Crippled11 mins 228 11 mins 228
Most of us lead busy and purposeless lives. We seek fame and wealth and when we acquire both, we find ourselves trapped and crippled by the very same things we so assiduously acquired. But there are many amongst us who manage to make their lives meaningful and this story is about one such individual and his institution.
Shyam Kumar is a leading film personality and had worked hard to make it to the top. His personal life was however tragic. He lost his parents to a road accident years ago; his wife of fifteen years died of Cancer and no amount of money or treatment could save her. His son suffered from Cerebral Palsy and would not ever be a normal child. These tragic events led to the actor becoming spiritual and benevolent. He had created a charitable Trust which in its own humble way attempted to better the lives of many a child.
Shyam Kumar occasionally visited Government-run hospitals and would give generous donations to them for improving facilities. It was on one such visit that he met Sapna.
Ten Years Ago
When Suresh and Suman saw the distorted mass of flesh which was their daughter for the first time, they were shell shocked. They could barely hide their horror as the sight was absolutely revolting. Where the upper lip should have been, there was no flesh, only a yawning gap. The doctor told them that the girl had no palate either. One in a million babies are born with such deformity. Their son was there too, and he could barely understand why his parents were so taken aback.
How could she have given birth to this horrible piece of flesh? She shuddered to hold it in her hands and asked the nurse to place it elsewhere. Meanwhile, doctors were already taking notes and discussing the deformities. This will be a rare case study for them. At long last, the baby was taken away and the commotion stopped. Now it was the turn of curious fellow patients in the wards and their relatives to push in and enquire. They were all very sympathetic. They consoled the parents that it was God’s will...
The doctors told Suresh that tests would be done on the baby to find out what else could be wrong with her. They feared she could suffer from the retardation of the brain and other organs could also be affected. They were not sure that the baby could survive all this for long. But she did. From the time doctors told them of the problems with the child, they knew that this girl child had no future. It was better dead than alive, for itself and for their sake. So they prayed to God the Almighty to take pity on the child and put an end to its misery. But Sapna, as they named her, did not die. She was alive and engaged her parents in what seemed to be endless and fruitless visits to the hospital. She was the cynosure of doctors, who doted on her. Sapna had afforded them the rare opportunity to be examined and become their teacher. Tests done on her revealed that she was not going to grow like a normal child. She would age, but physically she would look like a child. She had other problems as well. She could not be fed normally as there was no palate. This meant that she could have only liquids and that too fed with great care and caution as not to suffocate the child. She had hearing problems and could not react normally to sounds. She was underweight, having being born prematurely. The doctors were however upbeat that they could restore some grace to the child through cosmetic surgery. But operations would be delicate and could cost her life! It would take years to restore her lips and palate.
Sapna hardly ever showed emotions. It seemed that she felt no pain, no sorrow, and no joy. She was, of course, unable to speak, and the only sound she could make was grunts and groans, that expressed all that she would ever want to say. An onerous responsibility rested on the parents. They were poor and could ill afford the cost of treatments, however, subsidized they were. Suresh was living on income which was never constant or assured. Suman could hardly afford to leave the child alone. The doctors had given them elaborate advice on how to handle the child. The child had to be constantly cared for, showered with affections, and talked to. The parents needed the training to handle the child and would be required to spend lots and lots of time.
Suman had a troubled background. She had been a problem child at home. She was a constant source of abuse by all in the family. Being at home always, she soon became the housemaid. When she grew up, the family was concerned about her marriage. She was attractive and street smart; but beyond these superficial qualities, there was something missing in Suman; something that would make her marriageable. A number of matches were explored but none worked. Suresh was no better. He was the youngest of a large family and he was born when his parents were well past their productive age. Perhaps, he was the product of his parents’ indiscretion, a shame rather than a pride His parents died leaving him to the care and custody of his brothers and sisters. They all had their own families to look after and Suresh hardly fitted into their scheme of things. Like Suman, he never took studies seriously and neither encouraged to learn formally.
He decided to relocate to Bombay to search for opportunities and was given some money to migrate and settle down there. Then the marriage happened. Both families were eager to get rid of them. Suresh was a free bird, doing whatever he wanted, indifferent to responsibilities. Suman loathed her family and all the work she was forced to do. She hardly cultivated any skill or ability that was needed to be a wife. She hated responsibilities and always dreamt of a luxurious life, home with servants and cars, not having to do anything but what she liked.
Sapna was born into this environment. Suresh was sure that Suman was responsible for the deformed birth of their child. He even suggested that he could not be the father of such a child. The environment was hardly conducive to Sapna. She was neglected by both her parents and left in the hands of fate. For hours together she would grunt and groan to be fed but her mother would hardly attend her, either asleep or busy. Her father was always complaining that the child had ruined his life and he could not get work because of her and the mother.
