| Bitasta at St James’. Picture by Amit Datta
Remember the day-old girl thrown out by her parents to die in a Maniktala bylane, but saved by three mongrels doing the rounds on a winter morning' She barely survived, as she was shuttled between government homes and privately-managed institutions, shunned by those looking to adopt a child because she could not see, hear or speak.
But things may finally be looking up for Bitasta (as she has been christened), who troubled the city’s conscience but, nevertheless, found few takers. Five years after being rescued by street dogs on the footpath, she has finally found a place that she can call home, a centre that runs from the Behala residence of a railway employee.
Bitasta is now the soul of the Behala centre of Voice of World (VOW). As she spent Monday afternoon at St James School, attending a special programme on the eve of Mother Teresa’s birth anniversary, Bitasta showed what a few months of nursing and nurture had done, as she responded to one stimulus (sound) that everyone thought she would never respond to.
As she reacted to the rhythm of the music and the chatter of the young voices around her, Gargi Gupta — the Eastern Railway employee who has given the little girl a new lease of life — explained how Bitasta was gradually developing a liking for the “social life” that she is starting to experience.
“If you ask me to identify the single biggest change that has come about in her life, I would, without thinking twice, pick on the social life, to which we have started exposing her,” said Gupta. Bitasta is learning what it feels like to be safe even outside the confines of a home, she added.
Perhaps on cue, the other kids with whom Bitasta shares her life now pulled her back as she started showing more interest than was good for her in the clutch of curious adults thronging around her for a look at the “girl who was saved by the dogs”. Bitasta’s progress has been remarkable. Beginning from a point when she could not even respond to the food kept beside her, she now responds to the voices to which she has become accustomed.
“Bitasta’s situation has been complicated further by her mental retardation,” said association president A.K. Sen.
Physicians conversant with Bitasta’s attempts at progress said she would have found it much easier to decipher the sounds around her — and learnt to speak as well — if she had not been slowed down by her mental retardation, along with her other impairments.
But there’s hope for Bitasta. A band of doctors, some of whom are teachers in state-run medical colleges, and their students, have started taking an interest in the girl who was left to die by her parents. The Medical College and Hospital neurology department recently conducted a Baer Test (to find out the specifics of her response to the sound stimulus), part of the series of investigations she would undergo.
“We will keep working with her and would like to believe that she can turn things around,” Medical College student Sayantan Banerjee, a regular at Bitasta’s Behala home, said.