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“I watch ‘Mahadev’ on TV and like listening to the stories that my mother reads aloud to me”

When we spoke to Mini, the mother of Diya Sree (17) who has Cerebral Palsy (CP), they were in Kerala where Diya was undergoing a 20-day Ayurveda treatment to help enhance her body movements. Mini, who is a Hindi teacher in Port Blair, works in a school that understands her difficulties and allows her to take leave whenever Diya’s health issues crop up, as happens frequently.
Mini was widowed eight years ago. Her husband, T. Rajesh Kumar, who was a ranger in the forest department, caught a lung infection and died of a heart attack. Since she is a working woman she has employed a maid who sees to Diya’s daily needs such as brushing teeth, dressing, bathing and feeding. Her son Manish (24) helps with household chores.
Manish, who is doing an online MBA, told us that growing up, he understood that his mother would devote most of her attention to his sister. As she grew older she became more withdrawn. She also started getting irritated with her condition, and this seems to have given rise to cracks in the sibling relationship. “We get very little family time,” said Mini when asked if they went out together. “It is hard to take Diya outdoors with her restricted movements and with no accessibility anywhere.”
Recalling the time Diya was born, Mini said she had caught Chikungunya when she was pregnant with Diya. Her blood pressure shot up and the baby was born pre-term through an emergency caesarean section. She later discovered that due to lack of oxygen, Diya’s brain had some permanent damage. She was nine months old when doctors in a Kerala hospital, where she was taken after she developed recurring fever, noticed something unusual. After doing a CT scan, they diagnosed her with CP. Diya underwent physiotherapy for six months but the family’s limited income did not permit them to continue further.
Diya reached school-going age and the family hired an auto to convey her to and fro. Their maid would accompany her since Mini had her own teaching schedule. Mainstream schooling did not suit Diya and she went to a special school until the Covid pandemic forced a lockdown. She didn’t resume school after that, and now a tenth standard government school teacher comes home on weekends to tutor her. “She has a good memory and grasps things well when she listens to them,” says Mini.
Diya loves listening to stories that her mother reads out to her. She is also fond of watching TV, particularly the serial ‘Mahadev’ since she adores lord Shiva. Although she has dietary restrictions Mini says they are hard to follow, and besides, Diya is fond of regular food. “She is an emotional person but mentally strong,” says Mini. “I hope she can learn to manage her own needs. Whenever anyone suggests a doctor or a helpful treatment I take her to get it.” The recent Ayurveda treatment is perhaps the result of one such suggestion.
The family gets a monthly disability allowance of ₹2,500 and some monetary assistance from Mini’s brother. 


Vicky Roy