“All mothers carry their children nine months in their womb, but I carried my daughter for 11 years in my mind,” says Sali warmly hugging her daughter Anushka tenderly. It was 11 years after her marriage that Anushka came into their lives. She was told by the doctors that she won’t be able to be a mother and she had learned to live with it.
Sali and her husband Samuel were living in abject loneliness, desperately missing a child when they heard that a distant relative was pregnant for the fifth time. And they also heard that the couple who lived in poverty didn’t want the child. Though she took abortion pills, they remained ineffective, and she continued to take the pills till she gave birth to a premature baby. A baby girl that weighed barely 1 and a half kilos. It was when Sali heard that they were planning to abandon the child at the hospital that she went to meet the mother.
“Please don’t abandon her. We will take care of her as our own child,” Sali implored the mother. The family agreed, and also to the suggestion that the mother should breastfeed the baby for two months.
Fifteen days after her birth, Sali got custody of the baby. Sali was overwhelmed by seeing the puny-sized baby. But the reception at home wasn’t entirely welcoming as a lot of people advised her against it. “How will you bring it up? Go and hand her back to the mother,” they told her. But Sali heard none of it. During that time there were two women who had just delivered babies. In the first few days, they would take turns feeding the wailing baby. Very soon under the tender care of three mothers, the baby gained some weight. And looked healthy and cute.
But when the baby wasn’t rolling over even after 3 months, Sali started getting anxious. Even by 6 months, the baby’s neck was not stable and was not showing any of the usual growth associated with babies. The couple took the child to Kottayam Medical College’s pediatric ward. It was found that the abortion pills had affected the growth of the child. There weren’t much doctors could do. Sali was nagged for keeping the child and advised to abandon it. But she only had one question for them— “Will you abandon your child if she had a similar condition?”
During the days that followed Sali visited all the available hospitals. In buses, she was taunted by the passengers. She was called an unfit and careless mother and the older women would scold her. When it became unbearable Sali started taking autorickshaws though she couldn’t afford it.
Finally, she met Thiruvalla based Neurosurgeon Dr. George Kovoor, who correctly diagnosed her condition and prescribed medicines and treatments for her. She was enrolled in a special school. He continued to treat her till he died of cancer.
Thankfully, none of that ailment affected her brain. Though she was unable to speak, she created a language of her own with sounds. When she was three years old, her father placed her on a chair. Just so that she won’t fall he designed a special chair for her. Under the doctor's advice, she was fitted with a collar around her neck. When Sali cooked, Anushka would sit with her. That was also a study class for the child. Sali would teach her about the various kind of vegetables. She had a unique method of teaching—Sali would recite the names countless times and during one occasion deliberately utter the wrong name. And the child will spot that and correct it in her own language. When Sali realised that the child was comprehending everything she was saying the mother started conversing with her regularly.
Though she was enrolled into a special school at the age of 7, it didn’t really help the child. The only good thing that came of those 3 years spent at the school was that Sali learned the basics of physiotherapy. Regular sessions helped in straightening her neck as well as her hands.
They decided to admit Anushka in the neighbourhood Iraviperoor Govt UP school. Though they were not sure whether she will be admitted, they decided to meet the Headmistress Jolymol George and explain their predicament. To their surprise, she welcomed Anushka with open arms. So at the age of 10, she got admitted into the first standard.
What followed was nothing like they had imagined. When Anushka got the support of her Class teacher Roshin and classmates Jia, Niranjana, and Sowmya, she started adoring the school. The minute she reaches school, everything is taken care of by her 6-year-old classmates. Though pandemic forced her to take online classes during her 2nd STD, she didn’t miss her classes. Divya who was her class teacher would routinely enquire about her progress in class. Anushka is carefully following the classes in Victors Channel. Sali also helps her with other lessons. Her mother would tie a thin cloth around her fingers and assist her in writing. Currently, she is even managing to write without her mother’s assistance. She has successfully entered the 3rd STD and has already learned how to write Father, Mother, Grandmother, Thank you and Hi.
A Fan of Darmajan
Anushka is a Malayalam TV serial and cinema fan. She watches most of the films that come on TV. She is a fan of comedy films and loves watching Darmajan Bolgatti and Jagathy Sreekumar. Just mentioning Darmajan’s name is enough to make her happy. Perhaps a visit from the actor will make her even happier.
She also loves music and never misses the reality music shows on TV. She sings loudly in her own language and her mom is ready to break into a dance for Anushka. On seeing that Anushka happily tries to move her head and tries to hold her hands up. One day Sali hopes the daughter will dance with her.
Neat and tidy
Anushka is a bit fussy about cleanliness and as she grew older she refused to eat anything from outside. She only likes her mother’s cooking. When she refused to drink the packaged milk, Samuel bought a cow home. Anushka is also adamant that only her father should milk the cow. So much so that she would sit by the window and watch her father milk the cow and then only will she drink her milk. When the cow became a source of income for the family they bought two more cows. Currently selling milk is the prime source of income.
Their house near Manimalayar had washed away in the 2019 floods. Along with it went Anushka’s treatment documents and other valuables which left the child deeply unhappy. When Samuel got some money and asked his daughter what she wants with it—“A house”, she told him. They finally built a home with the help of govt money as well as borrowing from a lot of people. Anushka helps her mother in keeping the house clean. She even tells her mother to put her on the floor so that she can mop the floor and also folds the clothes.
Ray of Light
Anushka which means Ray of light in Sanskrit was a name that was suggested by her aunt’s daughter Ansu. And fittingly she is the ray of light of that house. They also get a lot of assistance from Samuel’s brother Thomas and wife Rosamma in taking care of Anushka. She is also the darling of that village and they make it a point to visit her while passing her home. During Vishu her neighbours made sure she was given Kaineetam. Anushka was also the star of every family function.
She is 12-year-old and to date, her biological mother hasn’t come in search of her. In all the documents Samuel has made her his successor. She is their centre of the universe.
Sali has no regrets about being the mother of such a special child. She only wishes Anushka's health condition got better. They are hoping to restart her treatment, but they are already deep in debt. All that the mother hopes to see is to see her walk, talk freely and dance with abandon. No one can grudge her that.