Hyderabad: Eight-year-old Sonia is usually inseparable from her father. She met him when she was four. He was a stranger who discovered her alone and frightened after a bomb blast shattered a Hyderabad evening. Papalal and his wife, Jayshree, were desperate for a child. This little girl, who they concluded was a Muslim, seemed like the answer to their prayers.
Yesterday, Papalal was arrested after his brother filed a slate of police complaints against him. Papalal's mother says the cases are fake, trumped up to force Papalal to either abandon Sonia or his neighbourhood - the Chudi Bazaar area of Begum Bazaar which has long objected to a Muslim child being brought up in a Hindu family.
"The lawyer says we need to arrange for 30,000 rupees to bring him out of jail. I don't have any money even to buy food. Who will help us", asks Jayshree. But come what may, she is clear she will not give up Sonia.
The battle to keep their small family together has been especially tough given the family's limited income. Papalal makes his living painting temples with images of gods and goddesses. Business has been getting worse because of his daughter's religion. As a compromise with Muslim groups, Papalal agreed that Sonia would not be raised as a Hindu.
Papalal and Jayshree have a biological daughter now who wears a bindi; Sonia does not. These are differences that their neighbours seem fixated with.
And tired of being ostracised by extension, Papalal's brother finally accused him of attempting to molest his wife. Papalal's mother, Dhanno Bai, is not educated. She says she stands by Papalal one hundred percent.
((NDTV.com surfers have been asking if they can financially assist Papalal. Jayshree plans to open a bank account in the next few days and details of how to send money to the family will be posted soon on this site)).