8th March…. International Women’s Day. Rotary Club of the city had arranged for a programme. A few women in the town, known for their remarkable contributions, were to be felicitated. Leelavati was one of them. The organisers wanted a wider coverage of their event and had engaged reporters to gather information about those honourable women – like, how they happened to excel in their line of activity, their motivational factors, their mentors, challenges they faced, overcoming funds constraints if any, to whom they would dedicate the memento, their future plans etc etc…. Among the so many present there, Leelavati was noticeably different. Yes, she was a differently abled person.

Obviously, her story started with how she became physically handicapped as hers was not a birth-defect. In her college days, she was a ‘happy-go-easy’ butterfly, a carefree chirruping birdie, not concerned about the worldly discomforts. Her family comprised of herself and her parents …. Her father, Neelkanth Varma, an orthopaedic surgeon, ever busy with his work and a lust for glamourous luxurious life, her mother, Savithri, a woman, deep rooted in aesthetic ethical values, loaded with middle class morality and daily chores of worship, prayers and holy rituals, in addition, she remained a woman of very few words and lastly, of course, herself, a young girl, a bubbling young enthusiastic personality, a deadly contrast to her parents. 

Leelavati, being a scholastic student, was also a recipient of a prestigious award with a monthly stipend meant to be credited directly to her bank account. College Principal told her to get the account opened at the earliest. The banker in turn advised her to open a joint account, for practical reasons. So, she went to her papa’s hospital to get his signature on the form. On seeing her at his premises, he was very angry. He did not like his family members thronging on him at his hospital and diverting his attention. Leelavati felt let down and humiliated. She wanted to share the joy of victory. Instead of feeling proud and happy, this man, is howling and hurling harsh words, -- that too in front of so many onlookers. She could not control. She grumbled and lambasted,

‘Oh! What a man are you, papa! Will you meet your family members also, only if they are patients requiring emergency treatment?’ In rage, she collected the papers and left the place in jiffy. Her temper came down in a while, when she saw a young guy supporting an old man with crutches and helping him to walk comfortably. “Really a nice person! What a noble gesture!” she thought. Little did she realise that he had a lot to do in her life, later. A few days later, again, she saw him helping some other person – this time an untidy beggarly looking man! Her admiration for such helpers with a kind hearted noble soul, increased. Even if he was a social worker, he must be an angel of God! Otherwise, who would attend to an ugly beggar? When she told her mother about this guy, she was least amused.

“What type of parents, I have, all the time bothered about one’s own activities – not caring to share my feelings!” she thought to herself.

Once again, she happened to cross him. This time, he was coming out of her apartment. She stared at him, but he, on the contrary, avoided her eye contact and tried to hide and sneak away. He left the place hurriedly. His behaviour was intriguing. Why? Was he into any shady deal? She went upstairs and enquired her mother whether anybody came. Savithri showed her a cover given by that fellow which was to be passed on to her father. So, the person whom she admired, came to her house only, but wondered why he shied away and tried to avoid her. Leelavati told her mummy about his funny behaviour. Savithri said, “I Hate him. I am disgusted. Even his shadow will cast evil spell on us. Oh God! Please save us.” Leelavati thought mummy had a wrong opinion about the guy and wished the misunderstanding she carried, might change after some time. But whose opinion got changed was a matter of time.

The ‘Time’ was not far off. Leelavati was on her way to college on scooter, when she crossed him. Before she could notice him, he saw her and tried to flee. His action of running away caught her attention. She wanted to confirm the person fleeing. She turned back to know who was running. That one moment was enough for a very fatal accident on the road. While turning back, she failed to see a bus advancing towards her. The bizarre horn, the screeching brakes, driver’s and others’ shouting --- nothing caught her attention.  When she noticed, it was too late. She became nervous, trembled and lost her balance. The scooter tumbled and she came right under the wheels. The bus came to a screeching halt, only after crushing her legs; a ghastly scene of flesh, blood and crushed bones; all messed up into a lump.

The guy was the sole cause of accident. He had just then finished his shady deal with her father and was on his way. Then he saw Leelavati, whom he thought was aware of their misdeeds. Earlier, when the doctor got angry for her visit to hospital, he was also present. So, he thought she knew about him. That was the reason for avoiding her which culminated into an accident.

Destiny was still at play. She was taken to a nearby hospital. Alas! That happened to be her father’s ‘Bone Hospital’. At an illfated hour, she muttered that her father would see his own family members, only when they would come as patient. It came true now! Neelkanth saw a group of people bringing a woman soaked in blood. Least could he have imagined the bloody figure could be his own daughter – one and only child. When he realised, he was blown out of his senses. He kept hearing Savithri’s repeated warnings, “Give up. Come back. Enough is enough. Your sins will ruin the family”. The very same words kept banging on his eardrums. His brain was full of such chorus voices. His head turning heavy and moving round and round, he rested his hands on the head in vain to stop the chorus. He screamed at top of his voice, “Oh My God”. Those were the very last words spoken by him. Leelavati’s tragedy was a heavy jolt for him. It was, as though a lightning had struck suddenly and took away all his strength and senses. He was paralysed.

