True Life Story of Murugesh (Part 2)
APD was a new institution and Hema-akka was in over its charge. She heard my story from the lady, my rescuer, and then looked at me for a long moment. I could see that she was trying to assess me and think of best ways of helping me. From the conversation I quickly saw that I was considered curable and therefore acceptable. Hema-akka later told me that she had no doubt that with surgery and physiotherapy I could walk within six months. She had vast experience and was right in her assessment. She knew, however, that she would have to work hard to assemble a support package.
When we were alone Hema-akka told me “I think your problem is arthritis which has done a lot of damage due to neglect. It will be cured, but it will not be easy. You will have to bear a lot of pain and persevere with the long treatment. Several surgeries may be needed. I have to find the right doctor. All this will take a lot of effort and it will probably be two years before you can stand up and walk. You have to be ready.”
I very much liked her straight-forward, businesslike manner. There was enough sense in my head to know that I was in the right place and in right hands. I knew I wanted to walk more than anything in the world. So, I said “Amma, I want to walk. What good is life for me if I have to crawl all through it? I am ready to bear any amount of pain and I will not disappoint you in any way? Please help me.”
A friend of APD named Surendra Kaolagi had by chance come from Melcotte. He is a famous Gandhian social worker. Hema-akka said to him, “Dada, will you take this boy into your school and teach him to read and write Kannada. It may take me six months to line up help for his surgery. In this time I do not want this boy to be here; he should be with other children and studying. He will absolutely need basic literacy for whatever he does after treatment and recovery.”
Mr. Kaolagi agreed to take me if financial support could be found. Hema-akka promised to find a donor. She asked me when I was ready to leave my present refuge and go to a school. I said “I am willing to come tonight if you wish.” This answer impressed Hema-akka and I think, with it, I won a place in her kind and large heart.
I Enter School
Someone at APD helped me to collect my possessions and move to Mr. Kaolgi’s school. The teachers there were so caring they taught me lying on a bed. The other boys helped to move me from room to room as needed and assisted me in every way. All this spurred me to do my very best. I worked hard and in ten months I could write a letter to Hema-akka in Kannada. I spoke only Tamil when I came to APD and was stone illiterate. I was so impatient for medical treatment that I wrote a letter. “Hema-akka, I want to walk. When are you going to find me a doctor?”
This simple letter from someone like me worked as a spell on that angel, Hema-akka. She called me and took me to Dr. Srinivasan who did many surgeries for APD children. The doctor examined me and declared me curable. In my exuberance I blurted “Doctor, make me well. I want to walk, I want to walk.”
The doctor said, “You will walk, I assure you. But you will have to bear pain and discomfort; and not for a short time, but for months. I am wondering if you will be able to take it.”
“I will, doctor,” I said, “even if I die. I want to walk. For it I can do whatever is necessary. Please start treatment as soon as possible.”
Hema-akka still had to find money for the surgery and a place for me to stay. In her own physical condition she could not take care of me in her house. At APD there was nobody at night except the watchman, so she sent me to back to school to wait for some more time. I could not refuse to go but I was impatient. A few days later I could not bear it any longer. I somehow found someone to help and landed at Hema-akka’s door. “Akka, I cannot wait. I want to go for surgery now.” She replied, “Okay. I will arrange everything now and you stay in my house till a hospital bed is arranged.”
God knows how this lady managed things, but in a couple of days I was in the St. Philomina hospital lined up for surgery by Dr. Srinivas. I knew Hema-akka worried about my being alone at night. She thought I was her own child. The very thought made me cry. I said to her, “Amma, do not worry for me. You are my God; and with you caring for me, nothing can go wrong.” This was the best I could do and I think she was reassured.
January 6, 2007