New family  in Gubbara today. Dad carrying a baby – baby about 18 months; Mom toting a bag of his gear. A little old for such a small child? Maybe the grandparents?

Dad got right down to business. “This is my 3rd child like this,” he said flatly. “The 15 year old died. The 21 year old is just the same.” As he spoke, his wife pulled out 21’s disability certificate. “Whole Body Disability” it said. “100%”

18-month old is actually 4. He has no head control whatsoever and he flops over the moment his father shifts the arm which is supporting him. My heart is breaking as I listen from the sidelines as this family tells their story matter-of-factly – they have clearly done it many times before – to Shweta.  She encourages them gently, trying to get them to hope a little.

The father is a policeman. Somehow, I find this fact unbearably poignant. Who thinks, looking at a policeman on an Indian street, that he might have three hopelessly disabled children?

I am thinking about policemen and the way they are trained to be vigilant and suspicious, the way they instinctively expect the worst and how, if “necessary” they can even be ruthless. and then suddenly, I see this:

Father gazing at his smiling, handicapped boy

This Daddy adores his little boy. He had done his best to sound matter-of-fact and detached. “This is my 3rd child like this. They told me it’s genetic.”

He had no hope he was willing to speak up about.

He had no expectations. He had come because someone had told him he should try Gubbara. “They said you know about kids like my son.”

I turned away to answer a phone call and when I looked back, he was playing with his boy. A policeman, with his 3rd severely handicapped child, one of whom has already died. We never know, as parents, what is waiting for us. We just do the best we can. We support their fragile necks. We find the light in their eyes and we smile at them for so many years the lines form around ours.


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