A lot has been written and debated on the vicious cycle of poverty and disability and has always been of interest to me as well. Often we get lost in the academics of these concepts that reality doesn’t affect us as much. But during my field visit yesterday, I happened to meet someone caught in that web, a face in that vicious cycle.
Anshu is a 2 year old girl with delay in developmental milestones. I had met her during one of our assessment camps for Children with disabilities. She was accompanied by her mother. In the initial interaction, her mother seemed surprisingly knowledgeable. I later found that she was a trained health assistant and had been working for about 6 years. I even took the liberty to assume that the child was getting good care at home and that everything would turn out ok. But unfortunately, not everything is as we see it. A long interaction and a visit to their home showed the other side of their lives.
Anshu is the only child in her family, her father lives in Kerala in South India, where he with many other men from the village had migrated in search of jobs mostly unskilled labour. Her mother is hopeful that her daughter would recover. She had quit her job as a heath assistant to take care of her daughter and is dependent on her husband.
But this is not all, Anshu has a heart condition, when asked if they had taken any treatment, her mother explained that they had gone to Ranchi (about 150 kms away) but couldn’t admit the child as they did not have money and had to come back. She said when they had saved enough money there was no one to accompany them. Her father visits once a year and that could be a time for them to go for treatment but this year due to lack of rains, there has been no agriculture and it also means that her father would not come home this year.
As we observed the child playing cheerfully, it was heart breaking to watch her stop and gasp for air. I offered her a biscuit, her face lit up but she was too tired to come and take it from my hand. As we talked, am disturbed by the thought of how much longer would the child be able to hold on? I pried her mom on if they were planning to have other children, her reply was surprising, she said they wanted to wait till the child is independent otherwise they wouldn’t be able to take care of her properly. I am not sure what is the right reaction or suggestion. I left quietly with a promise to come back. I only can whisper a prayer that the family would win the race against time cause every time I remember that family, I am left with an image of little Anshu waving but her little heart beating so rapidly that it was visible from where I stand.