I sit in the waiting room of a paediatrician's dispensary, anticipating the arrival of Dr Rashid Merchant. I am here to speak to the good doctor and his young colleague, Dr Asad Lakhani, about slain French couple Mourad Amarsy and Loumia Hiridjee -- they tragically lost their lives to terrorists' bullets in the Trident Hotel's Tiffin restaurant on November 26. Besides rendering their professional services to the Amarsys, both doctors were also their neighbours. But they are running late and I take in my surroundings as I await their arrival.
Seated opposite me on her father's lap, a severely retarded little girl seemingly stares into space, her mouth slightly ajar. She cannot hold her head up by herself and makes little gurgling noises, spittle dribbling down her chin. The whole of her body is stiff, limbs poking straight out like a doll's and hands and feet oddly tiny, like a six-month-old's -- she can't be more than one year old, I think. I will later learn that she is actually five, blind, deaf and suffering from cerebral palsy. And the parents don't look to be very well off -- in these tough times, I wonder how they can afford the fees of a private paediatrician who runs a clinic on one of Bandra's busiest streets. No sacrifice is too great when it comes to your children, I guess. I'm hoping the doctor won't charge them.
Fifteen minutes later, a pretty young foreigner bounces in with a healthy little baby boy. The doctors' secretary, Deepa, greets her with smiling familiarity and she takes the seat next to me; she is joined by her Indian husband soon after.
I ponder over the little human drama unfolding in front of me; and no doubt the two couples are pondering over it too. On one side, well-to-do parents with a strapping baby boy, on the other a poor man and his wife with their severely retarded daughter. The foreigner rocks her own child as she looks at the little girl; I see pain in her eyes that only one mother can feel for another.
Text: Sanaya Dalal
Image: An Indian firetender stands outside the Trident Hotel in Mumbai.
Photographs: Pal Pillai/AFP/Getty Images
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