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Restricted by her feet

Peerzada Arshad Hamid

Srinagar, November 24, 2007:

Tawheeda Jan

11-year-old Tawheeda Jan, living in a remote village of Soi-Pathri, Damhal Hanjipora in this newly created district Kulgam of Indian administered Kashmir has never been able to wear shoes or sandals. She desires to wear at least one pair in her lifetime.

Her problem is the abnormal growth of her feet. Her parents say that she was born with swollen feet. No available size of shoes or sandals in the market is available for her feet.

She has no option but to walk without sandals. She even treads on dusty road from her house to school - located on the plateau in the outskirts of the village- barefooted. She does not wear anything to cover her swollen feet. During summers she moves on easily, roam around in the village alleys freely. But come winter, and her troubles start worrying her. The skin of her heels and toes start developing cracks with the blowing of cold waves outside. She gets exposed to frost. And, if it rains or snows, she gets confined within the four walls of her house.

Doctors have declared her suffering from elephantiasis- gross enlargement of limbs due to lymphatic obstruction. In the absence of any treatment Tawheeda's problem gets aggrieved day by day quite secretly in her remote village.

Tawheeda's foot is 11 inches in length and 7 inches broad. With her age, her feet are growing. Right from her birth her parents have seen the feet of their elder daughter growing abnormally but little have they done to help their daughter recover from this disease.

In the entire area consisting of several villages Tawheeda has become a known case. Some perceive her as a pure medical case, awaiting treatment. Others comprising mostly of ignorant women consider her a curse on family. People in the village say that medical science can play miracles but Tawheeda's family cites poverty as a hurdle to see their daughter recover. They argue that during one of their visits to Bone and Joint hospital in Srinagar, roughly 110- km, far from their village, doctors suggested that Tawheeda's feet need to be amputated, and followed by surgery.

"Tawheda was merely five or six years old when I took her to Srinagar. Doctors there told me that amputation of the feet is the only way out. I thought that with her feet she is able to move around but once they are amputated, she will be rendered crippled. Also, I was not able to manage the money needed for the operation and treatment afterwards," said Abdul Hamid Wagay, father of Tawheeda.

Perplexed by the decision of doctors, Wagay then ran out from the hospital along with her daughter and came back to the village. Since then he continues to watch her daughter helplessly.

"What can I do? God has to take care of her himself," wishes Wagay, a farmer. In the premises of her house, Tawheeda has come for the lunch break from the school and is revising her lessons that she says teacher will ask for in the classroom. Her sisters and brother have finished lunch and are playing.

Intermitently, Tawheeda looks at them and giggles. I asked do you want to join them and the little girl pointed towards her feet.

"I am not able to stand on a single bare foot, for pebbles or some pointed objects on ground pinch me," Tawheeda answered.

She studies in 5th standard in government primary school in her village. At the school she has to bear the taunts of fellow classmates but she endures all this for she likes to go to school and do the arithmetic. She says she reads for she wants to become a teacher.

Tawheeda says she never fight back with the classmates but really enjoy when they are being punished for not learning the lessons. "Since I am not able to answer their taunts, I then counter them by saying you are dull and get punished at the hands of teachers," said Tawheeda with a smile.

As Tawheeda was about to move back to school, the school bell rang-an indication of lunch break culmination- and her sisters ran towards the school. Tawheeda started slowly, clutched her books under her armpit and limped all the way through the serpentine village alley to the school. Doctors warn that Tawheeda needs an immediate treatment to avoid any complicacy. Dr. Abid Koka, an orthopaedic surgeon is a senior resident at SKIMS, the premier health institute in Srinagar. He says that under sever conditions the patients need amputations otherwise they run the risk of death.

"I think this is the only case in Kashmir, I have not heard of any such other case here. The abnormal growth of limbs or any part of limbs is due to lymphatic obstruction by a nematode parasite," Koka explains.

Tawheeda's mother has given up hope to take her daughter for treatment. Her only worry is that she may not be able to send her daughter to the middle school.

"Since Tawheeda will finish her studies in the primary school, next year she has to take admission in the middle school in the another village. I don't feel she can continue her studies," said her mother.

Unaware of her family's intentions and complicacy of the diseases she is suffering from, Tawheeda carries on. The moment she is back from school, she helps her mother in the daily chores.

"I help mother in washing dishes and feed grains to the fowl," she said. Tawheeda's father says that he would be glad to seek assistance from some organisation in treatment of Tawheeda.

"Since I am not able to afford treatment for my child, I would really appreciate if some organisation agrees to come forward to save my daughter," Wagay wishes. Since the family has given up and there seem to be no signs for Tawheeda to recover.

You can change the life of little Tawheeda and help her achieve her goals.

(Kashmir Newz)



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Click here to read this story. For reproduction rights contact Kashmir Newz Desk

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