a smuggler. Records from that era aren’t digital. And Singh is a very common name. We don’t have a passport #. 10/12— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
This week, we went to a Pehlewan dhaba in Chandni Chowk, looking for anyone who might remember an Arjun Singh. But all the staff are new. And it turns out there are 15 Pehlewan dhabas in Chandni Chowk alone! Like Singh, it’s a very common name. 11/12 pic.twitter.com/DfsH7ZIXa5— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
So this 🧵 is my Hail Mary pass. Our info is incomplete. Some details may be wrong – faded or lost by memory, time & translation. But if anyone knows a Mohammed Tufail/Arjun Singh — or his spouse, or children, or grandchildren — please tell them Sharifa Bibi is waiting❤️12/12— Lauren Frayer (@lfrayer) May 23, 2022
The Partition of India was almost 75 years ago, but its tragic remnants continue to spill on to this date.