Triumph over Numbing Adversity
A real story which appeared recently in Mysore Mail and Churumuri, is reproduced here.
Three year-old Suma( all names changed) ran along laughing the pathway in Glass House of Lal bagh. Her eyes glistened as she chased the butterflies swirling in the morning sun.
Sudhir and Sushila had gone for a picnic to Lalbagh before Sudhir would sail again as an officer in the Merchant Navy.
That night Suma fell ill. Probably the early morning breeze, thought Sushila, but her temperature wouldn’t come down. Suma kept rubbing her eyes as she felt itchy.
Next day they took her to Agarwal Eye Hospital. Within an hour, the doctors diagnosed it as Retino Blastoma - cancer of the eye and they will have to remove the left eye.
Is this really happening to us wondered Sushila as she went in to the ward to see Suma’s face swathed in bandage. They also suggested that if possible Suma should be taken abroad immediately for treatment so that the infection doesn’t spread to the other eye. An Opthalmic Research Institute in Frankfurt was doing pioneering research on preventive aspects of infection. After hectic calls to her cousin Vimala in Germany, the family boarded the flight to Frankfurt.
Suma was ‘just in time’ was the opinion of doctors who made sure the infection wouldn’t spread. But a day prior to their departure to Bombay, tragedy struck again; Suma’s surviving eye became itchy and doctors asked Sudhir and Sushila to sign the papers to remove her right eye. They also removed the optical nerve to save the child’s life.
A gale had hit a small boat sailing in serene waters. In just two weeks, life had turned topsy-turvy. Their daughter Suma- light of their eye - born normal had turned blind in front of their eyes.
The initial years were hellish for Sushila. With Sudhir away for long periods, she had to combat the terrible fate that had befallen them. A bright, chirpy Suma had turned into a lifeless object staring into dark vacant space.
Coming out of self-pity, Sushila decided to face the world with all the courage she could muster. She was determined not to send Suma to a blind school. She got her admitted to Mahila Seva Samaja. ‘We will make her grow as normal as possible’ she would tell Sudhir who marveled at his wife’s fighting spirit.
Suma turned out to be bright, for she could grasp lessons quickly. Sushila would tell her stories, made her repeat the same. Radio became her friend initially and later, a passion. She would listen to most of the BBC programs for hours and learnt to differentiate the newsreaders thorough their voice.
The plight of blind students taking public exam is really a nightmare. Sushila had to go all over the town to get ‘Writers’ who would write out the answer papers dictated by the blind student. There were times even with just couple of days to go before a Public Exam, they were frantically searching for writers.
Suma did her class X and got a first class in her B.Sc.
When she wanted to study Management, Sudhir wanted her to join Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumabi and stay at his Sister’s place. Suma showed a letter from a management school in Surrey, England which had given her an admission. ‘Please spend the money on my studies which you would have otherwise incurred on my marriage’, was her plea to her tearful parents.
Finally Suma went to England. For someone who had not stepped out of her house without an escort, she changed planes and landed at her college all by herself.
Her roommate was Maria, a West Indian. During a weekend break, she went to Frankfurt to meet her aunt, alone.
She called up BBC and reminisced about their earlier newscasters and mimicked their style of reading news. They were so delighted they called her over for tea and asked her to participate in a talk show.
Sudhir, having retired from service, often worried about Suma’s future. How she will find life here after studies are over, he wondered. In three months their daughter would be back. Then what?
When their TV conked out Suma and Maria called the TV repair service. A bright young man came and found some components had conked out. He brought the parts, made the set alright and the girls thankful invited him to have their afternoon tea with them. Next day he came again and serviced their radio set free of charge. John Beachcom ran a modest business of an electronic repair service in and around Surrey.
The girls once invited him for lunch at the canteen but decided to cook in their room itself. John joined them in cooking and it turned out he was a better cook than the girls!
The girls graduated with first class and celebrated with John joining them.
When John proposed to Suma that evening, she was speechless. Maria, to whom John had earlier confided his liking for Suma, urged her to consider his proposal. Suma wanted John to talk to Sushila and Sudhir and take their approval first.
Suma bade goodbye to Maria, John and England came back to Bangalore alone.
The marriage took place in Jayanagar. John’s mother Michelle, his aunt Clara and Maria came with John sporting a Mysore peta at the brief wedding ceremony.
For sometime Suma worked in a Management firm in Surrey, with a guide dog - a golden retriever accompanying her. Now Suma and John have two children, both boys, Shankar and Chris. Sudhir and Sushila visited them and spend some time in their new house. John has expanded his business into computers. The family came to Mysore for a brief visit last year. As the kids created havoc at the Childrens’ corner at Cheluvamba Park, I could see the mother smile through her eyes.