Wednesday, November 9, 2011
While crossing the river someone in the boat asked me, 'Your face looks familiar. Where are you going?' It is quite natural to be a known face to the localities now because I became a regular visitor of Mangalpur village for Rinky. 'I am going to Dr Jalil's house to see his small daughter' 'Oh, the poor girl who caught polio' I received prompt reply from the fellow, 'The Government is spending so much money for giving polio drops to the kids, still they are hit by polio. What a bloody wastage' he turned his face away from me. I turned into the villain in the boat.
By that time, I came to know the directions of Rinky’s house like the palm of my hand. Get down at Mangalpur Ghat, walk half a mile right along the river bank, then turn left to fall into the narrow strip of meadow leading straight to her place. The fifth house of the village belongs to Dr Jalil, Rinky’s father. He has set up his clinic in one of the rooms of his house but I could never see any patients there while visited his house earlier.
Rinky was sitting beside her mother on a shabby cot at their courtyard. Her flaccid, polio-stricken left limb was hanging like dead branch of the tree. Her mother covered her face the moment she saw me entering the courtyard. Rinky gave me one of her finest smiles. She was confident that I am not going to give her injection like her father did to her. When I was examining her first time she was crying like hell. She was carrying the dreaded experience of her father grasping her small waist tightly on the ground and pushing hard the thick needle into her buttock to get rid of her sudden paralysis. The rural doctors believe to treat and cure diseases by injections. They don’t even spare the kids.
I could not see Dr Jalil this time. His clinic was locked from inside and the clinic signboard was also missing. This is unusual because I was always greeted by Dr Jalil every time I visited his house before and his clinic used to remain open with the glowing signboard on its top.
Her mother rushed inside the house to bring me a chair. Children playing in the courtyard assembled around us. Rinky couldn’t play with them anymore so they play in her place to keep their paralyzed non-playing friend happy. I often saw this before – solidarity among the kids.
This was a follow up visit. I did the routine check up of Rinky’s paralyzed limb. Rinky got her due chocolate bar. My communication with her was so far silent except exchange of smiles. She only understands the local ‘Suryapuri’ language, which is spoken in many parts of the North-East Bihar bordering with
. I know there are a number of Bengali words in Suryapuri but I always remain a pathetic learner of the new languages. Bangladesh
‘Where is Dr Jalil?’ I asked her mother. I had to give him some physiotherapy references for Rinky. ‘He is caught by the police two weeks back and in jail now.’ I got a shocking reply.
‘Why not?’ came forward a middle aged Hindi-speaking villager. ‘There are so many charges against Dr Jalil – murder, extortion, robbery, rape. Police was tracking him for years.’
‘But he is a doctor’ I couldn’t help expressing my utter surprise.
‘That was a total eye-wash. He used this place as his perfect hideout.’
‘But he was treating you people for your illnesses, wasn’t he?’
‘So what, there are so many quacks treating us in our places because doctors like you never come to the villages to look after us’ replied the villager with sheer frustration.
Rinky’s mother already broke into tears. Some other women were trying to pacify her but the poor lady was inconsolable.
‘She has five children. Rinky was the second youngest. Who will look after these children now? Who will feed this family? How can this woman get Rinky married? Who will marry this disabled, debilitated girl? We are poor farmers. We can’t meet our both ends meat, how can we help this ill-fated family to meet their basic needs?’
I didn’t have their answers. I was looking at Rinky’s friends. They were back to their games. Rinky was so happy to see them play again. She was laughing loudly, clapping constantly and shouting at them incessantly as if she was very much a part of the playing team.
I was actually looking for a place in her playing team to make my own hideout.
(From Eradicator's Diary)