Savithri knew that his paralysis was more due to the cumulative effect of his sins. Neither his profound love for daughter nor her tragic condition was the cause. His yearning for earning more and more, fair or foul, was the only root cause. Savithri concluded that his conscience was pricking…. “As you sow, so you reap” and the axe fell on Leelavati. Helpless mother’s agony was beyond any bounds. All her prayers over the years, went a waste, falling on deaf ears. Known for least words, she was now uncontrollably raining abusive curses on husband, “You killed her, you only killed her, your sins landed heavily on her, you have ruined her future completely, she is legless, a lame forever and forever. How many times I pleaded, ‘Come back, stick on to righteous path.’ Did you pay heed? Your ‘Hell with ‘Hippocrates Oath’ has now dumped us in hell. That rascal, why at all did he enter in your life? His very shadow was casting evil spell on us. Very Dooms’ Day is, on all of us. Oh! I simply wish! How I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop! I wish we could go back to our good old days before this fallen man’s entry in our lives. From the time he came, life took a turn from bad to worse. He took advantage of your lust and greed for money. He brought the photos of prospective patients and you kept breaking their limbs. Now you see the lumpsum dividends we are reaping for your gruesome act!” Her nonstop wailing and abusive curses with recurring beatings on self and husband clearly told everybody she lost her sanity. Simply put, she lost her mental balance.

Unaware of anything around her or about her parents, Leelavati, was lying in another hospital. Life had come to a standstill for the entire family – father, mother and daughter. That one incident had catapulted the lives of three.

Days later, she came to know that it was her college Principal who took everything upon herself to do everything to save her and her parents. Madam appealed to all students of the college to collect as much as possible and also be at the hospital by turns. Leelavati’s father was admitted into an asylum and mother into a mental hospital. Huge amount was needed, that too immediately. Initial surgeries, post amputation treatment, crutches, physiotherapy, counselling by psychiatrists, medicines, immunity, protection from infection-- the list could be longer. Initial expenses on her parents were extra. Principal Madam was aware that there would be sumptuous amount in her bank account. Thanks to the joint account. She took a bold decision. She pledged some of her valuables and took loan to meet immediate requirements. She was very particular that there should be no compromise on medical treatment given to Leelavati for want of money. Once she could sit up and sign cheques, the constraints would vanish.

 Actually, money matters did not pose a problem. It could be solved sooner or later.  But how was she going to make Leelavati face life courageously, accept realities and adjust to the new phase of life-- was indeed a matter of grave concern. It would be a great ordeal for anybody who lived jolly well, with all comforts till yesterday and suddenly – rather forcibly, pushed to lead further life as an invalid. The very thinking gave jitters. It would be a Herculean task. Mental strength was the need of the hour than physical strength. With the help of artificial limbs, Leelavati might get a near natural look—but until such time life would be very harsh on her.

On the contrary, Leelavati put up courageously with everything. But, when it came to use of crutches, she could not withstand, she broke down emotionally. She once upon a time admired people helping invalid persons, but now she hated to be helped and sympathised. Destiny never bothered to restrict itself to give only what she liked. Had it not been for Madam (Principal), Leelavati would have been reduced to ashes long ago. Madam counselled and consoled her regularly. When she was complacent and confident that Leelavati could bear unpleasant details, Madam narrated all that she had gathered.

The guy who fled and distracted her attention was arrested and through him, the mafia gang with its vast network. Their nefarious network also was trapped. Leelavati could be proud of helping in nabbing a notorious gang. Their intricate operation was the talk of the town—agents were employed to hook weak minded doctors and convince them that the beggars were not getting enough alms, but, once, disabled, they could earn more by invoking sympathy from their prospective donors. Another advantage of being a disabled destitute beggar, was that they became life-members and irrespective of their earnings, their basic needs were taken of, including care and comfort during sickness, old age etc. The main duty of the agents- why waste a good word- call them ‘pimps’, was, to repeatedly convoke and canvass that the doctors were in fact providing better opportunities for an otherwise destitute beggar. This way, doctors performing amputation, were convinced that they were not sinners, but in reality, helpers. The pimps also assured the doctors that only those who voluntarily offer themselves for amputation would be brought to the table. No compulsion at any level. Written agreement to that effect, their photos and such other documentary proofs would be provided to the doctors so that they remained safe at all levels. Even if anyone in the group was caught, doctors were outside the trap. A fool-proof, well organised hideous crime with all its minute details taken care of, was going on as a racket. A great blow to humanity and a civilised society. It was a pity that Dr. Neelkanth Verma was one of the limb-breakers.

