Anuj wanted to make a birthday gift for his mom. He was just nine years old, but he went through many hardships. His rare genetic condition made his skull fuse prematurely, known as Craniosynostosis*. He was Auggie* from the book Wonder*. He had undergone multiple corrective surgeries for his skull deformity. Still, he looked far different from others. He had retractors popped through his head for a year. Kids from his kindergarten called him a monster and aliens.
Whenever he felt he was different, he used to ask his mom, “Amma, why am I different from others?”
His mom used to say, “You are unique. Others must try hard to be special, but Kanna, you are born special.” Th words used to pep him up.
When he was thinking about her, he remembered how she used to drop him in the theatre before those surgeries with a smile on her face. And it was her face to which he opened his eyes. He did not understand why he felt so distant from bed and why his mom’s voice felt so far away. But one word kept echoing in his ears every time “Kanna… Kanna.. Kanna..” her voice made him feel sure that she would bring him back from wherever he was flying.
Sometimes out of fits, He said, “I wish God put a stone on your head,” but immediately he would get scared and ask her, “Amma, will God really put a stone on your head? I can tell him I did not mean it. Will he not believe it?” He loved her a lot. She used to answer him, saying, “God is your dad’s friend. So, I am sure your dad would have told him that I am strong-headed, I don’t think God will waste a stone on me.” And they both would laugh and hug. He thought his mom had extra protection on her head. His dad always teases her, “Strong-headed, stubborn woman.”
Breaking those thoughts, he looked again at what his dad had bought. It was a windchime with photo inserts. He had no clue how to make it. He was not good at reading. All his friends from school could read, but he still found it difficult to read. He was curious about things around him, but all his school friends could read and understand. But he had to ask his teaching assistant to read for him constantly. He wanted to learn, but something made him jump from one topic to another. They said he had GDD* with ADHD, but he did not get why this ADHD was making him think and see many things simultaneously. He even thought, can’t the doctor do surgery and remove this ADHD in him? His inability to read made him feel helpless and depend on people for minor things.
He did not know what is this. He took a deep breath, kept everything in a paper bag, and went to play with his Condo buddy.
“Hey, Anuj… why were you late?” asked his best friend Pia.
“Hey, Pia… I wanted to make a gift for my mom for her birthday. So I was looking at it but did not know how to make it“.
“Oh, what are you making?” asked Pia. Pia was the same age as Anuj but was far more intelligent for her age. She understood he was different from others, which made her feel protective towards him.
“I wanted to buy a telescope and write her name in it.”
“Oh, you want help with her name?”
“Hey… hey Pia, come catch me.” Saying that Anuj ran. Pia knows Anuj always has problems focusing, and he jumps from one game to another. She shook her head like a big person and ran behind him to catch him.
After playing for 1 hour, Pia said, “It’s time to go home.” Pia was on floor nine, and Anuj lived on the 21st floor. She had a habit of dropping him home first before going back.
Instead of returning home that day, she told him, “Anuj, show me the gift you bought for your mom?“
Anuj’s eyes lit up, and he rang the bell. His mom opened the door and looked at both. “Hey, Pia, how are you, darling? No homework today?”
“no, Aunty, I had but finished it.” “Wow, that’s awesome. So you are going to play with Anuj for some time?” by this time, Anuj dragged Pia to his room and locked the door. His mom laughed and went back to her work.
Inside the room, he showed her the things his dad had bought.
“Oh beautiful, wind chime!”
Anuj asked, “What is a wind chime?”
“It makes a beautiful sound when the wind blows, and you must hang it near the window or balcony. My mom bought one too. Every windy day it makes a nice sound.”
Anuj was lost. He did not understand; all he understood was it would make beautiful sounds like his mom calling him “Kanna… Kanna..” after his surgery. He forgot all the pain he suffered and only remembered this.
Now, his thought went to another toy he bought recently. He wanted to show it to Pia. But Pia was so focused on the wind chime. She read the instruction.
“Anuj, we need some photos for this wind chime has some small frames. We first need to count how many photos we need.”
