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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Bear the burden with a smile

“It’s all a game god plays.” Srabani Bhattacharya stands tall and proud, if a little pensive, as she waits outside a classroom of B.E. College Model School. The bell goes off just past 4 pm; she peers in as a pack of Class X students tumbles past her. Inside sits her son, Soumya, watching the stragglers have a few minutes of fun, celebrating the end of exams.

A shy smile spreads across Soumya’s face as he watches his mother enter. Putting aside her bags, she lifts him out of his seat, resting him on a nearby desk, before cradling him in her arms as one would a small child. Srabani effortlessly carries her 15-year-old son out of the room and onto a waiting rickshaw.

A mother and son. A daily ritual. Soumya, suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), lost the use of his legs when he was 10. The disease is making its way upward, gradually. But Soumya still goes from his Shibpur home to school as often as possible. And his mother makes sure that nothing stands in his way.

Soumya was apparently a healthy boy till he turned four. But slowly, it became evident that there was something wrong with his legs. “He would suddenly sit down — not fall down — while he was walking,” explains his 37-year-old mother. He was diagnosed with DMD, a genetic disease that affects only boys. She and her husband Parimal, a high court lawyer, were told that there was no cure. “Who could tell this could happen to my healthy little boy'” asks Srabani, eyes glistening. But the desolation takes a back seat to making computer-buff Soumya — also a whiz with his hands and a promising artist — comfortable, helping him go as far as he can for as long as he can.

It is a game, and Soumya and his parents have no choice but to play along.

Neither do Sudip Ghosh’s parents. Sudip is 12 years old. His teachers at Maria’s Day School, Howrah, are unable to convince him to keep still. The frisky young boy dashes down the stairs whenever he gets the chance. Over the past two years, Sudip has become an expert with the crutches that make up for his lost right leg.

A swollen leg forced a Sudip into Apollo hospital in Chennai, two years ago, only to be diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. A month later, there was no option but amputation. It is difficult to keep this clear-eyed boy down. His parents Pratima and Dulal Ghosh, have run out of money a long time ago. The shock of Sudip’s plight affected Dulal so badly, he developed a nerve disease that has left him house-bound.

Sudip, a class topper before this operation, takes a rickshaw to school everyday. He loves computers and Charles Dickens. But neither IT nor literature is what he dreams of for the future. “I want to take up science. I think I would want to be a doctor,” muses the young boy in the single room near Howrah Maidan and his parents call home.

They hope, they live, they dare to dream. And The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence, along with Soumya and Sudip, stood up to salute these remarkable parents on Saturday, when they took the stage for the Abhiroop Bhadra Memorial Thank You Baba Ma Award, at the Science City auditorium. The award in praise of parents introduced last year, recognises some of the toil and the tears of parenthood.

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