A woman who can’t hear or speak, known only as Geeta, returned home to India on Monday, some 12 years after wandering over the Pakistan border. Scores of people turned out at the airport in New Delhi to welcome her home. At the tender age of 11, Geeta apparently crossed over the border into Pakistan where she was found crying and alone by border patrol guards. Due to competing explanations for how she actually made it over the border, substantial intrigue began to grow around the incident and she eventually became known as Pakistan’s “mystery girl.” She spent years living in a shelter in Karachi.
Earlier this year, Indian and Pakistani officials declared they’d concluded Geeta was Indian, though how they reached such a conclusion was never made clear. Then, a couple of weeks ago, an official said, Geeta identified her family in photos provided by Indian diplomats. It was a rare moment of cooperation between the two rival nuclear nations. According to reports, Geeta looked to be “jubilant” as she left her shelter in Karachi. And on Monday, Geeta returned triumphantly to India, seemingly bringing her story full circle. But a Bollywood ending is not what unfolded once she arrived there, thanks to yet another twist. She was showered with gifts, flowers, new clothes and, finally, was introduced to the man and woman believed to be her parents. Upon seeing them, presumably for the first time since childhood, she indicated that she didn’t recognize them. Susma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, said Geeta is “refusing to recognize her family.” Government officials are now conducting DNA tests, and if the tests prove paternity, Swaraj said Geeta would be “counseled” to accept her family.