Carrying on with confidence
S. Kannan, a spastic, has successfully dispelled the darkness in his life. PRATHIBHA PARAMESWARAN writes this profile in courage.
Pics by M. Moorthy
S. KANNAN RUNS a stationery shop at Mannachanallur, where he stocks some sweet-meats, school note-books, pencils and other knick-knacks for students and a few kitchen items as well. His day begins at eight in the morning. With a telephone booth attached to his shop that gives him an extra income, his work continues till late night. During the afternoons, students from a nearby school flock in either to pick up some item or simply have a chat with Kanan. So what is so unusual about Kanan, you may wonder. He is suffering from a condition called Cerebral Palsy with Ataxia. This means, his movements lack coordination, there is a tremor in his fingers and limbs, his speech falters. The irreparable damage in his cerebellum could have confined him to a dark corner of his house in village Devimangalam, eight kms from Mannachanallur. But fortunately for the efforts of his parents and intervention by the Spastic Society at Tiruchi and Musiri, Kanan is not the imprisoned soul of his destiny. He is independent enough to manage a shop on his own.
At the age of 10 in 1981, Kannan was admitted to the Spastic Society, Tiruchi (SST). It was the time when the viability of such a society in the city was being explored and volunteers from Chennai were camping to identify possible cases that could be taken in. "I was keen to improve my son's situation," recounts Kannan's mother, S. Chandra. "I took him to the camp, returned and waited for what seemed endless for an intimation from someone."
What Kannan cherishes the most is the help and support extended by his family. He could sit but partially and could barely walk, when he first entered the society for training. "They would let me watch my son playing through the window and often, he would burst into tears. Many a time I would leave him at the society and start for home only to return midway through," Ms. Chandra recollects.
After over ten months of training including physical, occupational and speech therapy, special education programmes, self-care and domestic work training, Kannan is now confident enough to take care of himself. "It is not possible to bring them to normalcy entirely. But we can make them as independent as possible, within their limitations," says SST project manager C. Shanthakumar.
Initially Kannan tried his hands nurturing a cow. But failed. It was then that the idea of setting up a shop for him occurred to Mr. Shanthakumar. With an initial investment of Rs. 2000, he opened a small shop at Mannachanallur. His family too moved in with him from Devimangalam.
With Kannan putting in all his efforts, it did not take time for business to pick up. His skills to interact and communicate with customers enabled him to strike a good rapport with them. Soon like any other son in a family, Kannan was able to finance the construction of their own house and as well as his sister's wedding.
With a restricted writing ability, Kannan meticulously keeps track of his sales and savings. His unfailing habit to maintain sales records to perfection for the last 12 years has enabled him to calculate his daily savings and use them to pay off his loan.
And guess, what Kannan is busy repaying at present - the loan he incurred during his marriage to a distant relative. "He was obstinate and wanted a grand wedding," says his mother. "Though his brother's was just a simple ceremony, we let him have his way. He has about Rs. 50,000 to pay off, and his calculations tell that he would be able to pay it off in a period of seven months."
Those close to Kannan have always associated him with extreme honesty and integrity. His mother likes to narrate a simple incident when Kannan started his shop. "He was tempted to have a sweet from his shop, but at the same time was reluctant. He borrowed a 10 paise coin from a boy promising to return it as soon as his mother comes and `paid' for the sweet and ate it."
Such instances hardly surprise Shanthakumar, who says: "We always make it a point to instil honesty and ethics in our students. We also try and inculcate the attitude in parents. Others should trust them and help them always."
Kannan's mother is only too happy for him today and continues to support him along with his brother, S. Jayaram, a post-graduate in Economics and father, R. Srinivasan, a mason.
"We often have to put up with his temper tantrums and sometimes insinuating remarks. He gets frustrated soon," she points out.
She shares her experiences with other parents of spastic children besides motivating them to extend all care and support to their wards. As for Kannan himself, he speaks out albeit with some difficulty: "I do face quite a lot of problems. At times I am not even able to communicate my troubles to anyone, but have to deal with them by myself."
For now, he limits his aspirations to improving and renovating his shop.
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