Away from home, he is a free spirit

Away from home, he is a free spirit

A mystery

Travelling on NH 218 from Bilgi to his home in the Govinadinni rehabilitation camp, one is amazed at the energy of N Raghavendra, an 8th standard student at the Swami Vivekananda High School.

On the way, he wants to ride the bike, and he does so competently, with the skill that comes naturally to the young.

The smart-looking boy is full of questions and answers as we get close to Bilgi Cross where we get off the highway to head for his home, 100 metres off the highway.

We are about 100 metres away from the cross, when Raghavendra’s incessant chatter stops. On the pillion, he stiffens. He is in obvious distress.

As we get off the bike, he complains of headache which seems to be getting worse by the minute. Then he complains of acute pain and cramps in both legs which become stiff and cannot be folded.

His lower body is virtually immobilised. In great distress, he tries to walk, but can only push himself with effort. With feet together, he inches forward, moaning in pain.

It was on a September day last year that Raghavendra, an English medium student and a class topper, began having problems.

Riding his bicycle to his school half a kilometre from his home, he found that the bicycle would not get past a huge tamarind tree on the highway. It would not move forward. He tried everything, but the bicycle would not budge.

Thoroughly scared, Raghavendra ran back to his house and told his parents of the phenomenon. Father Narayanaswamy who works in a private concern and his mother, a homemaker, would not believe him.

A couple of days later, Raghavendra began having repetitive headaches, and acute pain in the eyes. He began vomiting, and developed a cough that would not leave him. Then began stiffness of limbs, beginning with the right arm, then the left and then both legs.

Neighbours tried to fold the limbs, but even with superhuman efforts, they could not.

Worried, and even scared, the parents took the boy to a series of doctors, none of whom could cure the boy, leave alone explain his condition. After pills, tonics, scans, x-rays and injections, they opted for the inevitable.

Shattered, Raghavendra’s parents began taking him to the quacks, and on to the babas, who would give ashes to be smeared, ‘sanctified’ coconuts to be tied, to the roof, lemons to be tied to be kept below the pillow and even a baba who beat up the boy to drive the ‘Spirit’ out of him.

Obviously the beating baba could not drive the “spirit” out of Raghavendra. He is the bubbliest  youngster one can come across, once  you take him 100 metres away from Bilgi cross.

Then his spirit soars. He laughs, talks, rides a bike, asks a million questions. But then, go back to the Bilgi Cross...