Surgana – a remote sub-division in Nashik district, on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border. Nestled among hills and forests, Sarguna is mainly inhabited by Kokana, Mahadev Koli, and Warli tribals. Although the region is blessed with nature’s bounties, there are hardly any motorable roads, means of communication, or other facilities such as mobile networks.
In June 2014, I was transferred from Karjat in Raigad district to the District Council Primary School in Chikarpada, Surgana.
One of my students, Sahil Saduram Chaudhary, from the Kokana tribal community, had a physical disability – he could not use either of his legs. This did not prevent him from being very enthusiastic about his studies. His parents would often carry him to school. Often, his mother would stay back with him in school to take him to the toilet or to help him with other chores. Sometimes he would come by himself, crawling. It wasn’t easy for him to get to school from deep inside the forest where they lived, but I never heard Sahil complain.
I recalled Tai Ambu Kewari – a hearing-impaired student of mine from the Telangwadi District Council School in Raigad district, who was deaf in both ears. Her parents were illiterate, but she was very keen on studying. Seeing her determination, I had her examined by a doctor. In 2013, the Alibagh District Council gifted her a hearing aid. I still remember the wonder and happiness in her eyes when she began to hear sounds for the first time.
I wanted to help Sahil too. At my own cost, I took him to the rural hospital, the civil hospital in Nashik and then to the referred hospital. Sometimes his parents would accompany us. These hospital visits did not help Sahil much, but his parents had the satisfaction of knowing that something was being done for him. They started believing that his condition might improve.
I didn’t give up. I was hoping, at the very least, to get him a wheelchair that would give him some mobility.
Meanwhile, I learned about a health camp for people with disabilities being held by a Gujarat-based NGO called Gramseva Trust. I met them and told them about Sahil, and requested them to come to Sahil’s village to examine him, as we didn’t have a car to bring him to Gujarat. My happiness knew no bounds when Dr Rita and her team agreed to come to Chikarpada.
Within two days, the Gramseva Trust ambulance was parked right outside Sahil’s home in Chikarpada. Dr Rita could speak Marathi. She examined Sahil and told his parents that they would try to arrange a wheelchair from the USA for him. She explained that first, they would have to take Sahil to the health camp in Mahuvas village in Navsari district, where a specialist would examine him. In 2018, I took Sahil and his parents to Navsari.
This camp proved to be a turning point in Sahil’s life, and for his parents. The specialists there felt Sahil could benefit from surgery. He might not need a wheelchair after all. The NGO also offered to pay for the operation. Sahil’s parents’ eyes were filled with tears of joy.
A couple of days later, Sahil underwent the surgery at Kharel in Gujarat, and it was a success.
We were accommodated at the Gramseva Trust’s guest house in Kharel. Sahil was kept under observation for 15 days after the surgery. The Trust took care of all the logistics.
Soon, Sahil was doing physiotherapy exercises to strengthen his muscles. At last, the day arrived when he stood up, on his own feet. Everyone clapped. His parents were overjoyed. They kept thanking the doctors, and me.
My dream of getting Sahil on his feet had come true. I was filled with happiness and a sense of gratification. We thanked the Gramseva Trust for everything and returned to Chikarpada.
After two months’ rest, as advised by his doctors, Sahil was able to walk without any help. Now he walks to school alone. His whole personality has changed. He is now a confident young boy.
The villagers are amazed to see him walk, run and play like other children.
My colleague Manoj Pawar ‘Sir’ helped me immensely in this endeavour. I was felicitated and also received certificates of appreciation from the sarpanch of Kukudne gram panchayat as well as from Vasudha Bhargav, Center Head, Pangarne.
I have recently been transferred to the Dindori sub-division. Sahil now goes to the high school in Deshmukhpada. He was always keen on studies, and now he is even more determined to do well.
Sahil will always have a special place in my memories, and I will always feel happy when I recall the role I was able to play in getting him back on his feet.
Writer: Balram Machrekar, Primary Teacher, District Council Primary School Nalegao, Taluka Dindori, Nashik district