Twenty -one is my number! I was born twenty-one days before the expected day of my arrival.
The high-pitched shrieks of my immediate neighbour awakened me. The girl made sure I didn’t get an extra wink beyond seven o’clock every morning. Her shrill wail akin to a banshee was enough to give a weak-hearted guy like me the jitters. I was consoled by a nurse’s gloved hand stroking my sparse hair.
Twenty-one days after my birth, I found myself at this new home with twenty other inmates. I was the twenty-first!
The sharp smell of antiseptic mixed with a pungent whiff of mustard oil, further intensified by the odour of bodily wastes was enough to even irritate an insensitive olfaction like mine.
With time, I adjusted to the unsavoury environment and the callousness.
Even to the cacophony on the days of the visits.
The early morning frenzy in our otherwise inert surroundings almost always announced guests.
Like that day.
My cot-mate howled in defiance as she was fussed over. I looked away, thankful at escaping the dollops of oil and layers of powder smeared onto my roommates. The chaperones usually never bothered with me. They knew its futility because the visitors wouldn’t bother me either.
Neglected, I resigned to taking another nap, praying that my breakfast wouldn’t be forgotten in the overenthusiasm to doll up the others.
Not long after, irritated by my soiled clothes, I opened my eyes.
And I found myself staring into a pair of soft, soulful eyes peering lovingly at me. We communicated in quietude, until a harsh voice interrupted “Sir, let Chinku be!”
I pouted on hearing this name given to me on account of my appearance.
“He needs your attention, he’s wet!” My visitor beckoned.
The attendant strolled over grudgingly.
He took her aside to talk to her.
Then he bent over my cot and gave me the most heart-warming smile anyone had ever given me till date.
Twenty-one. The number on his t-shirt. My number!
The friendly man visited me quite often. Surprisingly, I now had many sets of fresh clean clothes and the milk in my bottle wasn’t all that watery anymore. Doctors treated me for the ailments I was predisposed to. I felt cared for.
And there were hushed conversations.
“That crazy guy wants to adopt Chinku!”
“He got the courts to pass a law in his favour.”
“Imagine! Below the age of thirty, and a single father to a special child!”
Special, yes. Twenty-one is my special number.
I have an extra twenty-first chromosome- Trisomy 21. You might know it as “Down’s Syndrome.”
I am too special to be accepted by the elitist family I belong to. Their big house can’t accommodate the extra chromosome. And their hearts are smaller than the hole in my heart.
But twenty-one is my lucky number!!
I am twenty-one months old today and all set to embrace the man who loves me unconditionally and fought the system to become my lawful father.
Author’s note:- This write-up is inspired by a real-life story. On January 1,2016, a 27 year old software engineer, adopted a child afflicted with Down’s syndrome, abandoned by his well to do family. By this selfless act, he paved a new path for many. His determination to give the child a loving home changed laws in favour of prospective single fathers in India and brought down the age limit for an adoptive parent from thirty to twenty-five.
He crossed many hurdles, including an illegal adoption racket to finally get his son home.
Down’s syndrome: a congenital condition characterized by distinctive features like a flattened skull, pronounced folds of skin in inner corners of eyes, large tongue and short stature, heart anomalies,and to some extent, limitation of intellectual activity and social and practical skills.It arises from a defect in chromosome 21, usually an extra copy( Trisomy 21)
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