Pooja Gaud, 16, is finally allowed to lay her head on her mother’s lap after nine arduous years.
Pooja, who was seven years old at the time, vanished on January 22, 2013. She claims a couple tempted her with an ice cream and picked her up from outside her school in Mumbai, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
She was discovered on August 4 in what is being referred to as “a miracle escape.” Poonam Gaud, her mother, exclaims that she is ecstatic.
“I had given up trying to locate my daughter. However, I have been blessed by the gods “she claims.
According to the police, Harry D’Souza and his wife Soni D’Souza abducted the youngster because they didn’t have any children of their own. They have Mr. D’Souza in custody.
Pooja previously resided in a tiny home in a suburban slum neighborhood with her two brothers, parents, and other family members.
She had departed for school that day with her older brother, but after the two had a quarrel, he went into the school and left her behind because he was running late. The duo allegedly grabbed her at that point after promising to buy her an ice cream.
Pooja claims that the pair threatened to injure her if she screamed or attracted attention to herself. They first took her to Goa and subsequently to Karnataka, states in western and southern India.
She claims that after a brief period of being permitted to go to school, she was expelled and the family moved to Mumbai after the couple had their own child.
After the kid was delivered, according to Pooja, the abuse worsened.
“They would kick, punch, and beat me with a belt. They once beat me so hard with a rolling pin that my back started to bleed. I was also required to perform household duties and work 12- to 24-hour shifts outside.”
Although D’Souza’s residence was not far from her family’s, she claims that because she didn’t know the local roads, was always being monitored, and had neither money nor a phone, she was unable to ask for assistance or attempt to return home.
However, Pooja once managed to access the couple’s mobile device while they were dozing off and entered her name onto YouTube. She discovered call-to-action numbers, videos, and banners referencing her captivity.
That’s when I made the decision to get aid and leave, she claims.
However, it took her seven months to get up the nerve to speak with Pramila Devendra, 35, a domestic helper who was employed at the same home where Pooja was a babysitter, about it.
Ms. Devendra agreed right away to assist her. They were able to reach Rafiq, Pooja’s mother’s neighbor, by calling one of the numbers on the missing poster. After speaking on a video conversation, the mother and daughter set up a meeting.
Her mother claims that when she looked for a birthmark on her daughter that only she knew about, she was overtaken with emotion. “My reservations were instantly dispelled. I was certain I’d located my daughter “she claims.
Ms. Devendra is pleased to have contributed to this reunion. “Every mother should assist a child who seeks assistance from her. Despite the fact that we are not their biological mothers, we are nonetheless mothers “she claims.
Pooja, a few family members, and Ms. Devendra went to the police station to file a complaint after the meeting. “The police heard everything I said. I even revealed to them the residence of my captors “She spoke. As a result, the accused was located and taken into custody.
According to BBC Marathi’s Milind Kurde, senior inspector at Mumbai’s DN Nagar police station, complaints have been filed against the accused for kidnapping, using threats, using physical force, and violating child labor rules.
Her mother is attempting to make up for the time she hasn’t spent with her daughter by preparing her favorite meals and combing her hair. The two make an effort to spend as much time as they can together, but life is difficult for them right now.
The family’s main earner, Pooja’s father, passed away from cancer four months ago. So, in order to support herself and her three children, her mother accepted his position as a snack vendor at a train station. However, the pay is low, and she is having trouble making ends meet.
“I now have to pay legal fees as well. Because of our financial situation, if I miss a day of work, we won’t have enough money to eat the next day.”
Pooja is still recovering from her ordeal. She had nightmares and laments the fact that she won’t ever see her father again. She spends the most of her time at home or is accompanied by a family member when she leaves for safety reasons.
“I want to provide financial support for my mother, but I’m not allowed to. I want to learn as well “she claims.
The mother claims she is content despite these issues. “Although my work is tough, whenever I see Pooja, I regain my strength. I’m really thrilled that she’s back “she claims.