Fourteen year old boys can be an absolute delight or absolute terrors. What was a heart wrenching surprise was the demeanour of this fourteen year old boy, weak from not having been diagnosed for over two months and in pain and discomfort thanks to an enlarged spleen. Indrajeet Sahu from distant Bihar came to see us armed with an application for enrolment into GIPAP, his medical papers in a tattered bag, leading his father by the hand and an unimaginable brightness and courageous light shinning from his eyes.
If Indrajeet had not looked the way he did, pale and just skin and bones, no one could have been blamed for thinking that it was the father who was the patient and the bright eyed son his care giver. What ever he lacked in physical fitness he more than made up with his piercing eyes and confident, sweet voice.
Over hot chai into which he happily and eagerly dipped the Parle G biscuits Ashok got for him he shared his story and not wanting to disturb or break into his free flowing narrative I sat back and gathered the required information for the application form. He had come a long way from Virar, braving the afternoon heat and the unforgiving to the uninitiated, experience of the Mumbai Local train.
Indrajeet had come to visit his Mama ji In Virar during the summer break and had been so excited at the thought of this wonderful chance to see the city of his dreams Bombay!!! On the long train journey across the hot , arid land his mind had spun exciting dreams of all the wonderful things he would see and all the adventurous things he would do once he reached the city.
To his impatient disappointment right from the time he alighted from the train he began to feel an unexplainable lassitude and weakness brought on by a debilitating fever. In the hope every day that the next morning would bring back his energy and spirits he went to bed to continue to dream. But it was not to be and each day seemed to make him only weaker and more and more miserable. The local physician kept telling him he would soon bounce back with the natural resilience of his young body but it was no good. Weak and depressed he began to miss home and his mother and younger siblings. All the excitement of being in the “Sheher” slowly began to fade away. His father eventually came, leaving the work he could ill afford to, in the small plot of land he tilled in the village, to take his son back so he would not be a burden to his relatives.
In the meanwhile the local physician had finally decided to get a blood test done and the unexpected and unusual results surprised him. He realised he could have a case of “Blood Cancer” on his hands!! Thanks to an alert and kind neighbour who worked in the city the reports were shown to another physician who had the presence of mind to refer the young lad to a medical oncologist. Step by shaky step he was lucky to be guided to this one doctor who would eventually see that he could access GIPAP and Glivec and there he was sitting in front of me, tired head held high a look of accomplishment on his face. For a split second , just for a split second I saw the mask fall and caught a fleeting glimpse of the exhausted, vulnerable and frightened little boy who had till now held all the fear and panic at bay. Immediately the mask was back in place , the confident veneer apparent and it was as though he was telling me , “There , I have brought you everything you would need ;I expect to only go from here with the medicine that will make me well again and that will wipe the lines of sorrow and helplessness form my father's worried brow” His body language dared me to say otherwise ..
It broke my heart and at the same time an indescribable feeling of pride and joy swept over me here was a young boy who would face and conquer the huge challenge in front of him – all by himself and be a pillar of strength to his bewildered father here was someone who had taken charge ; here was someone who knew not fear and who was hungry for what was his right !! The procedure for enrolment requires collection of documents of various kinds and he young lad was all attention as I explained what he would be required to submit before he could collect this supply. With a reassuring hand upon his father's arm, who was growing more and more agitated, he listened and nodded in understanding and assured me all of those would be arranged for.
I was not in the least surprised when the next day (itself) the boy and his father returned with the necessary papers and collected his supply. On his way out he promised to call and let us know how was keeping. I also extracted a promise that he would come to see us before he left for his home in the village.
And I was once again not in the least surprised when about three weeks later I received a phone call from Virar and heard his bright excited voice tell me how much better he was feeling .
And of course a couple of weeks later he was there at the office with his latest blood reports all set to go back home to his mother.
As he walked out he said to me “Thank you for making me well enough to go home to my mother looking as she would like to see me . Healthy and smart!!!!". Not in the least surprising , coming from one of the most astonishing and courageous fourteen year old I have ever met.