Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The innocence of childhood

As we worked furiously on our computers, I noticed a 10-11 year old kid hop into the office merrily and energetically. One quick glance and I was back to the computer. A few hours later though, I saw the same kid completely worn out, sitting stooped and confining himself to a corner. I couldn’t bear the sight and had to go and talk with him.

The father explained that the kid had just received a blood transfusion- he suffered from sickle cell anemia. The father almost felt guilty that his wife and he had passed this trait to both their kids. It is not easy to see your child being poked with a needle, having to receive transfusions, lacking any energy or excitement to eat the ‘Dairy Milk’ you just bought him. Kills you every moment…rich or poor, educated or not.

I was pained- I wanted to see childhood as happy, exuberant, jumpin’ and skippin’! This encounter gave me a reality check on why I am here- if I can just rid you of this gloom. After many endeavors, he did smile finally as I promised he could ride my cycle taking me as the ‘double-seat.’

I do believe that it is a collective responsibility of the human race to care for the children already brought into this world- make whatever time they spend here cheer-filled (and tummy-filled), fearless and peaceful. It is reassuring to see how children don’t care a damn of this world that we adults complicate. No language, gender, caste or color bias mar their perceptions. Everyone is equal.

To not be silenced.

For the first time since moving to Gadchiroli, I have been rendered sleepless. I tried everything from a midnight snack to shifting my cot under the fan and covering myself like a corpse against mosquitoes. I am struggling. Nothing works when the mind is not at rest.

Earlier today, I bumped into a doctor working in the tribal hills of Jharkand since the last 14 years. There was something about her that made me pursue her. Having completed their post-graduation in medicine, her husband and she moved from TN to the poorest district of Jharkand to work for the people most in need. Armed with nothing but faith, they believed that if they had been called by God, it was His responsibility to provide. Serving the ‘Pahaadiya’ tribals, she mentioned how government programs never reached these groups- they were ruthlessly ignored. Even the data on deaths in the region was misreported to justify the exclusion of resources.

Battling malaria, dacoits and isolation- the couple pursued. Her husband had malaria 25 times over the last 14 years, and a disc prolapse (attributable to travel in the hilly regions) to the extent that he couldn’t stand for more than 5 minutes. Her daughters suffered from severe malarial fever. This brave woman broke down as she remembered the days when she has held her daughter in her arms and wept uncontrollably seeing other kids with malaria die in the hospital. I couldn’t look her in the eye- why on earth did you keep going? The resolve in her that God will take care of her child provided solace-maybe a mother’s plea, however helpless the circumstances. The other brave ladies in the room, working in similar areas, started crying too- their kids’ faces probably flashed in front of them. I was silenced seeing the boundlessness and purity of love any mother possesses for her child. Don’t change the world if you can’t- just don’t lose the sensitivity and love in your heart for your dear ones.

When offered the post of department heads at CMC Vellore, they declined. Though this would give them a chance to impact things on a larger scale- there were many who would take this position- but no one would go work with the Pahaadiya tribals. They have had their frustrating moments- when they have just run into the jungles and cried their hearts out; even decided to give up on some initiatives due to government apathy. But always rising back- “If we don’t make noise, who will? We won’t be silenced.”