Monday, March 19, 2012
A true hero of our times
Anjan Satheesh, born with cerebral palsy, has never let it hamper his dreams and activities
By Shevlin Sebastian
At the Adarsh Charitable Trust, a school for the physically challenged at Kureekkad, on the outskirts of Kochi, Anjan Satheesh, switches on the computer, a gleam of excitement in his eye. And he quickly shows slides of his art work: watercolour paintings of houses in the countryside, a boat rolling on the waves of a rough sea, and a young couple -- the boy holding an umbrella and standing behind the girl, protecting her from the rain.
Then Anjan shows a 3D animation which he has made of the school. So now we are in the main hall, then it is off to the first floor, the second, going inside and outside rooms. Thereafter, he displays his cartoons: sharp, black, felt pen drawings of Osama Bin Laden, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Sachin Tendulkar, among many others.
It all seems fine, but what makes it astounding is that he has cerebral palsy. This means he is brain-damaged. He cannot hear properly nor speak. His left eye is cloudy and lacking sight. He holds himself up on wooden crutches, both his crippled legs bent from the knees in different directions.
Looking at him navigate the mouse is S. Aswinkumar, executive secretary of Adarsh. “Anjan is an expert,” he says. “When a computer goes wrong, he is the one who solves the problems.” His father, N. Satheeshkumar, a manager of the Federal Bank, smiles proudly.
It has been a long and harrowing journey for the family. Within hours of Anjan being born, on September 29, 1987, Satheesh and his wife Lethika, knew that something was wrong. “When my wife tried to breast-feed him, he was unable to suck properly,” says Satheesh.
Soon, it was discovered that he had problems with his eyesight. Tests at the Little Flower Eye Hospital revealed that he had glaucoma in both eyes. Immediately, two surgeries were done. There were further problems. Anjan's neck would roll around. He was not able to turn over; he lay on his back all the time. His legs remained stiff and unstretchable. And he was not responding to any sounds.
The family began to agonise. “Yes, there was a time when we felt shattered,” says Lethika. “Would our child remain like this forever?”
What aggravated the pain was the presence of son, Aswin, older by two years, a healthy child, who was running around all over the place.
In 1989, Sateesh and Lethika took Anjan to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at New Delhi. A full check-up was done and that was when they heard the dreaded words which described their son’s condition: Cerebral palsy.
They brought Anjan back and admitted him to the Raksha Institute of Special Education at Kochi, run by the Spastics Society. “It was the only one in Kerala at that time which catered to cerebral palsy victims,” says Lethika. They hired an apartment in Kochi, while Lethika took a five-year break from the Kerala High Court, where she had a job. Anjan underwent regular physiotherapy sessions. Thereafter, there were classes at the Dr. Mukundan Memorial Speech and Hearing Centre.
At age five Anjan was admitted into a normal school, but found it difficult to follow the lessons, since he could not hear at all. His parents helped him at home, and Anjan managed to finish his Class 10 exams. Thereafter, he did an animation course at the Toon's Academy in Thiruvananthapuram.
“Anjan is a confident person,” says brother Aswin, a software engineer. “He is able to adapt to all sorts of situations. I did not feel any guilt that I was okay, because we always regarded him as a normal person.”
Meanwhile, all along, Anjan had shown a talent for drawing. “We did not take it seriously,” says Satheesh. “We were more focused on him getting an education.” But today, this young man is a member of the Kerala Cartoon Academy (KCA) and is invited for functions and camps.
“His drawings are superb, when you think about his physical and mental disabilities,” says Sajjive Balakrishnan, the secretary of KCA. “I am always amazed at his high output.”
Anjan appeared in the public spotlight when he gifted drawings to former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Oscar winner Resul Pookutty and Dr. C. Rangarajan, the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. “He had done caricatures of them,” says Satheesh.
Today, Anjan, 24, is busy with his new career at Adarsh where he is teaching children -- who have Down's Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and learning disorders – drawing, painting, and computer skills.
“Anjan cannot speak, but, somehow, he is able to communicate with the students,” says Ciya George, the chief administrative manager.
Anjan Sateesh: A true hero of our times!
(The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)