Dubai: The last time Asgar Shakoor Patel met his foster sister Ida was when he was 16 years old.
Sixty-two years later, the Dubai-based Indian business tycoon had a dramatic reunion with her in Scotland, all thanks to Facebook.
The story of their reunion in August hit the headlines in the British media a few days ago after Ida revealed it to a local channel in Scotland.
Gulf News managed to get in touch with Patel, who is currently in Bangkok, to share his side of the story.
“It was quite an exciting experience,” Patel, now 78, said over phone.
Forbes Middle East ranked Patel 61st among the top Indian business leaders in the Arab world.
Patel said Ida was his sister in the Scottish family that adopted him and his siblings for their education after the British left India in 1947.
Born in a rich business family in the then-Bombay, Patel said he was sent to England when he was six years old.
“My father decided that four of us should move to England for our education. We boarded with Ida’s family in Scotland whom we knew.”
Ida’s parents soon became ‘mum and dad’ to Patel as he stayed with them until he turned 12.
“She was my sister since I was six. We lived together for about six years.”
Patel’s own sister and one of his brothers returned to India.
But he and his elder brother stayed back and went to Hillhead High School in Glasgow.
“It was an upmarket school in those days and we studied there for over five years. We had a nice time with Ida’s family.”
When he turned 13, Patel’s father moved him to a boarding school in London as he found it more convenient to visit the children there.
Patel had kept in touch with his Scottish family for some more years till he finished senior Cambridge.
At 16, Patel said, he returned to India to meet his mother whom he had not seen all those years and then decided to stay back home.
It was on a Glasgow railway platform that he said goodbye to Ida before he left for India.
“She meant a lot to me. But I had lost contact with them later. I always wished to see them,” said Patel.
Six decades passed during which Patel built a business empire spread in India and the UAE.
Though he had tried to trace Ida’s family, he could not succeed as they had moved houses.
The turning point in their lives finally happened through Facebook.
“I was scanning Facebook and happened to see the photo and profile of one Ida Wilde. Her face looked familiar. But she used to be Ida Moreland. I thought, okay, let me see if she is the same Ida.”
Patel then sent a message to Ida.
“I asked her are you Ida Moreland? Then she got back. It was an astonishing moment!”
Patel then decided to visit his long-lost sister, who is now 83.
“I went to London and from there I went to Glasgow by train. I met an old friend who drove me to Ayrshire in Scotland, which is one hour from Glasgow.”
He said the reunion seemed surreal. “She suddenly went out of my life and suddenly I got her back.”
The siblings have now decided to make up for the long years that they lost in separation. Patel has invited Ida to come down to Dubai. “She will be in Dubai mostly by January,” he said.
In Ida’s words
Now a great grandma, Ida, 83, told the Scottish newspaper Daily Record: “We were heart-broken when he left … For five years we had been brought up as brother and sister and it was sad to lose him.”
She said it was great to hear from him and she was surprised by how much he remembered.
“He asked if I remembered us all going to Ayr on holiday and away to Tighnabruaich. It was like we’d never been apart,” she said.
“It wasn’t strange or awkward and we chatted away like two old pals. He was so happy to finally find his Scottish family again.
“Asgar thought he would never find me until the photo went online. It’s amazing he made the connection and I’m so glad he got in touch.
“I’d said goodbye to a wee boy and now he was returning a hugely successful multimillionaire. It was surreal.”
‘I just couldn’t believe it. He’s done so well for himself and he’s still such a genuine and lovely person.
‘We chatted away for ages and he told me all about his family. He wants to fly me to Dubai to meet them and he’s coming back to visit again next year. We keep in touch now and it’s just wonderful to have Asgar back in my life after so many years apart,” Ida said.