The term polio and myself have become so much intertwined that it is difficult for me to forget it even in dreams for a while. I was born a perfectly healthy child but fate had other plans. I had been vaccinated for polio but that became my curse. Maybe I would have been better off without it, maybe I would have been spared.
No, I am not affected by polio, but am a victim of another different kind altogether. At the age of 6 months, with fever after the vaccination which is normal, but since it was a little high, I had been taken to a doctor who was drunk, the only MBBS in the village and only one in about 20 kms, about 30 years back, got injected on to a nerve which got damaged forever leaving me handicapped for life, stuck a label disabled on my forehead for no fault of mine. I am not paralyzed but I have a limp in my walk thanks to the 1 inch leg-length discrepancy after surgery (fate again!!!).
My parents simply told me it was polio because to their limited knowledge it meant polio because it came on after administering polio drops… but then the doctor who was the cause of it all, had explained everything clearly to me and sought my forgiveness (well, he was just a tool in the hands of God acting out his wishes, right!!!) when I could kind of understand what is what. I was never treated like a disabled girl in the family, no special privileges, treated equally with all the kids but there was this extra soft corner due to that guilty feeling of you know, we brought it on her. This happened in my grandmother’s place and all the mamas and my grandparents feel responsible for no fault of theirs as well. So, I was pampered but never reminded of my disability. In fact up until 7th class, everything was just okay, not even a little difference in walk, I could not put the entire foot down when walking and if you don’t look at my foot, you wouldn’t even notice anything is wrong at all, but then suddenly there comes a bout of typhoid and I suddenly become so weak that I could not walk. The actual despair started at that time. I realized that something was actually wrong with me, I was confined to the bed, I could not walk with both feet, I had to take someone’s support or put my hand on my leg to walk on it, it was pathetic, there was total chaos, total shock, total refusal to accept the truth, all in the mind of a 11 year old girl who suddenly forgot how to walk.
Then came the whirlwind surgeries and resurrection and all that I could walk but there was a limp, because of leg-length discrepancy, world turns upside down, people take a note of how I walk, I become conscious of how I walk and it really takes a lot from a tiny little girl to accept and adjust. Again, since I was good at what I did (studies, extra-curricular academic activities) I was not treated differently. It was just that sports, games, running, climbing trees everything was no longer there but life continued as usual and I gradually came to terms with the fact of life.
I was never reminded of my disability, never made conscious my anyone throughout my entire schooling and even during my intermediate and not even when I joined the office or even at my computer institute. My friends accepted me as I was, they never gave me special privileges, they never thought I was something different than them and thanks to them all I never fell into the abyss of inferiority complex.
But my mom always kept me on the ground, one sentence in anger that she blurted out changed the course of my thoughts and my life.. “If not for me, you would be out on roads begging like other handicapped people!!” I know she did not mean it but it did change the course of my life, made me independent, made me understand what actually people thought of me “disabled” no matter how much they tried to cover it up, I was disabled, dependent on them. Then came out the toughest person inside me and the struggle for survival started, I wanted to be the best in what I did, outrun the otherwise normal or able people and establish myself, which I did.
My hard work paid off and no where was I treated with sympathy ever and most of the times, people don’t even realize there is something wrong with me because there is no visible deformity in any organ, I don’t use crutches and in fact my CEO did not actually know I actually had a limp though we bumped into each other a number of times in a span of 3 years, the limp is so light that he missed it altogether and when he asked me what was wrong with my feet, I was like what???? I walk like that always!!!! and he was apologizing to me a 100 times over telling me it was not purpose he asked that question, he saw me walking a lot of times but totally missed it.. well, what do I say.. it is okay and smile it off :).
The point of posting this now is “The Pulse Polio Drive.” The word and the disease has scared me so much that the day before my daughter was to have polio drops I had a panic attack and the day she had it, I was crying out like anything. I was scared, I was worried that same thing might happen to my daughter. I was scared that something would go wrong. I was scared in a way only I could understand. Everyone around me consoled me You Don’t Have Polio and Your Kid Wont Have It. But I was shaken, broken, and a mad wreck of a person. I did not sleep the entire day, I was watching my daughter, if she would have fever, whatif she has severe fever, whatif she takes after me in terms of bad luck. The rational me said no, everything will be alright but the other part of me was screaming out aloud “anything can happen.”
Looking back, I feel it was silly but at that point, I was terrified, it was like I could die if she had fever but thankfully the kid did not even cry after the IPV and had no fever whatsoever, maybe the little angel understood what her mother was going through and just wanted to reassure that all was well.
I had taken her to the pulse polio the other day and she was happy looking at all the paraphernalia and the staff in the room and uttered a loud happy shriek and burst into peels of laughter dissipating all my fears into thin air and bringing out a new me out of me. I am no longer phobic of the term “Polio” and I would do anything in my capacity to overcome that dangerous disease which I don’t have but it does impact me as much had I been a victim of polio.
So, All I would say now is Go India Go, Throw This Disease and Virus Out of The World!!!!