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We hear, see and talk about so many instances of Mother Courage that it is almost tempting to think of father’s love and sentiments as always ceding Pole position to the mother. And yet there are many cases of fathers who place their lives on hold as they seek to be there for their children.
One such unsung hero is Bablu (may his tribe increase), resident of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, a state sadly too well known for its depressing maternal and infant (especially girl child) mortality figures, and the father of 45-day-old baby girl Damini. When his wife died in childbirth, this rickshaw puller found himself forced to look after the infant while struggling to earn a living. So he fashioned himself a cloth sling and began to carry his baby around. With his right hand steering the cycle handle of his rented rickshaw, and his left protectively holding the little baby, Bablu set about his daily work – too proud to ask for help or beg.
Deprived of her mother’s milk and care at birth, the health of little Damini, with a birth weight of just 2kg, was a matter of great concern. She was steadily losing weight and severely malnourished and anaemic. She was also suffering from respiratory problems and infection in the blood and needed an urgent blood transfusion.
Bablu, meanwhile, tried desperately to seek help for her, but was turned away at most places on account of his poverty. He said, "Damini needed urgent care, food and treatment but I was completely helpless. I could not even buy food and medicines."
The plight of the father and daughter came to the notice of the authorities, thanks to prompt media action. The district collector picked up the tab for Damini’s treatment. She was treated at Fortis Hospital, Jaipur. The treatment was the best of its kind and soon Damini began to respond positively. She began to gain weight and was taken off the ventilator yesterday. She was discharged from the hospital today.
Meanwhile, total strangers sent in their generous contributions. Today Bablu has a new rickshaw and Rs 14 lakh in his bank account. He is now determined to give his baby a good education and to ensure that she grows up feeling loved and with all the opportunities that every child deserves.
Far from abandoning the little one to the care of NGOs, who offered to look after the little one for two years, he has insisted on his right to bring her up, and is willing to shoulder all the responsibilities related to her growth and upbringing.
In a world that is often careless of the needs of the girl child, Bablu, an illiterate rickshaw puller, deserves our utmost respect for his willingness to go through hardships in order to keep his child alive. By strapping his precious baby close to his chest as he went about the task of earning his living, Bablu has proved beyond doubt that little Damini’s needs will always be close to his heart.