On 25th August 2017, Dharmendra was one among the several devotees from the village of Kusumara in Mainpuri district, Uttar Pradesh, who walked in the procession for Ganesh Visarjan. As the crowd neared a small rivulet where a group decided to submerge a statue of Ganesha, sudden screams perturbed him.
As they neared the source of the sound, a sad sight shook him. A newborn barely hours old, lay bleeding near the rivulet, covered with ants. Abandoning the procession, Dharmendra cleaned the child with a cloth and bundled the newborn in his arms to take him home.
Ever since, the little boy, eponymously named Ganesh, as he was found on a festive day, has become a part of Dharmendra’s family, which consists of his seven children and wife.
What is even more gut-wrenching is the fact that the sole reason Ganesh was abandoned was that he had a cleft lip.
But not anymore, Ganesh will soon be able to smile his most beautiful smile, thanks to Agra-based Saraswat Hospital and notable cleft surgery charity Smile Train India.
Based in Agra, the hospital is run by award-winning plastic surgeon Dr Satya Kumar Saraswat. He has been conducting free cleft surgeries for underprivileged children since 2007, in association with Smile Train, which is headquartered in New York, USA.
Till date, they have conducted over 5,000 free surgeries where the cost of medicine, travel, accommodation, food etc., is borne by Smile Train India, while the hospital facilitates the operation within its premises and has its surgeons operate free of cost. So the patient doesn’t have to shell a single rupee.
The hospital also has a team that conducts outreach programmes to make people in rural areas aware of the facilities.
On 2nd January 2018, when one of their team members visited Kusumara in Mainpuri district which is 120 kms from Agra, the team members were told of Ganesh and Dharmendra’s story. When they visited the home, they realised how this family belonged to a humble background.
Dharmendra works as a humble hawker, carries and sells clothes on his cycle, travelling from one village to another. It is the family’s sole source of income.
Speaking to The Better India, Dr Satya Kumar Saraswat, who tweeted the heartwarming story, shared:
“It is hard to imagine, how this couple in their early forties, with already four boys and three girls of their own, willingly opened their hearts to another kid who was abandoned by his birth parents for a simple and correctable deformity. When our team reached the village in January, of course, we wanted to help the kid right away, but the child did not meet several health parameters required to be deemed fit and ready for the surgery. He was severely underweight, malnourished and still small. We gave the family advice on the diet they could follow to help the kid.
The next time we conducted a camp in the nearby village, the family was called via a vehicle. The young boy seemed healthy and ready. We operated on the child this morning. I will soon be sharing the pictures of the kid once the stitches are done in a week.”
We cannot wait to see little Ganesh smile that beautiful smile!
“People need to be informed that a cleft and palate deformity is an easily correctable one. It is hardly a half-hour procedure. It can go a long way in helping build a child’s confidence. I salute Dharmendra and his family who despite limited resources are taking care of Ganesh, like their own,” adds Saraswat.
Dr Saraswat adds how his team is now looking at funding Ganesh, by giving the family a fixed amount of Rs 2,500 per month till he grows up and then bearing the cost of his education.
In a final message, the surgeon says, “Today, there are several people who want to go out of their way to help somebody, and there are several others who are in dire need of this help. We just need to connect people on either side. My small request to my counterparts in the medical fraternity also is to not treat it like a mere business, but give their own practice a compassionate approach in whatever capacity they can. Our hands were made to heal, lets us work together to transform lives.”
In the words of Dr Saraswat, who tweets: “Kindness is seen at every nook and corner, and these people (like Dharmendra) are the real heroes of humanity who adopt an orphan in spite of limited resources and large families. As the saying goes, ‘No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.’ So let us be kind and compassionate to everyone around us.”
We salute his team for helping little Ganesh. And above all, we congratulate Dharmendra and his family for showing how compassion and the unconditional love of parents go beyond blood ties.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)