As I was leaving the women centre yesterday I was as usual greeted by loud good morning maam's (notwithstanding the time of day) from the gang of kids that live in thee vicinity and often play in front of the centre. I stopped as I normally do. Amongst them was a new face. Huge melting eyes in the middle of a tiny badly scalded face. A closer look reveals burn scars on the body, arms and a badly maimed hand. I stop in my tracks, my heart pounding and am suddenly taken back to the fateful day in March 2003 when I first laid eyes on the little scalded Utpal.
The little girl standing in front of me is about 2. Her scars look almost as old. I look around for answers to my silent questions. After a few long seconds an older girl offers some insight: the little girl was burnt when she was just a baby. She was sleeping in a mosquito net, the kind you find in all markets and that look like a huge bell. There was an oil lamp burning in the vicinity and the net made of cheap nylon caught fire. The baby too!
She survived. But unlike Utpal whose face had got spared, hers got badly scalded. Two huge almost identical scars mar her little cheeks. But somehow her impish smile and lovely eyes are endearing and make you forget the ugliness of her scars. To me she was just a child, with the same dreams, aspirations and hopes in spite of her scars and maimed hand. My mind is choking with questions and emotions. What will the future hold for her? What can we do? How can we ease her morrows? How do her peers treat her? Why is God sometimes so unkind?
Just like Utpal's, her family too shifted only recently to a house almost adjacent to our women centre. Is there some hidden Jungian synchronicity? Some hidden message? Is it once again the God of Lesser Beings at his best?
I do not what the future holds. As I write these words I dot even know her name let alone anything about her. All I know is that I cannot and will not be a silent spectator. A maimed girl has no morrow in a land like ours where the future of any girl child lies in her ability to find a good match. Her family is poor and will not be able to make up for the scars and the maimed hand by providing her a handsome dowry. I do not know whether medical wizardry can be of help and even it it is at what cost it will come. I know that a good education and sound income generating skills are the only hope she has.
I will go back to the centre today and set the ball rolling by seeing that she is enrolled in our creche. I will call up all the men in white I know, browse the net and connect with anyone one i think can be of help. I will do everything I can to ensure that the huge eyes in the scarred face remain filled with trust and hope and never have to suffer the indignity and stigma that is often the fate of those like her.