They started to count, but in the middle of counting Anuj, jump at some random topic and showed him some toys. Pia was running out of patience. She said, “I am going home. You do it yourself. Bye.” With frustration, Pia left.
Anuj was sad and clueless. What did he do? He thought maybe she forgot the numbers. Then why was she angry with him? Anuj once started to pack his gift back, but he left it halfway and went.
The next day, Anuj was not in the mood to go to the playground. He sat in his room and was fidgeting. He had no idea how to make his mom’s gift. The doorbell rang. He heard his mom opening the door. “Hey, Pia!”
He ran out of the room and looked at her. He forgot all his worries, beaming with happiness, and shouted, “Pia….” She looked at him shyly, remembering her anger towards him but noticing he did not remember or minded that; all she could see was pure happiness on his face. She took his arm and told him, “Let’s go and play in your room.” He happily led the way to his room.
Once in the room, she told him, “Let’s finish the gift. You bring a family photo album; let’s select the good picture.”
“But I don’t know where the photo albums are kept.”
“You go to the hall’s bookshelf and check in the last row.” He went running to check it and found 5 to 6 photo albums. He browsed through it and found one album full of him and his mom.
She told him to select six photos from it. He saw every photo. Looking at him made him so happy. He forgot why he was looking at it and was thinking about how he looked in each picture. Without thinking, he selected the first six pictures from the album.
They cut the picture, and he was so happy it all fitted in the small frame of the wind chime. Pia finally asked what he wanted to write on the top circle given to write a message. He said, “Kanna.”
Pia laughed and asked, “Who is Kanna?“
He said proudly, “I am to my mom!”
Pia looked at him, said, “That I know,” and remembered what happened that morning.
Anuj’s mom came to Pia’s house. “Hey, Pia darling,” she always calls her that way. “is everything ok between you and Anuj?” Pia did not know how to tell, so she looked down at her foot.
“Are you helping him with the windchime?”
“How did you know that? It was a surprise for you.” She exclaimed
“Yesterday after you leaf, I went clean his room. Halfway through putting those wind chime away, he left them on the floor. So I thought you should be helping him with that.”
“I was aunty. But he doesn’t focus or follow instructions. How to help him?”
“I know, darling. It takes work. But one thing I assure you, he wants to listen. He wants to follow the instruction. He is trying hard but is born different, so he thinks and does things differently. I know for you it must be frustrating. But I know you are more smart than other kids to understand this. Can you give a try to help him one more time, darling?”
“ok, aunty. I will try. I like him. I like to play with him as he makes me laugh.”
“Thank you, sweetheart. Now tell me, how can I help you without him knowing.”
“I need six pictures for the windchime. It needs to be small.”
“ok, done. I will prepare a few pictures in the green album as Anuj has a habit of picking things from his favourite colour and would select from the front. So will prepare it and keep it ready on the bookshelf outside.”
As she was leaving, she turned and said
“Thank you, Kanna.” That “Kanna” now echoed in Pia’s ears too
Craniosynostosis is a condition in which one or more of the fibrous sutures in a young infant’s skull prematurely fuses by turning into bone (ossification), thereby changing the growth pattern of the skull.
Wonder is a children’s novel written by R. J. Palacio, published on 14 February 2012. Wonder was inspired by an incident where her son started to cry after noticing a girl with a severe facial deformity.
August “Auggie” Pullman is a 10-year-old is the main character of the store who has a genetic condition, Treacher Collins syndrome, which has left his face disfigured and required countless surgeries and special care.
Global developmental Delay (GDD) is an umbrella term used when children are significantly delayed in their cognitive and physical development. It can be diagnosed when a child is delayed in one or more milestones, categorised into motor skills, speech, cognitive skills, and social and emotional development. There is usually a specific condition which causes this delay, such as Fragile X syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. However, it is sometimes difficult to identify this underlying condition
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by excessive amounts of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are pervasive, impairing in multiple contexts, and otherwise age-inappropriate.
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