When a Punjab policeman posted a TikTok video of a poor labourer to raise awareness about helping migrant workers during the coronavirus lockdown in India, he did not expect what happened next. The clip helped the man reunite with his family after two years.
Punjab police constable Ajaib Singh shared a video of his interaction with R Venkateshwarlu on the video streaming platform on March 26.
According media reports, in 2018, Venkateshwarlu, who is unable to speak or hear, had ended up in the city of Ludhiana, hundreds of kilometres away from his native state of Telangana.
After Singh’s video, a friend of the missing man identified him and informed his family who had been reportedly looking for him for two years. The man’s relatives contacted the local police who helped them get in touch with him.
The clip shot under a flyover shows Singh asking Venkateshwarlu how long has it been since he has eaten and offering him food, to which Venkateshwarlu replies with gestures, signalling to the policeman about his disabilities and thanking him.
The video has gone viral with over 12.4 million views.
The clip was also shared on other social media platforms like Twitter.
Tweep, @mizozeitgeist, posted the video and wrote: “This #TikTok video has helped unite a missing man with his family in Telangana. He was recognised in a video shared by a Punjab police head constable in Ludhiana.”
"I burst into tears when I first saw him," his son, R Peddiraju, was quoted as saying.
He explained that in 2018, his father, a labourer, had boarded a truck to another village to find work. However, he fell asleep and was dropped off in the middle of the road by the truck driver. Having difficulties with communication, he asked another truck driver for a lift, and ended up in Ludhiana.
Peddiraju made his way on May 22 to pick up Venkateshwarlu up after getting a special permit to travel during the ongoing nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.
On May 26, the two returned to their village. "The first thing we'll do now is feed him homemade hot rice," his son was quoted as saying.
According to videos on Singh's TikTok account, the policeman regularly posts videos of helping migrant workers amidst the lockdown. In the clips, he is often seen distributing food to the poor.