A loved one just a click away…if only there was Google three decades ago
Karachi: They were born in the days when a telegraph was the fastest way of long-distance communication — and when they separated, there was no way to reconnect.
Alice Cutler and Joseph Stephen, though uncle and niece, were more like cousins. Born only three years apart, they grew up in an old house in Mehmoodabad with low walls and tall trees.
“It was situated right at the lane where Rao Bakery stands even today. We would climb trees, chase cats and play cards together,” Stephen remembers, 30 years later.
And then one day Stephen left for New York looking for a job. When he returned years later, Cutler had married an Italian man and left the city.
He found out that as the cost of living had soared, the house was sold off and Cutler sent to a boarding school run by nuns. When she finished college, the nuns found her a suitable husband.
It was tough looking for clues in an age where mobile phones and the Internet were unheard off. Stephen went to Islamabad, where a family member told him where Cutler lived. He notified the local church there, showed them a picture of a smiling girl with brown curls. No luck.
He heard that she had left for Canada. He went all the way to Toronto, and then New York. He did what he could. Roamed the streets with a picture, went to the church, asked around in the Pakistani diaspora.
Some people looked at him with suspicion. Others were nice, offered him a cup of tea and a biscuit or two.
Eventually Stephen settled in New York. In his suitcase he carried a small brown envelope containing black and white pictures of Cutler and himself.
Often while talking to his daughter who lived in Karachi, he would always miss his childhood friend. “I wonder how Alice is, where she is, if she’s happy or not… if she has kids.”
On a boring day at work, Stephen’s daughter, Margaret, looked up Alice Cutler on Google. A website popped up with lots of contacts. She found Alice Cutler, a list of her children and a phone number.
She called up the number, an old woman picked up. “I am Joseph’s daughter calling from Karachi,” she said.
Cutler broke into tears. When she got a grip on herself, she talked in fluent Punjabi. “I still haven’t forgotten my roots. I never will.”
The search was over. Alice Cutler lived in Los Angeles with lots of children and grandchildren.
Now she is coming to Karachi, to meet the people who held her so close to their hearts. Stephen will fly home too. After thirty years, a family will reunite.