The long road to recovery
being distributed to the poor. “Devotees often distributed food to the poor in temples and I used to join those children making a dash for the serving every day.”
He wasn’t lucky every time. Several nights he and his sister went to bed hungry when she could not earn enough money to buy them food.
To make matters worse, in a winter with ice-cold winds they slept in the open shelter. Such conditions took their toll on Kisan’s health and he caught a flu that soon became a fever.
His sister tried to look after him, but she couldn’t give him medical attention because she didn’t have any money. His condition soon began to worsen. With nobody at the centre to help, he continued to suffer in silence.
“The shelter was close to the banks of the Bagmati river in Tripureshwor, in Nepal, where bodies were cremated,” says Kisan. “With each passing day, I realised I was getting weaker and very ill and began to wonder when my body would also end up on the river bank. But through it all Maya cared for me like no other. And she was only eight years old at the time.”
When Kisan’s condition started deteriorating, Maya carried her brother to a local hospital where she pleaded with the doctors to admit him and treat him. Taking pity on the children, the doctors took him in.
“I was diagnosed with pneumonia but at the hospital I got a second chance at life thanks to good food and medicine – and most importantly thanks to Maya for taking me there at the time,’’ says Kisan. It took close to six months for him to recover completely and while Maya initially visited him regularly, the frequency soon dropped. And there was a reason: she was reclaimed by her aunt from the home and sent away to work as a maid with a family in another village.
Once Kisan recovered, doctors sent him to Mendies Haven Children’s Home, a charity in Nepal for orphans and abandoned children.
“I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to Maya. She came to know of my departure and that I was at the children’s home when she visited the hospital months later,” says Kisan.
Growing up with other children there, Kisan was enrolled in school, where he excelled.
“Of course, I did miss my sister a lot and used to wonder where she was and whether she was happy,’’ he says.
Then one day a couple of years later, Maya arrived at the children’s home and asked the authorities to allow her to take her brother with her. She said her aunt had contacted her and she was willing to take the children back to her home in Kathmandu.
“At first I agreed to go along with my sister, but on second thoughts I changed my mind,” said Kisan. “At the home, I was fed, clothed and educated. I did not want to forsake all this for an uncertain life. Memories of those days when I went without food and slept in the open in the cold kept haunting me.”
Fighting back tears, Kisan watched Maya leave. “I just hoped she would reach my family and bring my father soon to take me home. But it never happened.” That was the last he saw of her for 40 years. Kisan would later come to know that his father had remarried and although he tried to find his children a couple of times, he did not succeed and gave them up as lost.
Kisan, meanwhile, graduated in science from Tribhuvan University in Nepal. During his spare time, he worked as a tourist guide and also assisted Dr Dick Marten, a GP at the Mendies home, as a trainee nurse. He even helped out in the home’s kitchen as a cook.
“Those days, I aspired to become a doctor,” he says. However, when the cook at Mendies Home left, Kisan was asked to help out in the kitchen.
“I had cooked on several occasions at Dr Dick’s house so I knew what to do,’’ he says. “Also, what attracted me was the deal I was offered by the home management: If I cooked for a year, I would be sponsored for an education in the US.”
The home authorities kept their word and in 1987 Kisan was sponsored by a loving couple – Dr Frank Starmer and his wife Ellen from