It was quite a shock for Nelson Singh to discover via his adolescent son Shimon’s blood test that he himself was a carrier of the sickle cell gene. Fortunately for both father and son it was only the Sickle Cell Trait (SCT) that got passed on, not Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that includes Sickle Cell Anemia. SCA is incurable and can cause episodes of acute pain besides other complications.
Nelson Singh (58) and his wife Reeta Singh (54) are both government employees; he is a Finance officer in the Central Government, and she, joint director in the Madhya Pradesh department of Statistics and Planning. They have lived in Bhopal with their two sons Sharon (29) and Shimon (22) for the past 30 years.
As a child Shimon used to keep saying his hands pained while writing; he couldn’t finish writing his exams on time and needed a scribe. He was in his pre-teens when his parents took him to a noted child specialist in Nagpur. A simple blood test confirmed SCT, and so the parents were tested as well. Nelson carried the gene, which meant there was a 50 per cent chance of a child inheriting it. “The doctor counselled us,” says Nelson. “He said that SCT would not stop Shimon from leading a full life, and he pointed to me as an example. I hadn’t even been aware my entire life that I carried this gene!”
After you know your child has a particular genetic trait, even if you know it hasn’t affected his growth you tend to feel more protective of him. That is what seems to have happened with the Singh couple. Since both of them hold fulltime jobs, they took care to ensure his safety since “his confidence level is a little low”. Reeta says, “When I am at work I call him two to three times a day to check on him.” She says he is extremely disciplined and likes following a routine: “In the morning when he wakes up, he makes sure to check everybody’s phone to see if it is charged, and if not, he puts it on charging.”
Despite Shimon having been a “slow learner” in school, he has an excellent memory, and his parents narrate numerous instances of his powers of recollection. Since he was a kid he used to remember what was on the shopping list and recite it in order. Vehicle numbers and phone numbers are instantly and automatically imprinted in his brain. Once, he went with his father to the pharmacy to buy his mother’s medicines. Nelson forgot the name of one of the medicines but Shimon remembered all of their exact names perfectly.
While Sharon is Assistant Professor in Jagran Lakecity University, Shimon has finished his B.A. and his parents have enrolled him in a B.Ed course. “Every day, after I come back from work at 5.30 p.m., Shimon and I go to the gym,” says Nelson. Shimon adds, “I like working out on the exercise bike and the treadmill.” He reads the newspaper thoroughly and keeps up with news on television besides enjoying TV comedy shows such as the Kapil Sharma Show and Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chashma.
Shimon loves to sing and likes the singer Arijit Singh. Reeta says that her son’s rendition of “Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas” from the Hindi movie of the same name is her favourite. In fact he sang for Vicky Roy when he went there to take photos and Vicky suggested that the parents enrol him in a music class.
When we asked Shimon about his favourite food he replied, “Ghar ka khana (home-cooked food)”. What most appeals to him is a simple meal of rice and dal. Reeta says that when she phones him and asks whether he would like her to bring him some snack or ice-cream on her way home from work, he chides her, saying, junk food is unhealthy.
We asked Shimon whether he has friends. He replied, “Yes, but I like spending time with my dad. He is my best friend.”