Looking at Pyari, one can never guess that she is a 24-year-old. She is so frail that the bandage wrapped around her scalp, neck and shoulders appears to be too heavy for her to carry.
The bandage might be removed in a month or two, but the scars will remain forever. Almost five months ago, Pyari Ganeshan was allegedly set on fire by her mother-in-law, Shiela in Kodaikanal.
Saved by her neighbours, Pyari suffered severe burn injuries from head to shoulders. She lost both of her ears. Fortunately, nothing happened to her face.
Life for Pyari has been a test of fire since childhood. In spite of having both parents and a younger sister, she grew up in an orphanage. Her mother being a schizophrenic couldn’t look after them well, and her father, Ganeshan who worked as a coolie in Ernakulam struggled to make both ends meet. After doing a course in nursing from a community college of Christu Vikas Convent in Aluva, she got employed at a hospital there.
In the meantime, her father fixed her marriage with her first cousin, Murugan.
“Since Murugan’s house is in Kodaikanal, I had to quit my job,” Pyari says.
Once she reached Kodaikanal, Murugan’s mother Shiela, who had expected Pyari to bring some dowry, allegedly started harassing her. Her husband silently acquiesced to whatever was going on, Pyari says.
Talking about that fateful day, April 23, 2012, Pyari gets restless as if she can still feel the scorches on her body. Yet she narrates, “I was in my room making my bed. All of a sudden, I felt something being splashed on me from behind. When I looked back, I saw my mother-in-law. I don’t know how she set me afire within seconds. As I ran towards the door, she shoved me back and left the house after locking the room from outside.” “Hearing my screams, a neighbour rushed in and covered me with a blanket. By then I had become unconscious,” she says. Her neighbours took her to a private hospital where the doctors declared that she had no chance of survival.
A case has been filed in a court against Pyari’s husband and his mother, which is pending.
Ganeshan brought Pyari to Ernakulam General Hospital, where she was admitted for four months.
When the Carmelite Sisters of St Teresa at Christu Vikas Convent got to know about her plight, they stepped in. “We shifted her to Specialists’ Hospital in Kochi on September 10 for post-burn surgery,” Mother Superior Sr Jane CSST says. “The surgery is too expensive. She has been advised split skin graft in different stages. The approximate cost on her treatment may go up to `1 lakh,” Sr Jane says.
Against all odds, Pyari’s condition has stabilised, but many months of gruelling treatment lie ahead.
Pyari cannot be operated at this stage as her wounds are yet to heal. Moreover, her blood count is too low. Currently at seven, it has to be brought up to at least twelve, before the surgery can begin.
However, Pyari hasn’t lost heart. She is determined to survive. Once healed, she plans to work at the hospice serving patients. With her inner spirit to overcome all odds, she has indeed set an example to follow.
(Some names have been changed to protect identity)