CHENNAI: Nobody really knows what Balu V, a student of Presidency College in Triplicane, was doing near the staircase leading to the rooftop of the second block of the Victoria Hostel, from where he fell. Some said he was returning after using the restroom there. Others said he was heading to the rooftop to sleep, but the boy himself, visually-challenged with speech and hearing impairments, has only been able to muster the strength to touch the tips of his middle finger and thumb in swift motions in sign language, signalling pain.
His brother Prabu fears that the boy, a third-year student of BCom Commerce (hearing impaired) Department, who is already partially blind along with hearing and speech impairments, may also lose his ability to walk after he fell through a damaged parapet wall on the second floor of the Victoria hostel’s second block on Tuesday night.
“He has not been letting me touch his legs. One of the doctors who is treating him told me that it was a possibility that he may lose his ability to walk,” said Prabu, who works as a welder in the city, making Rs 8,000 a month. Balu’s parents, daily wagers in Tiruvannamalai, were on their way to the Government Hospital, where he is admitted in the neuro ward.
The Victoria Hostel that accommodates male students of the college houses about 330 students of whom 45 are visually impaired. Students in the college said that it was only a matter of time, before students, visually challenged or otherwise, fell through the damaged parapet wall.
“He was lucky to be found immediately after he fell, considering that his speech impairment may not have allowed him to raise an alarm. Some students who were studying there heard the thud and saw the light of his mobile phone as he lay on the ground,” said a student requesting anonymity.
Prakash C, a student of the college, said that the lack of lights on the corridor was another important reason resulting in the boy’s fall.
When Express visited the Victoria Hostel, the walls in the college building, a heritage structure, still had large branches of trees that were believed to have fallen during Vardah, lodged on them.
Following the incident, students of the college staged a protest, forcing the principal and wardens to arrive at the hostel in the wee hours on Wednesday and appease the crowd.
College authorities said that they had immediately arranged lights of the corridor, adding that the lights that were installed previously were often broken or removed by the students themselves.
“We are also planning to install grills along the corridors,” said a senior member of the college management.
College authorities said that Balu was out of danger, escaping injuries to his head and suffering injuries to his back, and is expected to make a quick recovery.
However, Balu’s brother Prabu and the group of five friends and his class teacher Vinoth N who gathered outside the neuro ward are not convinced.
“I’m the one staying here and talking to doctors. I have neither told my brother nor my parents that it was a possibility that he may not walk again,” said Prabu.
Balu’s friend and classmate Sathish also suffering from speech and hearing impairment held Prabu’s hand and touched his pocket with the other, quietly asking him how much more money he needed. Prabu, who said he has already spent about Rs 4,000-Rs 3,000 from his pocket and Rs 1,000 pitched in by Balu’s friends, shook his head in dismissal, lowering his gaze to the ground.
Meanwhile, the Presidency College is gearing up to celebrate the completion of its 175th year on April 18, college authorities said, for which the CM Edappadi K Palanisamy and some of its high-profile alumni are expected to be in attendance.