One summer afternoon, 38 years ago, Ng Chhaidy got lost in the forests adjoining Theiza village in southern Mizoram’s Saiha district bordering Myanmar.
She was reunited with her family this Thursday. At the time of her disappearance, Chhaidy was four years old. She and her cousin Beirakhu had wandered into the forest while playing. Five days later, villagers located the boy but Chhaidy was given up for dead, especially since the forest — extending miles into Myanmar — was believed to be haunted. “We had given up all hope of ever seeing her alive,” says Chhaidy’s father, Ng Chhailo.
Then last month, a woman from Aru village across the border in Myanmar visited an acquaintance at the district headquarters in Saiha, where she happened to meet Chhailo.
Both India and Myanmar allow border residents to visit each other — they belong to the same ethnic groups —up to a distance of 16km from the international border.
The Myanmarese woman was struck by the resemblance Chhailo bore to a “mysterious jungle girl” she had taken into her care three years ago. The nameless woman had apparently emerged from the forests one fine day. She had little clothing on her, sported long uncombed hair, had wild mannerisms and was incomprehensible.
Upon hearing this, Chhailo went to see the mystery woman, whom he eventually identified as his long-lost daughter from her birthmark.
On Thursday, Chhaidy returned home to a rousing welcome.
Saiha deputy commissioner Alok Swarup, who facilitated Chhaidy’s return, said, “It is remarkable how she survived all these years amid feral animals.”