Niya is a 7-year-old class 1 student. Every morning is the same for her. Holding a toothbrush, glass of milk, buttoning her shirt, things that should come easily to a child her age, are difficult to do. The struggle to walk and talk due to restricted muscle movement. But, each morning brings the excitement of another day at school. The little girl living with Cerebral Palsy may struggle with her speech and movements, but her eagerness to meet her friends and favourite teacher is always palpable.
It is her joy at learning new things that makes life less stressful for Nishanth and his wife.
Each day, this ever-smiling, and doting father from Kerala’s Wayanad district, carries his daughter on his back and treks for about 1 KM to be able to drop her at school.
A Daughter’s Struggles and a Father’s Efforts
“Since the terrain is very rocky and villagers are not financially well-off, they prefer walking even to cover long distances. My monthly income is very inconsistent but enough to arrange for three meals and medicines that Niya requires regularly,” Nishanth tells The Better India (TBI).
Nishanth drives an auto-rickshaw in the neighbourhood of Chenguthaya forest near Kuravu colony. He left other menial jobs and started driving only to have the means to take Niya to other places instead of confining her to the house. His 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with (CP) when she was barely 2 years old.
When the couple began searching for a school for their daughter, they found out that the nearest one was about 5 KM away. But Nishanth does not mind the distance as long as his daughter is getting formal education.
The father-daughter duo leaves the house at around 8.30 AM. His house is located in close proximity to the forest and the motorable road starts around 1 KM from where he lives. So he has no other choice but to park his rickshaw from where the roads begins.
Very carefully, Nishanth hoists Niya on his back and walks for a kilometre till the rickshaw and then drives to St. Georges LP School Ambayathode, in Kannur District border of Wayanad District. After dropping her off, he rides in the neighbourhood in search of passengers who are rare to come by in this remote area. On good days, he manages to get around six passengers.
At 4.30 PM he picks up Niya and rides back home.
But, his day doesn’t end there as Nishanth treks back one kilometre and rides his rickshaw till 6 in the evening.
“Wild animal attacks are very common in the region after-sunset. I try not to put my life in danger for some extra money.”
Life is Never Easy but Help Comes in Many Ways
“Giving a better life to my daughter is my priority and most of my income goes in physiotherapy sessions. I took a loan of Rs 1.5 lakhs for my wedding. And now, repaying it is difficult. Though the bank has agreed to relax the interest rate after putting in a lot of requests, the amount is very huge for me,” he shares.
Seeing his plight and Niya’s condition, her school headmaster Thomas Jacob started an online petition of crowdfunding to help the family.
“Hats off to Nishanth for not treating his child any less. In fact, the love and care he provides to Niya is unmatchable. We are using social media to draw people’s attention. There have been small donations but we have a long way to go,” Jacob tells TBI.
One donor recently agreed to donate five cents of land to Nishanth near the school to build their house and make things less difficult. But the family does not want to spend money on building the house.
“I want to give my daughter the best of education and healthcare. Only a couple of months ago Niya underwent a muscle operation. The doctors have said Niya’s condition can improve significantly provided she gets regular physiotherapy and surgeries till she turns 18. It is very hard to manage the expenses but I refuse to bow down. I will fight for my daughter and make sure to give her a life that she will be proud of,” he signs off.
Help Niya get better and qualitative healthcare. You can make donations to the following bank account:
M/S Niya Nishanth Sahaya Nidhi
Kerala Gramin Bank (Branch: Neendunokki)
Account Number: 40489101033740
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)