Weekend Rendezvous: A Warrior Mother Of A Special Child Who Bonds With God Through Him
A cursory look will reveal to you just her outer sheen- a talented woman- smart, confident, full of laughter and fun. But look closer and you will see courage, fortitude, optimism, care and compassion, and above all tremendous faith in God.
Meet Dr Neelam Mansharamani, an officer at the International Airport Authority of India (IAAI), who is a single parent, the mother of 35-year-old ‘special child’ Chirag, who is suffering from Landau Kleffner Syndrome. Chirag ss non-verbal and is totally dependent on help for everything since he was just four years.
Woman of steel, unbroken by the adversities that came her way, including losing her husband just six years after marriage. Multi-talented Neelam is always at the forefront of activities, spreading happiness and wiping off tears, of even strangers.
Upbeat, she has a smile on her face and is always eager to try on new things. She has all the reasons to crib but instead, her faith in God is strong and she thanks him for trusting her with a responsibility that has made her more compassionate and caring not only towards humans but also animals.
Widowed at a very young age, the shock of her only child born normal turning special has in fact made her stronger. Neelam has faced challenges in life bravely. She is giving life her best shot and is a shining inspiration for parents with special children.
This interview hopes to spark a ray of hope in all parents, especially mothers, of differently-abled children
Let us begin with your childhood.
I was the fourth child of my parents and the gap between me and my eldest sister is 17 years. For my elder siblings, I was like a toy and always given very special treatment. It was a childhood full of sunshine and love.
When did you meet Sunil and how did you lose him?
Sunil was my dream prince. We met at work, fell in love and few months later on 12th February 1983, we got married. When Chirag was born on 7th January 1985, my world was complete. The next few years were blissful but my life came to a standstill when I lost Sunil on 12th April 1989 to a massive heart attack.
How did Chirag support you at that time?
It was Chirag who brought me back to this world again. He was a little over four years then but old enough to sense the big vacuum created after Sunil. Chirag used to tell everyone that his father had turned into a star and is shining brightly in the sky.
He did not like me wearing white clothes and insisted that I wear bright colours and that I never forget to put “Papa’s bindi.”
When did you first realize that Chirag was a special child?
Chirag was born a normal child and as he grew a little bigger he used to fill our lives with his laughter and prattle all the time. We put him in the nursery when he was 2 years seven months old. He was a bright kid and later he easily got admission to a normal school in April 1988.
But we started noticing a slight change in his speech a few months after he joined the school. This intensified after Sunil’s death. He started stammering and there were also slight convulsions. I took him to several doctors but none found anything serious. But within a few months, his condition started deteriorating.
The school authorities advised that I put him in a special school. I was hit hard as I was still mourning for Sunil. But today I see it as God’s way of diverting my attention to a more pressing matter.
How did you mould yourself in this role of being a mother to a special child?
My family and my office staff stood rock solid behind me in this difficult mission. I made umpteen rounds of doctors in Delhi, other states and also took him abroad for treatment. Nowhere did I get any convincing answers. I started taking classes to train myself in speech, physiotherapies.
A full-time maid for Chirag was engaged as slowly he had stopped doing anything himself. Today at 35, he is non-verbal, totally dependent on help for all his chores. For the last 15 years, Mohan, who says he is Chirag bhaiyya, and I am Chirag's care taker. We serve him like God.
What has Chirag taught you?
Everything. He is my best companion and audience. He has taught me to handle with elan the most difficult situations. I am a better human being because Chirag has taught me to give unconditional love, compassion, caring. I have travelled the world with him looking for a miracle cure.
I have met beautiful people who have helped me, given me courage. In him. He has watched me sing and dance without batting an eyelid or showing any signs of boredom. Above all he is my closest confidant, I trust him with all my secrets, I know he will never betray my trust.
With him, by my side, I celebrate all festivals and dress up according to the festival. On Good Friday we paint eggs, on Independence Day we dress in Tricolour. Chirag's favourite however is Diwali when we decorate the house with lights and pray for darkness to dispel. I am a big devotee of Sai Baba and make an annual visit to Shirdi with Chirag.
You are multi-talented person. Tell us how you manage all this along with Chirag?
Yes, I enjoy doing a lot of things, but I have learnt to do all this with Chirag, he is at the Centre of all my activities he is no hindrance to my love for all this.
I am a PhD in HR management and also a law graduate. I have a bronze medal at Asiad 82, received the Mother Teresa Ratna, best mother award along over 30 more. I sing in Hindi, Sindhi and at times in English.
I am a visual artist and on his 25th birthday I held a special show of my paintings. As a young girl, I had walked the ramp, acted in theatre, worked in some social projects. I do all this still with Chirag. Seems we both are growing together.
Tell us about the biography you wrote Neelam- Mother of Hope and joy, which you have dedicated to all parents of the world, especially mothers.
Amateur writing, this book is all about the journey of a single mother who strikes a balance between her life, career and a very special child. I hope it will inspire parents, especially mothers to cope with life better.
What is your advice to parents of special children, especially mothers?
First and foremost a mother must not blame herself for her child’s condition. Secondly, acceptance is important and that should be immediately followed by medical care.
The family has to shower more love and kindness on such children and not let them feel that they are a burden. Happiness is a vital supplement for their growth. Play with them, put music for them, it is therapeutic. Take them out for drives, outings.
Put them into a special school, it is necessary for inculcating discipline, the environment aids in their well being. Dress them well and take special care of their hygiene. Also, give them Tulsi as it is good for the throat, these kids are prone to cough and colds.
And my very special request is to people in general. Please be kind and empathetic to special children and their parents. Remember they are already!