Back in 1963, Wang Qi was a young surveyor working in Western China, until one day he accidentally wandered across the border into India. He hasn’t been allowed home since.
Instead, he was detained by India, held for seven years, and eventually released to a remote Indian village, seemingly forgotten by both countries. The Indian authorities told him to make a new life, because he wasn’t going to be allowed home.
Now know better by his Indian name of Raj Bahadur, he has lived ever since that time in that same village of Tirodi, which is in the Madhya Pradesh region of India. He married a local women, had several children, and learned to speak Hindi.
But he still yearns for home.
Wang Qi was able to get a Chinese passport in 2013 with the help of a relative. But he has still not been able to visit his old family, in his native Shaanxi province in central China. He still hopes to return eventually.
After 40 years without being able to contact his mother, Wang Qi was finally able to arrange a phone conversation in 2002. But he was never to see her again. She died in 2006.
Wang Qi’s story would make an amazing movie or novel. But it has been heartbreaking for him personally. Nearly every detail of his story is tinged with sadness, including details of his sporadic contact with his remaining family members — when he finally spoke to his brother by way of video call after decades of separation, he could barely recognize him.
It’s an amazing life story, no doubt about it. And when he’s not remembering how he used to be Wang Qi, old Raj Bahadur actually looks like he might like his new life and family in India. His wife says that if he ever makes it to China, she hopes he’ll come back.