Icon to view photos in full screen

“I am a huge fan of Tamil actor Vijay. I am adept at using my tablet”

M. Muniratnam and his wife Usha Rani from Port Blair share the caregiving duties for their 13-year-old son Tanishq quite smoothly. After Tanishq wakes up, Muniratnam helps him get ready and takes him to the grocery shop he runs. Usha, who is a primary school teacher at the local government school, returns home at 2.30 p.m. and takes over.
Muniratnam’s father A. Chinmayananda used to work in the Public Works Department in Chennai and moved to Port Blair in the 1970s. “We three were born here – my older sister, younger brother and I,” he says. “I have studied till 12th Standard.” In 2008 his marriage was arranged to Usha, a relative, whose father too hailed from Chennai. Usha is also a middle child and has two sisters, all born and raised in the Andamans. Muniratnam’s father died in January 2024 and his mother Palaniamma now lives with him.
In 2010, when Usha conceived, she went for regular medical checkups at the government hospital and expected to have a normal delivery. On 9 June 2011 when she went for a routine checkup two weeks before her due date, the doctor said she should get admitted immediately. She experienced no labour pains that day or the next. After receiving injections to induce labour she spent an exhausting 24 hours with no result. On 13 June, after pushing as much as she could, “the baby came half way out and then got stuck,” she recalls. She underwent a vacuum-assisted delivery, in which a suction cup is used to extract the baby.
Tanishq, who didn’t cry when he was born, was placed in a ventilator. The doctor later told the parents that he would have a developmental disability. The hospital certified that Tanishq had Cerebral Palsy (CP). “My world came crashing down,” Muniratnam admits frankly. “But one needs to move forward. And so we did.”
CP had impacted Tanishq’s locomotor skills and he couldn’t use his hands and limbs effectively. It had also affected his ability to speak. The doctor recommended physiotherapy and speech therapy, but at the time the Andamans had poor medical facilities. The couple made frequent trips to Chennai to take Tanishq to a physiotherapist and a speech therapist. After 2020, when the Covid pandemic struck, their trips were reduced to twice a year.  
Despite physiotherapy, Tanishq’s mobility is restricted and he cannot engage in physical activities without his parents’ help. But his speech has improved and his mind is sharp. Besides being coached by his parents, he is tutored by a helpful 17-year-old neighbour, Akshaya, and has reached Class 8 level now. Muniratnam says that every year a teacher from the nearby government school comes home to check his progress and give him a question paper to answer.

Tanishq doesn’t get a chance to meet his cousins but he is very attached to Akshaya who takes good care of him. He is choosy about what he eats; he loves biryani, which his parents order just for him. In his dad’s grocery shop he plays games or watches YouTube on his tablet. He is crazy about Tamil actor Vijay! “He loves Vijay’s movies – his dance moves, his song sequences, his acting,” says Muniratnam. “He can go on watching his songs and films umpteen times a day. On YouTube he constantly checks if any new Vijay movie has come out. And when it does, he has to watch it immediately. If anyone criticises Vijay he gets very angry!”
The parents say with one voice, “My only wish is that he becomes independent.” Like any other parent of a disabled child, Muniratnam says, “Today we, his parents, are there to look after him. Tomorrow we will not be there. I only want him to be able to take care of himself. That is my only prayer.”


Vicky Roy