Raju stood before the window, staring at the horizon. He lifted both his hands and moved up and down gesturing as though he would fly.
“Shoo…. Ooo” – He uttered as he dashed his legs on the floor. He heaved a sigh as he cast glances at his right leg. It was slow, failing to cope with the left one. Eyes moistened, he was held captive in his sad thoughts.
There were many who thought that he would be stillborn at birth. Years ago, while his mother conceived and was taken for the ultrasound, the doctor said that one fetus had a tumor on his spine. In medical parlance, it was spinal bifida- a dreaded tumor on the back-that could put the lives of the twins at stake.
“One of the babies would die at the instant of birth” – The best gynecologist of the place would say.
The birth of the twins was altogether a different tale. Raju and his twin sister Mama were healthy physically while the tumor was found on the former’s back. Everyone stopped to say that luck had cast its evil eye on the male child.
“How a two day old baby can be operated” – Skeptics uttered while casting a jealous eye on the male child?
Father and grandfather of the infant dared to perform the impossible. While Raju was only forty-eight hours old, they took him to the best private hospital of the city and there the battery of doctors carried a three hour long surgery on the spine of the little one. Although, the word ‘miracle’ had no place in the medical dictionary, Raju survived the ordeal. Both the kids became the talk of the place as people thronged to have an eyeful of them.
God’s miracle had worked but the tumor had partially paralyzed the ankle of the right foot. Raju kept toddling till the age of two but surprised everyone but standing erect one day. His father whirled in joy as he saw his apple of the eye walking.
As he grew up struggling, he heard people around him talk with concern.
“What a cute boy! Why God punished him making him a limp” – He heard the voices discussing?
As he became three years old, he found the world of love and care disappearing like the shadow of a being in the evening. He writhed in pain while his mother slapped him while initiating him to the world of the alphabets and numbers.
He would weep when the punishment became heavier. Along with his sister, he was sent to a convent. He would get chastised for his dullness while his sister was praised for her excellence.
“The boy cannot hold the pen properly and his handwriting is so poor” – His mother would lament.
He heard his parents discussing about the matter of obtaining a certificate of handicap for him from the government.
“The lady at the Red cross office wants eight thousand rupees as a bribe. What we can do?”- His father was lamenting.
The day the medical board at the local hospital examined Raju’s leg and other papers for certification, he saw the reluctant faces of the doctors. They pulled and beat the paralyzed part of his ankle with a hammer under the pretext of examining.
“The left leg is bigger than the right. A small part of the right ankle has no sensation. So……. It does not come under the medical norms for certification and therefore he cannot be fit for that” – The doctors concurred.
Raju saw the hell break loose when his father turned hostile. There were argument and counterargument until it grew fierce. He saw his journalist father calling the entire press to the hospital and staging a protest there. He watched the doctors tremble before the questions and camera of the television crew. Finally, the dissenting doctors called a truce and certified him as a handicapped with more than sixty percent limp in the right leg.
He was failing to come to terms with the world where he grew up. Barred from the sports in the school, the authorities even objected to take him at the school picnic. While his sister went with her friends in the bus rejoicing in the funs and frolics of the picnic, he stared at the passing faces in the vehicles for the picnic. To his surprise, he found anger rise in him while he discovered that a handicapped was a loner in the world.
The best teacher in the school for Science and Mathematics would exclaim like a sadist while Raju pulled a slow pace towards the classroom.
“Come fast, else I am going to break the other leg” – The teacher would shout spreading his eyes.
“Father, mom has beaten me even with a shoe while trying to teach me. My teacher often calls me a “choota”- a lame for life. Why the world is so agonizing for me? What have I done to deserve this? Please tell me” – He would shake his father for a reply.
He saw his father bursting into tears while smothering him with kisses.
Raju shoved his face in the iron grill of the window while lengthening his hands outside. He clenched his fists in an attempt to seize a piece from the horizon.