Prajakta came came to my room that evening with Mugdha and Mridula (her cousins). She stayed there till kirtan started. Then she said she wanted to go. I tried to convince her to wait till the kirtan was over. But she badly wanted to go, she started sobbing. Even Mugdha and Mridula couldnt convince her. To go home, they would have to pass through the temple. My room was bang opposite God's! I mean it was like a store room you would climb your way up. And the wooden staircase was really steep. Prajkta had climbed up herself. But when it was time to go down, she was scared. Looking down the staircase she started crying. I didnt know how to handle the situation. There were people in the temple. And could have created a scene. I decided to piggyback her to the bottoom of the staircase and get her off on the last step. As she got down, she smiled, thanked me and gave me a kiss on my cheek.
This was my first interaction with a mentally retarded child. Its different. You think you are dealing with someone who needs help. Someone who has a learning disability and cant cope up with situation. At least I thought so. Prajakta taught me, I was wrong. She seemed more understanding then other kids of her age. And add to it her innocence and the willingness to express herself without inhibitions. That day onwards I became a big fan of Prajakta. Children with learning disorder generally have short term memory. So for the second time we met, I didnt expect Prajakta to recognise me. But she did, second time, third time, every time after that.
She liked dancing. I saw her dance at a temple function once. She was really good at it. And best of all, she seemed to lose herself to the art. There seemed no effort on her part when she danced. Next I heard she was to go to Delhi to perform at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for the Balbhushan awards. That was a pleasant surprise. Then came the ugly part. Prajakta started falling sick. What seemed like general cold and fever turned ugly....
Prajakta had leukemia. She was dying. Her parents tried every trick in the book to get her cured. They took her to Mumbai for the best treatment possible. She was suffering pain we cant even imagine. Her body would give burning feeling. The poison was in her blood and the blood ran throughout her body.
When she was taken to Mumbai for treatement, she told the doctors to save her just till she could dance one last time at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The doctors tried their best. Although she could attend the Award ceremony, she didnt have the strength to dance. She wore the typical dance constume, but had to be carried to the stage. She hadnt won the award then but she was happy to be there.
She came back to Goa, her health further deteriorated. I went to see her. She wasnt in her senses. Her parents told me she would spend nights screaming from pain. She knew all the stotras by heart. She used to pray ever evening till a day came when she declined to. She said that after all the praise she had offered God, pain was all he gave her back. I guess she took that pretty personally. She went personally to ask him...
I recently heard Prajakta was posthumously awarded the Balbhushan.
She is my hero for life.
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