Ordinary Lady, Extraordinary Accomplishments
Vimala Parikshit Dhanya
Wondering who these kids are? These are ordinary children born with a rare genetic disease named Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). It is the rarest among the rare. Also known as the brittle bone disease.
Simply put, it is a genetic bone disorder characterised by fragile bones that break easily. The term literally means “bone that is imperfectly made from the beginning of life. Most affected children end up being completely bed-ridden. And almost always with broken hearts too.
Without a word of kindness or without any act of encouragement, most would have lived a meaningless life of dependency. But then there came a fairy-mother to their rescue.
Latha Nair is an ordinary lady doing extraordinary things. A cashier with Matsyafed, she was known for her compassion and her willingness to extend a helping hand to anyone in need. Dr. Hari, a homeo doctor, knowing that Latha could help, approached her with a young boy named Binu.
From a poor agricultural family in Wayanad, Binu was born with OI. And to make his world go topsy-turvy, his brother committed suicide. Dr. Hari asked Latha if she could help Binu. Moved by the boy’s dire situation, she agreed. Latha’s commitment along with Dr. Hari’s treatment, over several months, breathed life back into Binu.
“Both his legs were twisted and inter-wined when I first saw him. Now, with continuous efforts of Dr. Hari, his legs have somewhat gained a proper structure and he could walk now with more ease,” says a visibly content Latha.
Much later, Latha got introduced to Dhanya over the internet. An interesting child, Dhanya was very frank too. She quickly befriended Latha. Surprisingly she started inquiring about Binu and his treatment. Whenever Latha quizzed Dhanya about her, she would immediately go offline.
Latha had once told Dhanya that Binu is her right hand and that she is very proud of him. It took days before Dhanya finally told her ‘Chechi, I am like Binu. Will you accept me as your left hand?’ This left Latha stunned.
“Dhanya hails from Palakkad but is settled in the Gulf. Once when she was in Kerala, I went with Abhilash (one of the volunteers of Amrithavarshini and a link between Dhanya and Latha) to see her. She turned out to be a very charming, vibrant, little girl. From one, our OI team became two,” Latha continued.
Dhanya also became part of Latha’s kin. Gradually, through sharing of information and a growing network, Latha soon had eighteen OI patients aged 6-48. Dhanya, who hails from a well-off family, has received educational and computer training at home. So Dhanya took the initiative and spread the information following which others joined in.
Thus the whole community of Amrithavarshini was formed. “It didn’t have an organizational set-up in the beginning. But people advised me that to support all these kids in need. And not to restrict the kindness to only a few. I should allow the network to spread and gain more helping hands. We even started a website www.amrithavarshini.org. We started letting people know what we do. In the beginning I used to send my own salary but later I got assistance from friends and well-wishers.”
All 18 OI-affected persons are supported by Amrithavarshini. The organisation helps them identify and help nurture talents with each individual. And importantly enough it gives them hope.
Ornaments made by the OI Kids
Painting by Linesh
Pencil Sketch by Linesh
Sathy system depicted by Vimala
Painting by the youngest OI Kid
“Aneesh, my driver, donates a hundred rupees every month from his salary for them. Now, we send Rs.300 every month to each of them. This is not charity. We give them an opportunity for interacting and expressing themselves. There are lots of hidden talents in them. We endeavor to help them nurture and let grow their talent. The real contentment comes when someone identifies similar feelings as yours. After almost 40 years, I met an old classmate of mine. When I told her about what I do, she hugged me and said – Now it’s not just your Amrithavarshini, it’s our Amrithavarshini. That I count as the real fruit of this effort.”
Aneesh and Abhilash - Amrithavarshini Volunteer
What Latha is continuing to do is a lot more than what we could capture in words. To understand and admire it, you got to have a close look at the incredible talent she nurtured through helping the OI challenged lives. Now, through the already build-up communication among the inmates of Amrithavarshini, we hear that they are helping each other to solve their problems and sometimes offering the other a patient hearing.
By Rohini Kumar