"How cruel !" I thought as I bathed seven-year-old Zafar. For the first time,
I saw the extent of his deformities. Memories of our first meeting at the
Matruchhaya orphanage flashed past. Born with very short legs, flipper-like feet
and only one arm, Zafar had confidently steadied himself against the floor with
his single hand. My heart went out to the tiny bundle of courage. Now, I thought
of all he had been given -- his personality, his intelligence, his exuberance --
to make up for what he lacked physically. No, Zafar would never ask for pity and
I vowed never to let anyone pity him.
In fact, his matter-of-fact attitude to
his disabilities moved everyone. Every day brought fresh surprises. At the
playground one day, as Zafar watched the children play, a five-year-old stood
staring at him. Peering up Zafar's sleeve, the puzzled little boy asked,
"Where's your arm ?" Quick as a wink, Zafar shot back, "Oh, I knocked it off
this morning as I was getting dressed." The boy ran to his other, earnestly
reporting, "That boy's arm came off and he hasn't put it back on !" Everyone
laughed; all embarrassment was banished.
Zafar's intelligence was obvious. "Thank you" was all the English h knew when he
arrived from Bhopal. Barely two months later, with the assistance of a home
tutor, he was holding conversations in his own unique accent.
When I took
Zafar to the prosthetics clinic to try out an artificial arm and specially
designed platform boots, he watched intently as the specialist buckled on the
electronic hand and laced the elevated boots onto his feet. To the doctor's
amazement, Zafar was up and walking in minutes ! Within the next hour, he also
learnt to pick up and hold onto things by opening and closing the hand using
just a small shoulder movement.
Zafar was certainly an extraordinary boy.
Several times during his first summer with us, he often spoke to me about his
friend at the adventure playground for special-needs children. Intrigued, I
decided to stay back after I had dropped him off there. Zafar toddled over to a
girl in an electric Wheelchair and guided her down the pathway. When they
reached a slope or bend, he was quick to say, "Slower, slower. ... Okay, faster
I could not believe my eyes ! Then, it all made sense. Zafar had simply
found someone who needed his help. In his own way, he seemed to be saying, "We
should help others whenever we can." As I watched the pair continue down the
path, I reflected that we all have so much to learn from this deformed,
abandoned yet astonishingly remarkable child.