A Pakistani theatre troupe's recent performance in India had an unintended consequence -- it helped reunite a runaway 13-year-old Pakistani boy with his family after a year.
When the Ajoka Theatre group went to Faridkot in India's Punjab state to perform its famous play 'Bullah' at a 'mela' honouring the Sufi saint Baba Farid on September 21, Indian officials asked its members to help them trace the family of a boy who had been detained after he illegally crossed the border in September last year.
"Deputy Commissioner Ravi Bhagat had invited us to perform our play in Faridkot, which is named after Baba Farid. Sessions Judge Archana Puri and Bhagat told me about this Pakistani boy who had crossed the border and sought our help in finding his family," Madiha Gauhar, creative director of Ajoka, told PTI.
"I met the boy, Kashif Ali, and spoke to him to find out about his family. After returning to Pakistan, we traced his widowed mother in Depalpur in Okara district of Punjab. She broke down and wept when we got her to speak to Kashif on phone," she said.
A video of Kashif, filmed by members of Ajoka Theatre, was beamed by a TV news channel on Tuesday.
Police officials, who had been looking for Kashif, saw the footage and contacted the boy's family.
Kashif's mother Kulsoom Bibi then got in touch with Gauhar to find out about her son. Kulsoom Bibi had enrolled Kashif in a madrassa in Lahore after his father died some years ago.
Kashif, the youngest of six siblings, did not like living in the seminary and made several attempts to run away.
While returning to the madrassa after a holiday at home last September, Kashif finally ran away and illegally crossed the border to enter India.
While Kashif has not said why he decided to go to India, one of his brothers told Gauhar his decision may have been influenced by the fact that he is a fan of Bollywood star Ajay Devgn.
"He really didn't like staying in the madrassa and living away from his family. His mother had no other option but to put him in the madrassa as she has to singlehandedly bring up his two brothers and three sisters," Gauhar said.
Gauhar said Kashif's case had been brought to the notice of India's External Affairs Ministry and the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi so that officials can verify his identity and repatriate him to Pakistan.
Kashif is currently in a juvenile home in Faridkot.
"This isn't the story of a Pakistani held in India. It is the story of three mothers -- Kulsoom Bibi, Archana Puri, who has a son of Kashif's age and I also have a son of the same age," said Gauhar, who often visits India with her group to perform at theatre festivals