Sometimes it can take 11 years to cover a distance of 100 metres. At least that appears to be the crux of an astounding tale from Kerala involving a missing woman.
On June 7, 2021, truck driver Alinchuvattil Basheer spotted his brother Alinchuvattil Rahman riding a motorcycle in Nenmara town, around 30 kilometres from Palakkad. Rahman’s family hadn’t seen him since March 10, so Basheer followed him. He also decided to inform the authorities. Police nabbed Rahman, a house painter, who took them to his rented residence at a nearby locality called Vithanassery. There the authorities found a woman, who said she was the 35-year-old’s wife. On questioning her, they learnt that she was Sajitha, who had been missing for 11 years from the same police station limits. Officials were, however, suspicious of Rahman’s story that Sajitha lived with him in his room for more than a decade, barely 100 metres away from her family’s home. Even Rahman’s parents living in the same residence with him were clueless.
The disappearing act
Velayudhan and Santha of Ariyalur town, near Nenmara, had three daughters. They lived close to the Nenmara-Thrissur main road. One day, in February 2010, Sajitha, their middle child, allegedly went to a relative’s house and did not return. A complaint was filed but the police could not trace her. The family, eventually, gave up hope of ever finding her. The village too had almost forgotten her. “Many thought she had eloped with someone to Tamil Nadu,” said a police officer.
However, according to Rahman and Sajitha, she was hiding in the room, about a hundred metres away, while the police were searching all over. She was inside a small house consisting of three rooms and a kitchen. The tile-roofed dwelling, with its only toilet and bathroom outside, belonged to the couple Alinchuvattil Muhammad Ghani and Aathikka, who were daily wagers. They had four children, including Basheer and Rahman. One of their daughters had been married off and the other, who had a chronic illness, was staying in the house.
“It’s a cock and bull story. You are free to believe his words. We don’t buy this. He was tricking us all these years and now we are in disrepute, ” Muhammad Ghani and Aathikka told News18 about Rahman’s claims.
“Their story sounds unusual, but we took the couple to Rahman’s house and they told us how Sajitha had lived secretly in a single room for all these years. Nobody knew about the affair,” said Nenmara police station house officer Deepa Kumar A. According to the officer, the girl was not a minor when she went missing.
The neighbours were in a romantic relationship for over two years. “One day she told me she can’t stay at her home anymore. I asked her to come with me. I thought we would go and live somewhere else after a couple of days as I was expecting some money. But it got delayed. When I got it, my family took it away. So, we were held up at the house. I never thought it would last like this,” said Rahman.
After Sajitha went missing, police had quizzed Rahman also, said her father. “We had given his name in the list of suspects. However, the investigation on that line didn’t yield much as he did not go anywhere,” he told News18. The family is happy to have found its long-lost daughter.
The mystery room
According to Rahman, he has always lived his own life and never socialised much.
“He had a separate room, kept it locked, and never let anyone in. Our parents rarely bothered with him, as he was hot-tempered. Sometimes he behaved like a deranged person; he would turn violent if someone tried to get into his room. He would even take his food in there to eat,” said his brother Basheer, who lives separately.
An expert in electrical works, Rahman warned the family that they would get a shock if they touched the wires outside the room or tried to enter it. One or two family members tested this and it proved to be true.
The room was locked whenever Rahman left the house. Arrangements were made to open the room door from the inside.
According to Sajitha, she used a plastic bag to answer nature’s call during the day and would even dry her washed clothes inside the room. “I watched a small TV, using earphones. My husband shared his food with me. I had paracetamol for fever; never had any major health problems,” she said.
Recently, the family started looking for a bride for Rahman. “He didn’t object. But he kept evading the issue,” said Basheer.
The neighbours always considered Rahman an introvert and they suspected that he had mental health issues. “What we understand is that he had removed a few bars from his room’s window. There was no attached toilet and so Sajitha would go out through the window at night, or when the parents were away,” said Pushpakaran, a member of the Ayalur panchayat and a neighbour. Many though are asking a question: how can a couple live in a small room without even a silly dispute for 11 years?
When the police produced the couple in court, Rahman told the judge that he was afraid of his family objecting to Sajitha. The court allowed them to live together after Sajitha said she wanted to be with Rahman.
(With inputs from Prasad Udumbissery in Nenmara)