Missing since 2003, London resident searches for mother in south Mumbai

Tabassum Barnagarwala
The photograph that Farzanabanoo sent to Imran in 1998. (Express Photo)

IN 1998, to Imran Shaikh’s surprise, his mother, who he thought was no more, wrote him a letter from Mumbai and sent her photograph in a pink salwar-kameez. A teenager then, Imran says that was the last time she got in touch with him. Years later, in 2018, when he looked up his mother’s family, Imran, now 44, came to know that though she was possibly still alive, she had been missing since 2003.

Imran, a UK citizen based in London, has now renewed efforts to locate Farzanabanoo Kapadia (68). He believes Farzanabanoo is living on alms somewhere in south Mumbai for the last 16 years. In 2003, when she ran away from her maternal home at Chaiwala Building in Pydhonie, she was on psychiatric treatment.

Earlier this month, Imran visited Mumbai for 10 days to look for his mother. With the photograph in hand, he visited multiple shops and restaurants in the neighbourhood where she lived. Finally in Shalimar Hotel, a waiter suspected that the woman in the picture resembled one who had visited the hotel a few weeks ago, begging for food. On Wednesday, Shaikh wrote an email to Pydhonie police seeking to lodge a missing person’s complaint.

“When my parents divorced in London in the 1980s, I was eight years old. My father got the custody of me and my sister. My mother went on to live with an aunt briefly before moving back to India,” Shaikh said, adding that he could not stay in touch with his mother. “A case was being heard in court. As children, we were not allowed to reach out to her,” he claimed.

Imran maintained that in the early 1990s, he was told by his aunt that his mother had passed away. But in 1998, after he received Farzanabanoo’s letter, he started looking for his mother’s address. He tried to get in touch with the aunt again but to no avail, he claimed.

“All these years, I somehow didn’t believe that my mother was dead. Last year, I finally looked up my aunt’s address and visited her in London. That is when we came to know that my mother was possibly alive and in India, but nobody knew where.”

He reached Surat in October to meet his mother’s brother, Jameel Kapadia (73). Jameel told him that Farzanabanoo had run away from home in 2003. He also claimed that he had approached the Pydhonie police but it did not file a missing complaint.

When she went missing, Farzanabanoo was battling depression and had underwent treatment briefly under psychiatrist Yusuf Matcheswalla.

Jameel said: “She underwent electric shock therapy thrice, but her condition did not improve. She used to lived with my father and was always disturbed because she could not gain access to her children. When she went missing, I was in office. My neighbours told me they saw her walk out of the building around 3 pm.” He added that he looked for her for months before giving up.

In Mumbai, Imran reached out to Matcheswalla for his mother’s medical reports but to no avail. “She came for treatment in 2000. But we don’t have her case papers,” said Matcheswalla.

Imran then began visiting the neighbourhood of Mohammed Ali Road, Haji Ali and Bhendi Bazar. He claimed that on November 2, a waiter in Shalimar Hotel, when shown her photograph in the pink salwar-kameez, suspected he had seen Farzanabanoo in a black burqa begging for food.

The police questioned the waiter, Abdul Latif, on Wednesday. Latif told The Indian Express, “I suspect it is the same woman in the photograph but I may be wrong.”

Officers from Pydhonie police station said they are looking into the matter but a complaint is yet to be registered. Despite repeated attempts, Senior Inspector Subhash Dudhgaonkar did not respond to calls or messages.