MUSTAFAPUR (BIHAR): Not a day goes by without Manoj Sah remembering his seven-year-old daughter. Kamini wanted to study and become “officer betia”, he says. But, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome cut her life short.
Leave aside Sah, even Nirmala Devi, a neighbour, feels the viral infection ruined the future of Mustafapur village, about 10 km from the district headquarters of Muzaffarpur. Litchi groves surround the village on three sides.
“She (Kamini) was like devi (goddess), who used to educate her parents and others on how to keep their houses clean at such a young age,” recalls Nirmala.
The Class 4 student did not miss a single class, until the day she fainted in her room. Before the girl became unconscious, she had complained of dizziness and stomach ache. “Be it winter or summer, she never went to school without taking a bath. She fainted while she was wearing her uniform. We took her to SKMCH in the same dress… She never returned,” Sah laments. “Our neighbour arranged an auto that took her to the hospital.”
“Papa, hamra k pada-likha do ham tohar jivan bhar dekh-bhal kare ya hamara ke kanhi bech do taki paisa jo mile woh se aap apan khyal rakhi hah. (Father, either get me educated so that I can take care of you lifelong, or sell me off so that you can live comfortably),” Sah recalls his daughter saying.
Kamini’s mother Sumitra is jittery after her daughter died at the government-run SKMCH a week ago. Scared, Sumitra took her three-year-old daughter along with her to her village in Vaishali district.
“Only, I am staying alone weeping whenever I see a school-going girl,” Sah says. His house wears a deserted look, and Sah doesn’t like to enter it after the tragedy.
All school uniforms, books and identity card were dumped at the cremation ground where Kamini was consigned to flames. With Kamini gone forever, the children of the village do not venture near the litchi groves, fearing for their lives.