India's deified children born with birth defects
In rural villages of India, children born with a specific birth defect may be transformed overnight into a Hindu God, becoming an incarnation and a beacon of hope to the people around them. One boy never wished to be seen as a Hindu God, while the other only knows how to live as a symbol of hope to his village. Both were never given the choice.
Instead of being ostracised from society because of their appearance, these boys became the projections of certain Hindu Gods. Arshad is known to those in his village as Hanuman, the Hindu God of strength, and Pranshu is deemed to be Ganesh, the Hindu God of fortune and success. As children, such beliefs went unquestioned; as they grow older, this version of reality has become more problematic.
“When I found out that they made me into a God, I was upset. I was unaware of being seen as Hanuman when I was young.” Now 17 years old, Arshad is more and more frustrated by his condition, his only desire that he could walk. Despite the wishes of his grandfather, he will no longer bless those who come to him. “I said find a Hanuman temple in their village and get blessed there… There are so many temples. I’m not God. I’m Arshad.”
“Slowly more people came [to be blessed] and everyone’s wishes started coming true. People who were unhappy with their lives started coming to get blessed”, explains Pranshu’s father Kamlesh Kumar. Before he was born, the family faced terrible poverty, but Pranshu’s Godly status has brought prosperity to their home. At 12 years of age, he is still keen to please his parents, but, like Arshad, he too expresses the wish for a normal childhood: “I’m not sure why people come to me. I’m just a kid. I want to be a child. I don’t want to be Ganesh.”
Had Arshad and Pranshu been operated on from a young age, both children could have been saved. With Arshad, it is too late for surgery, and he will never walk freely. Pranshu too could have lead a normal life, and his condition could have been prevented. For Doctor Pankaj Trivedi, the fact that the boys’ conditions were ignored “is totally…I think, ignorance and a lack of awareness”.
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