CHENNAI: Fifty-year-old Nagarajan has been living at the Pallikaranai Government School for almost a wee. Like others, his house in Narayanapuram too was flooded and all his belongings were washed away. The flood also worsened the condition of his 23-year-old son, Balaji, who has dwarfism and is mentally-challenged.
“I am worried about him,” wept Nagarajan, an auto driver. “He cannot move or speak and the thyroid in his throat grows every day. He cannot eat the food they provide here, and has only drunk water over the last week,” he said.
In the meantime, Balaji wore a constant smile as he busily looked at a coat hung next to the bench his father was leaning on. “He does that when he finds something interesting,” said his father. Suddenly, Balaji held his neck with both his hands and began screaming and screeching loudly. His father held him in his arms constantly murmuring, “It’ll be alright.”
“He holds his neck that way when it pains. Ever since we’ve moved here, the pain seems to have increased a lot. He keeps screaming, and he finds it difficult to swallow,” he said.
Balaji’s mother died two months ago, and he has a brother who also has dwarfism. He now lives with his grandmother. “Over the last two months, I worked hard to save money to get his thyroid operated upon, but after my wife died, I had to run the family all by myself, and then the flood happened. We don’t have enough money. How will I take care of him now that everything’s gone?” he said, trying to hold back his tears.
Nagarajan will return home in a couple of days, but he is unsure of how he will look after his son in his broken, dilapidated shanty. “Everything is broken. As long as his mother was alive, she would look after him while I worked. But ever since she left, I had been keeping him in a room with water. Now there is no place even for that. It’s going to take a long time to rebuild what we have lost,” he said.
The doctors who visited the camp have told him to take his son to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital before his condition worsens. However, Nagarajan is juggling too many things: buying food, repairing his vehicle, taking care of his son, and paying for transport and hospital expenses that would follow. “It will take some time to get back to normal life. If someone can help me even a little, I’d be grateful,” he said.