True Life Story of Murugesh
My name is Murugesh. I was born to very poor parents in a village near Salem in Tamil Nadu. My parents had never owned any land; nor did they have enough work in the village. So they had joined a group of families who had specialized in stone breaking work and were moving from place to place where suitable work was available. So I was born near a stone quarry where my parents were working at that time. I hear that I was quite normal at birth, but at age three I was struck by a strange disease. Perhaps some form of arthritis. My joints began to hurt and turn rigid. Medical help was not available near our settlement. My parents were too poor even to consider looking afar.
Slowly my knee joints stiffened and I could not even stand upright. Soon my elbows were also rigid. I was a cripple, able only to crawl. Life was miserable but I was helpless and continued somehow to live and grow. I felt terribly restless and depressed at times, but there was not much I could do. My parents were reasonably tolerant but I am sure they worried about my future. In any case I was only a burden and no help to them. This went on for years. One day when I was about 9 my father got angry with me over something. He scolded and then hit me. More than the physical blow his harsh cruel words stung me to the core. “You have been a burden on us from birth; a curse, no less. You will continue to make our life miserable as long as you live. I wish that you would die,” saying all this he hit me some more and pushed me into a ditch. I felt humiliated, miserable and angry.
I said, “Okay, I will leave you, go far, and never ever return to increase your miseries.” With all my strength I crawled to the nearby road. A bicycle rider stopped to my call and agreed to give me a lift to where I might find some other transport. Soon an auto-rickshaw man picked me up and dropped me at the rail station. He even gave me a huge sum (in those days) of 5 rupees to buy food. I managed to get on a train. The TTC took me for a beggar and let me be. I had no idea where I was headed. After many long hours of my first train ride I arrived at Bangalore City station. When I crawled out to a sidewalk near the Majestic bus station some rag pickers noticed me and took me under their wing. They told me to watch out, for if the police should catch hold of me I might end up in a home for juvenile beggars and never again come out. They had great fear of the place. I was kindly taken into the gang, looked over for what my cripple body was worth and given the task of sorting rags. My additional job was to assist the cook. These were the tasks I knew my funny body could perform. So I willingly accepted them.
One day I was sitting by the roadside and a lady came carrying three small bags. She needed assistance. She asked if I would help her. I said I gladly would but I cannot walk. She asked what was wrong and I told her I was crippled at a young age. “Would you like to be treated?” she asked. “Of course” I said, “I would give and do anything for it.” Apparently my answer spoke to her more than my few words. She thought for a moment and invited me to come to her home. I looked toward my companions. They easily understood and gave the nod of approval.
This kind lady already had a handicapped boy in her house. She introduced me to him. I stayed with her for about two months. She thought of various ways of helping me and consulted her friends, but none of them were within her power to implement. Finally, one day she took me to a place called APD (Association of People with Disability). This association was started by Hema-akka who then became my mentor and best friend.
(This story will continue in at least two more installments. It was narrated to me by Hema-akka herself.)
December 30, 2006