The long road to re­cov­ery

Friday - - Society The Big Story -

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

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