In less than two weeks, I’m going to see Rudra again. And I can’t tell you how excited I am for that. I wish I could say the feeling is mutual but truth is he won’t remember me and even if he does, it will be as that annoying guy that’s bothering him and part of a bunch of folks that’s making life inconvenient for him. I guess there’s some truth to that, since he and his family met us, he’s been making a six hour drive into a big hospital every week and his legs and feet are constantly in plaster. Who could blame him? Especially when you consider that he’s just two years old. Let me explain.
This past February, we held our first medical camp in this God forsaken village in one of the poorest states in India. The folks here are so poor, the UN doesn’t just call them poor but as having multidimensional poverty. That means they are poor when it comes to income, health, water, education, living standards and ten other indicators. Any way you look at it, they’ve got nothing. A team of us drove over six hours to reach this village and we then set up camp. And then they came, and did they come, in droves, young, old, men, women, and children. It was overwhelming for the emotions, everyone with a need. The doctors got busy and within hours, we had already seen hundreds. I walked into a tent room of one of the doctors and that’s when I met Rudra for the first time. His mom brought him in the hope that there was something that the doctors could do for his feet. She came only because she was told that this was a free medical camp.
Her husband is a daily laborer, and they have no money to spend on basic medicine, let alone anything more than that. She has not been able to see what all parents long for, the first steps of their child. I looked at Rudra and thought of my boys. I remember seeing them take two steps, and it was for me the equivalent of Neil Armstrong’s achievement of walking on the moon. Rudra’s mother has not seen that but she has seen far beyond that; she has looked into the future and seen her son living a life as a beggar. And that thought is not far from the truth, the feet that Rudra was born with and where he lives guarantees him only one future, that of a beggar. In fact, just a few days earlier, I was in the car with my brother-in-law, a doctor who had come for the medical camp. As we were waiting at a red light, a man came to us begging, his hands were deformed. As he walked away, my brother-in-law said that the deformity could have been corrected when he was just an infant. I remembered the beggar as I looked at Rudra. And as I was watching the doctor examine Rudra, I heard words of hope. “Your son was born with what’s called club feet but with proper medical care, this can be corrected.” This was translated to the mom, but both of our emotions were so different. As I was beginning to feel great joy, the emotion of the mom had not changed. That was because proper medical care requires finances and when you are labelled as having multi-dimensional poverty, hearing “with proper medical care” is as good as saying he will never walk again. So I told Devaraj, and he and his team got involved and we promised to take care of this. In the days after, we found a doctor six hours away who would provide the medical care without the cost. And some dear friends out in Chicago heard about this and having had taken care of their own daughter who was born with club feet, provided the finances for Rudra and his parents to travel back and forth and stay while being treated by the doctor. It has been a long process; this will be the last week with him in plasters and then he will be given a special shoe that he will have to wear for some time. The team is coming back to this village, and I can’t wait to see Rudra. And I’m hoping to see a mom waiting to see her son accomplish something that will make Neil Armstrong’s steps seem like child’s play.