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“I don’t like milk but if you put Bournvita in it I will drink it happily! I don’t like anyone to touch my toys”

Sunita Ahuja (76) from Amritsar is very excited about her 12-year-old granddaughter Kritika’s most recent achievement. She can pronounce her own name. The word ‘Kritika’ has a set of syllables that don’t easily roll off the tongue, especially for a child who finds it difficult to speak words of more than one syllable. “She is able to say ‘ma’ and ‘pa’ and calls me mamma,” Sunita told us. She used to call her brother Suyash (18) ‘bha’ for ‘bhai’ but is now able to say ‘Yash’.
These are the small victories of Kritika that gladden the hearts of the Ahuja family. She was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth and when her parents Rohit and Mansi Ahuja took the newborn to a hospital in Chandigarh after she had breathing issues, they were told that she also had a hole in the heart, which is the most common congenital heart condition in children with Down’s. Sunita informed us that Kritika now has two holes in her heart, and over the past year she lost all her curly hair. Mansi is suffering from ill health and cannot give Kritika the full-time attention she needs, so her grandmother has been looking after her, ably assisted by her big brother of course.
Kritika’s developmental milestones were delayed: she crawled for a few years and it was only at the age of seven that she stood up and started walking. She is bowlegged, which makes her gait unsteady. For many years now she has been going to Agosh Holding Hands, the NGO started by Maninder Kaur (which we have featured previously on EGS). From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. they are engaged in painting, learning the alphabet and numbers, and a lot of physical activity that includes yoga and dancing. 
Sunita says Kritika has shown all-round improvement in the last year. When she wants to relieve herself she runs to the toilet, unlike earlier when she used to soil her bed. She is gradually gaining competence in putting on her clothes and bathing. “In summer she can take her own time to have a bath but in winter we insist on bathing her since she might finish in a hurry because of the cold and not clean herself thoroughly,” said Sunita.
Although Kritika eats by herself in school, at home she insists on being fed while watching TV or using her mobile. She plays Scary Teacher and other video games, and watches YouTube channels for children such as ‘Shafa’ and the popular ‘Vlad and Niki’ for pre-schoolers. She is a picky eater, dislikes milk unless it is chocolate-flavoured, and enjoys fruits especially chikoo. Suyash, who is in 12th grade, wants to do Hotel Management and enjoys making snacks by following online videos. They usually have his pizzas and pastas for Sunday evening dinner.
At home she is constantly active, playing with her football or pedalling her cycle or dancing to Bollywood numbers. Like many Down’s kids she is physically demonstrative. She greets the domestic worker with a big hug; in fact she loves to hug everyone. She is up to mischief too! Sunita said, “She will hide the vehicle key and later she will grin and reveal the hiding place.” When watching cricket she claps and exclaims ‘wah’ when something praiseworthy happens. If an object on TV, like a gun, attracts her attention, she will want one. Suyash said she has two cabinets full of toys that she does not allow anyone to touch.
Sunita proudly described how Kritika had played the role of Sudhama (lord Krishna’s dearest friend) on the school annual day last September. “Since she can’t speak she communicated through actions. She looked so beautiful and she played the role so well!”


Vicky Roy