When joy returns

Remember the shocking news of a baby being handed over covered in plastic and later turning out to be alive? His parents have been blessed with a baby girl

The two-bedroom Kumar household was abuzz with excitement, the adults busying themselves with house errands. A young boy was running around the bed, amusing himself with the infant being fussed over by his grandmother. A girl has been born in the family, and it’s time to celebrate. Her name is Garima.

Their current state of merriment is no indication of the suffering that they had to go through the previous year.

On December 6 last year, what should have been the happiest day of their married lives, Ashish and Varsha Kumar lost two newborn children at Max Hospital in Shalimar Bagh. After Varsha delivered their twin babies prematurely (seven months premature), a girl and a boy, the girl was immediately declared still born and the boy was said to be in critical condition.

The Kumars, already distraught over the death of their baby girl, was then informed that keeping the boy alive would cost them a sum of around Rs 50 lakh over the next few months. This was obviously a daunting amount for the young parents and they asked for time to get their affairs in order. In the middle of their arrangements to move the baby from Max to another hospital where the treatment would be cheaper, they were informed that the boy had also died within a matter of a few hours. The deceased babies were handed to the parents wrapped up like courier packages.

On their way to the cremation ground, when they unwrapped the babies to dress them in clean cloth for the ceremony, the boy began to move. He wasn’t dead.

Shocked, they rushed the baby boy to the nearest hospital, which was the Sehgal Hospital in Meera Bagh. The baby that was born 22 weeks early, and was declared dead, was put on ventilator for the next five days, following which he died.

What’s more, the parents were never issued any birth or death certificates — instead they were told that in such cases those documents are handed over to the Delhi Police Crime Branch. They have, however, not made those documents available to the family.

Ashish was appalled at the quick assessment that the doctors had passed with such surety, and their entire family was determined to seek justice for their babies, against all odds. They sat in protest in front of Max Hospital for two months starting in December 2017— a 200-member strong dharna comprising of family, friends, sympathisers and social workers, and they did not budge. They braved the cold, and carried their mattresses and utensils to the hospital and determinedly camped out there. They faced threats and bribes but were persistent through it all.

“Media ne humari bohot help ki,” (Media has helped us a lot) says Sunil, Ashish’s cousin brother who has been helping out ever since the incident took place. “Humari baat logon tak pohochne mein thoda time lag gaya, humaari awaaz bada karne mein thoda waqt laga,” (it took a while for our words to reach the public, it took us a while to make our voices louder.)

Looking back at her first pregnancy, Varsha recalls that it was very scary for her. Two months into the first trimester, her stomach started hurting badly. When she went to see the doctor, she was told that the babies had to be delivered immediately. What followed was quite possibly her worst nightmare taking shape.

When she was pregnant with Garima, however, all was surprisingly smooth. The entire family was away in Punjab, preparing for Ashish’s grandmother’s death anniversary, when Varsha’s water broke in Nihal Vihar in Delhi. Her sister was with her, and they rushed to the hospital, where the delivery was easy and Garima was born perfectly healthy.

The Kumar family is gearing up to celebrate her birth in full swing despite the massive expenses they are having to bear for the lawyer charges as well as the hospital costs. Her grandfather Kailash named her Garima because she was born on the day his mother died, November 27, and he thinks it’s a sign of a part of his mother being born again. He wanted the word ‘Ma’ in his granddaughter’s name.

Their house is a mess of frills, flower garlands, and decorations, all in celebration of the birth of a young girl. But even while the mood is festive, their minds never stop reliving the events that transpired exactly one year ago. “We have been offered money several times in lakhs and crores at times,” says Sunil, “but if we wanted to get rich, we would have done that already.” It has been a year, and the fact that they are still awaiting justice apalls and angers them at the same time. “Even at a time of happiness like this, Ashish is running around from pillar to post for the case we filed which is still ongoing,” complains his mother.

The happy-go-lucky family that has been through a year of turmoil still manages to find joy in what they have. They have high hopes for their daughter, and all the members of the family are doting on the little child. It’s clear that she has a pampered childhood awaiting her. “Hum apni jang jaari rakhenge jab tak insaaf na milein,” (Our fight will not stop until we get justice) says Sunil, as he looks at his newborn niece with a smile on his face.

Garima has managed to bring not only happiness, but a new sense of hope into this family.

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