It was one of our usual field visits, only a new village. But the reason for the post is quite different as it’s not the usual experience. It’s one of those instances which give you mixed feelings, heart warming yet cruelly disturbing.
Hope you feel mixed emotions too as you read on.
I was on a field visit to Nawagarh, one of villages with our physiotherapist. We were looking to meet children with disabilities, especially those with whom we could work toward some physical rehabilitation. These visits are especially painful as we get to see children with impairments that could have been prevented, disabilities that have been caused by lack of basic services or means and families undergoing lifelong suffering due to ignorance and proper guidance.
Today was no different, meeting hopeful families just to tell them that there is no cure or just encourage them to keep looking after their children. One of our visits was to Tamana Khatun, a 10 year old girl with severe Cerebral palsy affecting both her cognition and her movement.
Like every other visit, a group of women, children had gathered to watch us speak to the family and meet Tamana. When asked for her family an elderly man explained the situation of the child, emotionless as though he had read the facts of a medical chart. I formed my own opinion of him as the father in law, the head of the household who hardly cared about a girl with Cerebral Palsy. His following comments confirmed my opinions about him (So I thought!!!). He blatantly announced that the family hadn’t paid attention to the child since she was a girl and it would be pointless spending money on something which would provide no return.
I was a little shocked that he spoke so openly, as people try to pretend to care in front of outsiders. We then asked to speak to her mother and the mother was not to be found among all the women spectators. She came through after a while of searching, a small frail lady in her early twenties. Although she answered our queries about her child’s condition, she didn’t seem to grasp the reality of the situation and the therapy plans for her daughter. It was only the old man who kept responding.
I was annoyed at the irony of the situation, a mother who cared but couldn’t fully comprehend the therapy plan and an old man who was able to understand but didn’t care. As we turned to leave, I stopped to privately ask the mother, how many other children she had and if they could help out in therapy. She said Tamana was her only daughter, that came as a surprise- ONLY DAUGHTER, Something didn’t seem right, so I enquired about her husband, only to find out that he had deserted her after their daughter was born. I just had to ask the next question, whose house was this? And who was that old man? Her answer humbled me, this was her father’s house and that old man was her father.
The man who said he didn’t care and didn’t want to spend on a girl was in reality taking care of two girls, his daughter deserted by her husband and his granddaughter who has cerebral palsy. His actions spoke way louder than his words. His words were from a deep rooted culture but his actions from a deep rooted love.
As we were driving back, various thoughts flooded my head ranging from embarrassment and guilt at assuming the worst of someone to knowing that humanity still had a chance as long as there was love and that no matter who we are, it’s our actions that speak louder than our words.