Two brothers unite after 11 years, thanks to Facebook
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While Santosh is a BCom student in Modern College, Ankush had run away from home when he was 13. On July 21, Santosh was getting to bed after being chided by mother for constantly being on Facebook. But at 1 am his cellphone beeped. There was a message in Marathi on his FB profile.
"I am your brother. Call me," it read. He did and it was Ankush. "When I saw his picture on FB, I didn't recognise him as he had a pagdi (turban) and beard. He looked like a sardar. I woke up my mother and asked him if she recognised the person. She confirmed that it was Ankush," said Santosh.
Their mother Hemlata Domale recognised from the cut mark on his eyebrow and cheek. "How can a mother not recognise her first born?"
Ankush was 11 and Santosh nine when their father died. "I took my dad's death very badly. I used to roam about with my friends and stayed away from home as long as possible," Ankush said.
When he was 13, he took his uncle's bike but rammed it into another vehicle. The bike was damaged. "When I went back, my uncle beat me and complained to my mother. She too scolded and beat me. In a fit of rage, my mother threw a Rs 50 note and asked me to leave the house. I did," said Ankush.
With the Rs 50, he ate vada pav. "A Sikh truck driver, who was transporting goods from Mumbai to Nanded, came and I told him my story. He offered to take me along with him," he said. Ankush declined the offer to join his home in Punjab. "So he dropped me at a gurdwara in Nanded," Ankush said.
At the gurdwara langar, Ankush started doing seva and came close to the Sikh baba who looked after the place. "In six months, I learnt all my work. In 2013, another baba, Major Singh from a Ludhiana-based gurdwara, came and saw me working."
Impressed by his work, the baba took him to Ludhiana. "I changed my name to Gurubaj Singh and became a Sikh," he said. Ankush used to transport wheat donated by people back to the gurdwara. The baba taught him driving and also helped him get a licence.
But on July 21 night, he had a fight with a fellow worker. "I was reminded of Santosh with whom I always used to fight. I looked him up on FB and found him. I messaged my number and he called," he said. The brothers talked for two hours.
"The baba booked my ticket for Jhelum Express and I reached Pune station on July 28," Ankush said. Hemlata said the family had stopped looking for him two years after he left home. "But I always knew he was safe," she said. Ankush now plans to settle in Pune. "My brother has a stationery shop. I will join him. I won't convert back to my religion. "