One day there was a big fight between Suresh and Suman. The fight progressed from abuse to assault. It got so bad that an enraged Suresh picked up a chopper and hurled it at Suman. Unfortunately, he missed the target and the chopper hit Sapna. She was badly wounded and was bleeding profusely, and the parents rushed her to the hospital. Chances of survival were bleak, and Suresh and Suman waited outside wringing their hands and feeling guilty. They had both prayed for the child’s death, but not this. The neighbours meantime had informed police and Suresh was apprehensive about what could happen to him.
By a sheer coincidence, Shyam Kumar was visiting the hospital at that very moment. Distracted by the commotion, he rushed to the scene and made inquiries. He was anxious to meet her parents and the authorities pointed out to the waiting couple. He saw Sapna and something inside told him that the child needed him. During his visits to hospitals, Shyam had witnessed many heart-wrenching moments. This world was full of human beings with tragic stories to narrate. Shyam had learned that though his heart reached out to each of the suffering souls, he could never end the miseries in this world. He was just a messenger of God engaged to do his bit for needy people. He did feel guilty and sad that what he did was too little, but at least he was doing something. One look at Sapna was enough for him to realize that his visit to this particular hospital was no coincidence, and God wanted him to take care of Sapna.
He found her parents cold and indifferent. It was as if both of them wanted their girl out of their lives. He consoled them and left.
A week later, a visitor came to Suresh’s house. He was from a charitable trust and wanted to know Sapna’s medical history. He informed Suresh that the trust was owned by the cinema artiste who spoke to them in the hospital. He made detailed inquiries about Suresh and his income. He took photocopies of all the medical papers pertaining to Sapna’s disabilities and treatments. He then left, without further elaboration about the purpose of his visit.
A fortnight later, Suresh got a call from the trust to visit their office. There, he was told that the trust would adopt Sapna and take care of her treatment. The condition was that Sapna would have to be handed over to them and kept under their care and custody. Suresh could not believe this. He was overwhelmed with joy and agreed to the condition.
Sapna soon left her home and her departure was a great relief to the family. During the first few months, Suman and Suresh would regularly visit the child to ensure things went well with her. Sapna recognized her parents but that was all she could do. Slowly, the parent’s visit to Sapna kept reducing till a time came when they hardly took pains to keep in touch with her. The trust people, however, kept the parents informed of developments once a month.
Five years had passed, and Sapna was now learning to speak. During these years, the parents had all but forgotten about her. At the trust, Sapna’s life and her improvements were being carefully monitored and recorded. The cinema star was documenting everything about Sapna on film and he wished to produce a documentary on Sapna.
Two years later, the documentary film on Sapna was released globally and sent to all leading medical institutions in the world. Global attention was focused on Sapna and the trust received several requests for Sapna to be sent to their institution for detailed examination and interview. Suresh and Suman got to see one such interview on TV and they were stunned.
They saw a beautiful girl whom they had known earlier as their handicapped daughter. The girl was speaking normally. The interviewer was saying that this girl, who was totally retarded in speech, mind, and body, was now miraculously cured of all her defects. They showed clippings of Sapna when she was handed over to the trust, how operations were performed on her, how experts worked on her to restore her speech, and how she had slowly but steadily progressed.
The interviewer was asking Sapna about her family. She told them that she was an orphan and was abandoned by her parents at a very young age. She did not know who her parents were and that the trust was her family. The trust had never let her feel orphaned and she was thankful to the cine star for all the support he had given her. Suman and Suresh were speechless. They were stunned to see their daughter on TV. They had never dreamt of this day in their lives. They were seized with guilt at the fact that they had hardly contributed to her in any way. They wanted to visit the trust and meet their daughter. They wanted to bring her back home. They were suddenly proud of their daughter.
The trust politely told them not to interfere with Sapna’s life. She hardly remembered anything about home or family, and would never consent to be with them if she came to know that her parents existed but never cared for her. What could they now give her? She was all set in her life and the cinema star would ensure that she lived happily for the rest of her life.
Suresh was angry and threatened to go to court to claim Sapna. The trust told him he could anything he liked, but the consequences would not be good for Sapna. Suresh and Suman were adamant and filed a petition in the court against the trust. They claimed custody of Sapna.
The trust submitted documents in the court signed by the parents at the time of handing over Sapna to the trust. They had unconditionally agreed to leave Sapna under the care and custody of the trust. The judge questioned the parents at length, and the examination turned against the parents. They could not say why they stopped visiting their children.
The judge was quite critical of the parents. For them, Sapna had been an aberration and they had never considered her as their own. The fact that they never visited nor made inquiries with the trust about her in seven years was enough proof that they had abandoned the child. Sapna had clearly denied any knowledge of her parents. She had told the court that she never had a family other than the trust and Shyam Kumar was more than a father to her. The court rejected the parents claim and dismissed the petition.