By: VIKAS DOGRA
It’s celebration time at his home! Twelve-year-old Pankaj has just begun to scribble some words on paper, which resemble some letters from the “Hindi Varnamala”. This might not sound like a feat for many but for a child who lost his mental and physical abilities to a severe attack of pneumonia at the age of three, this is like starting life afresh.
Due to unavailability of emergency treatment in his village, Himri, near Gumma that is located nearly 60 kilometres from Shimla, the attack lead to severe brain disorder and affected his limbs, and he became dependent on others for even his routine tasks. So sorry was his plight that his parents also started to ignore him and his grandmother’s lap became the world for him.
But things were destined to change, and in January 2005 the volunteers of Udaan, a voluntary organsation that is running a special boarding school and a vocational centre for “differently abled children” in Shimla, reached him in his far-flung village where he was the only special child.
Pankaj was enrolled under the home-based education programme for such children run under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan. The only person at his home who was interested in doing something for Pankaj was his grandmother, but as the volunteers say, giving her confidence that he would see improvement some day was not easy. “Doctor to kuch kar nahin sake, aap samaj sevak loag kya karoge,” she used to say. But she gave in to the humble advice – “Par aajmane mein toh koi harz nahin hai.”
One year on, Pankaj has come a long way, and after the volunteers succeeded in making his limbs functional with the help of mild exercises, he moves around the house on his own. His reflexes have also started to condition and unlike before when he could not express his mundane needs like hunger, thirst or going to the toilet; he now reacts to any kind of stimuli. He also eats his meals on his own.
Today, he comes to the special school for such kids at Gumma with his granny twice a week. After seeing this “sea” change in their child, his parents were moved. They have reconciled and accepted him. But his success story does not end here. “Pankaj still has to walk miles,” says his father Duni Chand, who now has become ambitious for his son.