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Sr. Ching Madduma, ICM
Sarnath, Varanasi, U.P. India
Have you ever seen a “Kamal”? “Kamal” is a Hindu word for lotus, a beautiful flower that thrives in water. Because it is beautiful and symbolic, many people would like to have the name Kamal.
Parents would like to name a son or a daughter Kamal or Kamala.
Such was the case with a Khurmi couple named Kallu and Jarauti. They called their first born child Kamal. The child was a boy, and so the joy of the family was doubled. Kamal’s parents are poor and illiterate. In spite of the poverty, Kamal was cared for and loved. The family had much hope and many dreams about this promising healthy, good looking baby boy, until he was eight months old.
According to the mother and the grandmother, when Kamal was about eight months old, contracted a high fever, suffered convulsions, and became unconscious for a month. Relatives of the family thought the child was possessed and so was referred to a “pujari” (prayer leader) to perform “puja” (prayer). Local medicine was given to the child, but he was never referred to a medical doctor. Kamal became very weak, but he started walking very slowly at the age of two years.
When he was three years old, he fell from an auto- rickshaw and his head was badly injured. The pujari advised the parents that Kamal should wear a steel bracelet and an anklet to help cure him. Until today, the boy still wears these ornaments.
Eventually, the same bracelet and anklet were used by the family to chain and lock him in order to keep him home, because Kamal tented to loiter around and did not come back home by himself.
Physically Kamal is strong; he walks and runs like any other normal boy. But he did not grow up to be a mentally normal person. He has brain damage to some degree.
Kamal was about four years old when I first met him about eight years ago, in a village near Sarnath. He was dirty and naked. He was tied to a post under the house. His feet were chained. Often he had been left alone in the house in this condition when the family members went out for casual work. He had learned to move around like animal-like and was able to climb up and down fearlessly anywhere and everywhere. His parents were frightened and there was no one to look after the boy, especially when the adults had to go out to work in the fields.
Living with the Animals
In the same place, in smelly and dirty surroundings, tethered beside him were buffaloes and cows. From the beginning he had acquired the habits of these animals- in eating drinking, defecating and even, at times, in walking.
Though he could hear and could make sounds, he never learned to talk. He did not look at anyone and he always bent his head forward. He closed his eyes when one spoke to him, or called his attention. He learned to smile only at a later age.
He seemed to be unaffected by what was happening around him. He did not recognize people in his own family. In other words, Kamal lived in a world of his own.
Kamal's parents lost hope in him. They got tired of looking after him. They were frustrated.
One day, Kamal’s mother went to search for him everywhere. After finding him scavenging she gave him a severe beating. Out of anger and frustration, she left the house with her other children and told him not to come back home anymore.
Because Kamal happened to be different, needing much time and energy, his parents gave more attention and care to the other children, a younger brother and two sisters. It was only the grand mother who patiently cared for him. Kamal had lost his parents’ love and affection. In fact, he was rejected almost from the time of the accident.
His name was now changed from Kamal to “Pagal” which means crazy. He was called this by his family members themselves, by the people in the neighborhood, by the community and by anyone who met and saw him. Everyone though he was a hopeless case, “good for nothing”, “crazy”… they said.
But Kamal remained to be human being with the same needs, the same rights, the same dignity, the same yearning for respect, love affection and acceptance as anyone else. He had become handicapped through no fault of his own.
On day I asked his parents to bring Kamal each day for an hour or two to our house so that we could bathe him, put on cloths and remove the chains from his feet. The following day his uncle brought Kamal, with high hopes and expectation for a miracle to happen – for Kamal to be well again! What a difference and joy to see Kamal looking like a person! He looked clean and held on to his uncle’s hand, having a twig in his other hand.
It seemed he preferred to carry a twig rather than to wear clothes or even at times to eat. Later I tried to substitute toys for the twig but eventually he would reach for the twig. It looked as if he wanted to identify himself with special objects and in these objects he found some dense of security.
In 1981, I began the first educational unit in the care of persons with a mental handicapped. Kamal became my first student. He was about four years old then.
I was using my own small bedroom as my classroom. Kamal got used to my room and to our compound so much that every time he had escape from home, it was here he took refuge.
One time he appeared naked, dirty, covered with mud, and had uprooted flower plant in his hand. Seeing him, immediately wanted to wash and bathe him, but he strongly refused, screaming frightened of the water.
The next day Kamal came again - dirty, naked, feet chained and with the bunchful of uprooted flower plants and twig. I noticed him staring at a drum full of water. He seemed to be fascinated by his own image in the water. Slowly I opened the faucet. With eyes full of wonder, he looked intently as the water flowed from the tap to the drum. Holding his hand in mine, I made him try to open and closed the faucet which later on he enjoyed doing. Slowly I poured the water on his feet and body and finally bath him without difficulty.
Early the following morning Kamal escaped from home and came again. I saw him enjoying his bath under the tap inside the bathroom. I helped him to bathe and after some time I closed the faucet. But he cried and creamed inside my room and became so angry that he urinated and defecated in my room. Together with him we had to clean my room with water. That was the initial step in the taming training of Kamal