While Madam was narrating the details, Leelavati could now join the dots. She got convinced that her father was dragged into the net. No wonder, he got wild when she went to his hospital. She understood her helpless mother’s silence, long prayers and meaningful anger on the very mention of pimp. It was also clear, why the so-called guy, was avoiding her and fled on seeing her. This one-man-army, had unknowingly uprooted her family. She felt terribly sorry for her father who wanted to amass wealth, but now lying in an orphanage as an inmate. Her mother for no fault of hers, was blabbering in a mental hospital. She wondered, “Will they ever get back to their original lives! How much I wish! I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop.” Then at that point of time, she resolved- ‘no going back.’ It was a vow, a strong determination “I must undo what my father did. I shall dedicate the rest of my life to set right the life of disabled people, using his money. The real battle starts now—'Neela Versus Leela’. Neelkanth detached limbs then and Leelavati will attach limbs now. The Do-Undo game. Until then no celebrations, no festivities, no new year parties and nothing what-so-ever.”

She turned to Madam, with tear filled eyes and pleaded,

“Please guide me, Madam. I have a goal. I must strive for it. I do not know how many limbs my father amputated. But I will provide artificial limbs to as many as possible. Receivers may be different. I must undo his evils. He earned money by foul means. But it will now be used for a noble cause. Bad reputation earned by him will be undone by the good deeds I will be rendering. I am firm in my goal. He stabbed mankind. I will heal mankind.” The deadly accident had a purpose behind it. An angel- one more ‘Florence Nightingale’ is born.

Principal Madam was dumb founded. She did not expect her job would be so easy. She was worried as to how to instil and infuse self-confidence in her, before self-pity and depression would take over. For that very reason, she had asked her classmates to be with her and never leave her alone. Madam was relieved. Leelavati got a hold on life, a purpose for future; wanted to turn a new leaf, that too a meaningful one, was something noteworthy. She patted and comforted,

“Get well first, my child. Finish your studies, by which time, we can gather all details, devise ways and means to make a headway towards your goal. Keep in mind. Hope and self-confidence alone can lead you to your goals. Obstacles may be many. Ensure your spirits are not dried up-- come what may. May God bless you.”

Once, ‘what next’ was decided, then going about, was easy. Further steps fell in line.   Leelavati was determined to go by her Madam’s words. The other name for self-confidence was will power. Her will power was very strong. This made her recovery, an easy one. Once discharged, her routine got changed, her lifestyle got changed and her thinking also refined. She was no more a flutter-by teenager. Her serious nature, matured outlook, her extensive reading—all kept her friends at bay. Her focussed attention foretold she was destined to win. Principal was happy that the girl was steadfast on right track. Her efforts to bring the invalid girl to normal life, did not go in vain. Occasionally, she gave some books, CDs for knowledge and motivation. ‘Mayuri’ fame Sudha Chandran, Olympic medallion Mariappan became her role models. She finished her graduation and post-graduation also. Simultaneously, she developed contacts with NGOs assisting differently abled people. Through them, she identified right persons for receiving prosthesis, aids from her father’s fund. She gave preference to children.

Time flew without wings. As time passed, number of recipients swelled. Total dedication to her work, without bothering about name or fame, brought her to highest altar. Today she is standing tall among other social activists. The organisers admitted that though they invited people for honouring, actually, the very organisers got honoured by recognising the selfless service and virtues of their guests. Truly, Principal Madam never thought of what she would get in return from Leelavati. When asked to speak a few words, Leelavati addressed the audience, “It is Principal, Principal, my college Principal. None can equal her. My biological mother gave birth to me but Madam gave rebirth to me. From the day of accident to this day and my life beyond, I owe my very existence to her. Anything I attain, achieve, accomplish--, all directed to her lotus feet. She motivated me, taught me to accept obstacles as challenges and face them and ‘stand’ firmly.” When Madam was brought to the stage, the spell bound audience, cheered loudly, clapped for long and honoured her with standing ovation. It was quite long for normalcy to be restored.

When they asked about her future plans, she said,

“I have miles to go.” Silently she said to herself, “Years may come and go, but no celebrations for me. I am still at battlefront. My vow to win is reinforced. The ‘Do factor’ from my father’s side has come to a stop, but the counter ‘Undo factor’ is still going on. It must go on.”

Yes, it must go on, on and on.               

January 03, 2020 18:19

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Nathan Callan
03:01 Jan 09, 2020

Interesting story, the beginning was a lot for me. It really conveyed Leelavati's struggles in dealing with her father and mother (who to me, seemed so religious that she didn't take action, quite an interesting character). Also, the scene where Leelavati is ran over by a car, is quite gruesome. The language you use accurately conveys the intensity of the event. Overall, It was a really well written story. Maybe you could have gotten to the issue the character was dealing with a little faster. That might help hook the reader a bit more. Fina...


07:34 Jan 10, 2020

Thanks a lot, Callan. Your tips are important to me. Noted future.


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