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Silver lining

If society pitches in, a child of poor parents who was subjected to sexual abuse can recover her health and the family can get back on track. This is what happened with Masoom

May 6, 2018. Remember the date. For this is when Baby Masoom* celebrated her first birthday at the Uday Foundation.

After being raped, allegedly by her cousin, who was in his twenties, in January this year, she had to undergo three hours of extensive surgery. A child’s body, significantly more delicate than an adult’s, could not bear the brutal treatment she was subjected to and her internal organs were seriously damaged.

However, fighting the odds, the eight-month-old toddler miraculously survived the treatment, and is now steadily recovering from the physical and mental trauma with the help of continuing medication.

Masoom’s father is a daily wage labourer and her mother had taken to doing odd jobs in order to make a little more money for the family. On the day of the incident, she had left her two daughters (the older one two years of age, and the younger eight months) at home, requesting a neighbour, who lives in the same building, to keep an eye on them.

When she was returning from her day’s work, the neighbour met her on the street, informing her that her younger daughter had been crying incessantly and that she should hurry home and check on them immediately. On reaching home, she found Masoom lying in a pool of her blood, crying inconsolably in pain.

She instantly realised that something unconscionable had transpired in her absence and went to a doctor in the neighbourhood to have her examined. The doctor then advised her to notify the police immediately, as her daughter had clearly been raped. When she approached the police, they assessed the situation and confirmed that the child had in fact been raped. The police then took the mother and daughter to the hospital for treatment.

Masoom was admitted to AIIMS, where she underwent treatment and surgery, which of course the family would not have been able to afford had it not been for the crowdfunding drives organised by Ketto and the Uday Foundation. Ketto, based in Mumbai, is one of the largest crowdfunding platforms in India. They raise funds for a multitude of causes related to women empowerment, animal welfare, health and education. “We connected with Swati from The Delhi Commission for Women through a well-wisher, who narrated the whole inhuman incident to us. Usually all campaigns on our platform always have a goal that the campaigner needs to achieve over a period of time but in this case we did not put any cap or specify any timeline as we really wanted to raise maximum funds so that the family could afford her medical treatment. We raised D11,06,830 from 463 supporters in the span of 28 days.” The campaign was launched on February 1 and terminated on February 28.

Rahul Verma, founder of Uday Foundation, insisted upon keeping the family strictly away from media attention for the duration of Masoom’s recovery period, revealing that to this day even he hasn’t asked the family the child’s name, for fear that it will be picked up by the media and the child will lose her shot at a normal life. However, the foundation kept all the donors constantly in the loop, updating them about the child’s health condition. They maintain a very transparent system with donors, informing them how the funds are utilised and how they will be used in future.

Along with the funds gathered by Ketto, the total amount raised had gone up to Rs 32,29,697. After the baby’s treatment, a fixed deposit was created for her in case of emergencies, the interest from which goes for the family’s monthly expenses. With the remaining amount, the foundation plans to either create another fixed deposit or create a trust that can be accessed by the child once she is 18 years of age. Verma has also decided to monitor her school admission once she is of an appropriate age, and promises to keep updating donors and well-wishers of her condition till 2038.

Verma repeatedly stresses the importance of holistic development for each child, saying, “It is not enough to simply see to their treatment and physical recovery — it’s imperative to ensure that the child overcomes the mental trauma and is secure in every other aspect of her life as she grows up.” In the four months after encountering what could possibly be the most scarring experience of her life, Masoom went through intensive treatment and rehabilitation, and has now been able to return home, with the alleged rapist behind bars.

This child is now returning to the pink of health, and celebrating her birthday with a few of her donors and well wishers, who flew down to Delhi for the occasion, bearing gifts for her special day. The pink frock that she is seen wearing in the picture was gifted to her by a donor, who came all the way from Pune, just to be there for her first birthday.

“It was shocking for me to even think that someone could look at a small child in this way,” says Lalit Jain, one of Masoom’s donors. He goes on to say, “The birthday celebration was very nice, and even the parents looked content. At least we could bring some happiness in their lives.”

The baby’s family had to face significant difficulties in this situation. They had to deal with a child who fell victim to such a heinous crime, as well as the societal judgement that comes with an incident of this nature. With the help of all their well-wishers, and sheer willpower, the family is now able to look to the future with a renewed sense of optimism.

* Name changed to protect identities