It was just a regular Facebook photo – not dissimilar to those that others post every day. In it, 83-year-old Ida Wilde, from Irvine, Scotland, smiled as she held flowers at a family wedding. But the message that Ida subsequently received via her iPad may have come as a surprise. That read, “Are you Ida Moreland?” And the query stood out for several reasons – not least because the sender is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The man who asked the question was Asgar Patel, founder and non-executive chairman of logistics firm House of Patels. In the 2017 Forbes list of the top 100 Indian business owners in Arabian countries, he was placed at number 45. What’s more, in 2013 the entrepreneur’s fortune was valued at a cool $615 million.
Now living in Dubai, 78-year-old Asgar is originally from India. And, as it happens, he may have inherited his business nous from his father, who once owned companies in Karachi and Mumbai. However in 1947, while the future multi-millionaire was just six, his family’s safety was put in jeopardy.
The reason for the peril was that on August 15, 1947, British rule in India ended. Subsequently, the country formerly known as British India divided into two, creating India and Pakistan. Many Muslims then relocated to Pakistan, although a large number of the Hindu population chose to remain in India. And the mass migration created massive unrest, with roughly one million people thought to have died in the ensuing riots.
Asgar’s father was therefore worried about the welfare of his family and principally his four children: Asgar, Ramzan, Atabr and Kulsom. He decided, then, that the best thing would be to try to move his relatives abroad and out of harm’s way until the trouble had passed.
And some friends of Asgar’s father had once stayed at a guest house in the West End of Glasgow, Scotland. Located on Willowbank Street, the accommodation frequently hosted international students, for which it was convenient due to its proximity to the University of Glasgow.
So, Asgar’s father’s friends got in touch with the boarding house to see if they would take in the four children. However, the owner was getting old and felt that such a responsibility would be too much for her. So given that refusal, she may have been amazed to answer the door soon after to those very siblings.
Yes, the children’s father had been so concerned for his offspring’s welfare that he had decided to send them across the world anyway. And with the kids right in front of her, the landlady came up with a solution. She would look after the eldest two boys, Ramzan and Atabr, while her niece took in Kulsom and Asgar.
Part of the reason that the kindly niece, Greta Moreland, agreed to the plan was because the 12-year-old girl was the same age as her own daughter, Ida. This youngster was none other than Ida Moreland – or Ida Wilde as she became when she married years later.
It might appear far-fetched to think that parents would send their four children to the other side of the world with no guarantee of a place to stay. The situation in India at the time had been so dire, however, that they may have felt as if they had had no choice.
Indeed, Ida said in a 2017 interview with the Daily Record, “When they came at first, we thought, ‘How can any mum and dad send four kids like this to Scotland?’ But you could see it a bit more when you saw all the horrible things that were happening in India and Pakistan.”
And, in time, the “adopted” brother and sister truly became part of the family; Asgar even called Ida’s parents “mum and dad.” Ida explained to the Daily Record, however, “That was quite embarrassing lots of times. My mum said to him, ‘Look, Asgar, you’ve got your own mum and she won’t be pleased, so you better call us aunt and uncle.’”
Furthermore, in the five years that Asgar lived with Ida, they led a normal family life. They vacationed on the coast, and Asgar loved playing with the family dog, Sparkie. Ida remembered, “Kulsom got homesick and wanted to go home, but Asgar would have lived here forever. He quickly became part of the family.”
In fact, the boy became so integrated into his new community that he couldn’t remember his native tongue and was only able to speak the language of his adopted homeland. “When his mum came over to visit, he had forgotten how to speak Urdu and she couldn’t speak English, so they just waved at each other,” Ida recalled in an interview for television news station STV in August 2017.
And when the time came for Asgar to go back, he was reluctant to leave. Ida told the Daily Record, “Although he loved his parents very much, when it was time for him to return home he didn’t want to go. He wanted to stay with us. It wasn’t an easy decision, but we knew he had to leave to be with his own family.”
The last time that Ida saw Asgar as a child, then, was on a platform in Glasgow train station as they waved goodbye. It proved an incredibly upsetting occasion for everyone. “Oh, we were heartbroken when he left,” Ida told STV, adding, “Taking him to the train was dreadful.”
Then, at first, Ida and Asgar stayed in touch via letters and cards on special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. But contact eventually slipped away after a few years. Ida’s family also moved house several times, and finally the estranged children lost track of each other.
“Soon the cards stopped, but I often wondered where he ended up,” Ida told the Daily Record. Little did she know, though, that her beloved brother had actually been spending years trying to find her. And amazingly – 60 years after they had parted – he recognized the picture of her on Facebook at a family wedding and sent her the message.
“I couldn’t believe he’d seen that one photograph. It was a miracle really,” Ida said in the interview with STV. And once the connection had been re-established, it was as if the two had never separated. “It wasn’t strange or awkward, and we chatted away like two old pals,” Ida told the Daily Record. They finally saw each other again when he traveled to Scotland in August 2017.
And while Asgar may be a multi-millionaire now, Ida doesn’t think that the money has changed him. “He’s done so well for himself, and he’s still such a genuine and lovely person,” she said. Now Asgar plans to fly his long-lost sister out to Dubai to meet his family. “It’s just wonderful to have Asgar back in my life after so many years apart,” the 83-year-old told the Daily Record.