Kannur: In a pleasant twist of fate a six-year-old girl who became the face of victims of political violence in Kerala will helm the government-run family health centre at her own native village of Cheruvanchery in Kerala's Kannur district.
Asna, who had lost her right leg in a bomb blast in 2000 during an election day at the same village, had persevered and passed the MBBS course a couple of years ago from the Kozhikode Medical College.
Occasional reports of her life-altering ordeals, struggles and successes had always touched a chord with the public in Kerala.
On the fateful day, September 27, 2000, Asna and her three-year-old brother Appu were playing at the courtyard of her uncle's home. The local body polls were underway and rival political camps were out to settle scores. A bomb reportedly hurled by right-wing activists injured her right leg so badly that it had to be amputated.
A scuffle had broke out at a nearby polling booth and the kids saw folks running to their compound. Seeing the commotion, Asna’s mother came running and scooped up her kids. It was a tad too late. There was a fire and a deafening blast. That’s all she remembered.
Asna, who had just joined class one at the New LP School at Poovathur, was chained to the hospital bed for three months, suffering excruciating pain.
The first awareness of the enormity of the tragedy dawned on her while at the Specialists Hospital in Kochi. The bomb blast had ripped off her right leg. She no more had a knee and a lower limb. No surgery could stitch back what was torn to shreds. Amputation was the only answer. The rest is history. Appu too lost a huge chunk of flesh off his feet and her mother was hurt by the shards of glass that stuck into her tummy.
The little girl soon realised she could no more play around with her brother. What followed were days of despair… for all. Asna would cry and kick up a storm over her helplessness. This was how the idea of fixing an artificial limb came up. She was so bent upon having a limb that they fixed one well before her wounds had healed. This again was a frustrating experience which made the child sore all over.
Fate intervened at this point in the form of one Dr Sundaram, whom Asna chanced to meet in the hospital. The doctor too had lost a leg, but to a car accident. He seemed like a magician to the little girl. His magic was his artificial limb which he would pull up, take out and do all sorts of wonders with. He could walk well too. Dr Sundaram shared his secret with her, Asna recalled. And that was the turning point.
“All others can walk and run only on their legs. They don’t have a leg like yours. You can take it off and put it on whenever you like or as you wish. Yours is a magic leg,”, said the doctor. From that day on, Asna started holding her leg in reverence. She became a sort of model for others who had also lost their limbs. The doctors would take Asna with them to bolster up the confidence in others. “Look at her, watch her smile,” they would tell patients who seemed to have lost hope.
The love and care she received at the hospital kindled in her dreams of being a doctor.
She could overcome handicap and hardships as her family and dear ones stood with her. Asna's father Nanu shut his shop for good to look after his daughter. Her father used to literally carry her to school every day until the prosthetic leg was fitted.
At class five, Asna was shifted to East Valiyayi UP School. Her father would help her board the school bus and school employee would help her alight.
The artificial limb had to be changed every six months to suit the shift in her height and weight. Later, the change was effected only once a year. During her annual vacations she visited hospital to put on new limb.
Uphill task yet again
Asna finished her school and college education after much struggle and pain. Her hard work and determination ensured that she secured an MBBS seat at the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital. Here the classroom at the fourth floor proved to be yet another obstacle for her.
After Kannur Kerala Students Union (KSU) leader Robert Vellamvelly gave a request to the then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, a lift was installed at the college at a cost of Rs 38 lakh.
Her native villagers stood with her and collected Rs 15 lakh for her studies and treatment. The Kannur District Congress Committee later built a house for her family.
In service, close home
After completing house surgency, Asna applied for the temporary post at the family health centre near her home. The panchayat administration council on Tuesday decided to appoint Asna, who secured the first spot among the applicants.
The centre is just five minutes away from her house. But even that is a long distance for Asna, who is yet to get used to the prosthetic, which is causing pain and discomfort.
However, Asna would nevertheless walk that distance from Wednesday, as she begins to give it back to the village that stood by her during trying times.