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living without legs- and my pathetic attempt to help

as soon as i saw him, i was stunned by his facial expression, because it was radiating serenity.
it was looking up at me, serenly and wihtout changing its expression, as i walked past, with my camera on my shoulder, and my friend Katja walking next to me, on a dusty road in the center of the village Gokarna, in Karnataka, India.
the face with its serene look would not have been such a big spectacular happening if it hadn't been for the deformed body that it was attached to.
his legs were like little frog-legs, completely useless.
he was sitting steadily, and it looked like he was made out of torso only, and legs and arms were just lifeless branches coming out of him, with no purpose.
i stopped immediately as our eyes met. i saw this little boy, and was stunned by the chaotic opposition of his facial expression to that of his bodily expression. physical body and spiritual body were in complete opposition- or was it that his spiritual body was so in harmony, that he no longer had use for a physical one?
this is India, after all, where gods and godessess are all over the place. where the soul wanders from incarnation to incarnation, and where the poor people accept their destiny because they believe their current life-situation is simply the sum of the bad actions performed in a previous life- and if they perform good actions in this life, it will only get better in the next one.
but little Shivkumar, also called Shiva by his family, seemed to embody both a low incarnation of a complete handicapped and useless body, as well as an enlightened soul.
his eyes spoke only of acceptance and love as they gazed steadily into mine, without flinching.
i was extremely vulnerable in his presence, and it started as soon as my eyes met his. i really felt a huge desire to help him in some way, while, at the same time, i wanted to be around his wisdom.
Shiva was only about 10 years old but his soul is old and wise, and he made me feel like a child.
i started visiting him every day and i was just sitting there, hanging out with him and his family, and they shared their daily moments with me, and i got to share my western wealth with them by buying food and drinks and chai.
Shivas family were selling plastic jewellery and religious figures for the pilgrims coming to Gokarna, but they money they made was nowhere near enough to give them enough food and clothes and hospital treatments.
Shiva's job was to keep a little tin box in front of him, for people to donate money. which many did, as they saw his deformed body and pure expression.
he was wearing the same clothes almost every day- but every day they smelled clean and fresh. his mother or grandmother washed all of the childrens' clothes, each and every night. they each had a tiny (in comparison to a western) breakfast and a chai each, and then one more meal in the evening, usually just rice and some dal.
i wanted to help Shiva from the moment i met him. i felt as if i wanted to give something back to Gokarna, where my life had been saved by the local doctor a few years earlier, when i had malaria. i felt strongly that it was my karma to pay it forward.
i talked a lot with Shiva's mother about getting a "gari"- a little carriage- almost looking like a skateboard- a thing specific to India, often used by people paralysed after having polio, which was exactly the case of Shiva. they sit themselves on this gari and then roll themselves everywhere with the help of their hands, which they have to bandage, to not damage from the dirty streets. his mother, Poppi,27 years old and a mother-of-five (and one dead) told me this was the familys' biggest dream, for Shiva to get a gari, bu that they could not afford one.
i started with asking around in gokarna, but no one had any idea where to find one. they all mentioned Bangalore, which is the capital of the state of Karnataka, and quite far away.
we decided to try a bigger town, about an hour bus-ride away. me, Poppi, Shiva and two of his siblings went, and i was determined to make this happen. we walked around all of that town, and asked a lot of people, and found all the bicycle workshops in town, but everyone kept referring to Bangalore.
we gave up. we had a lunch in the bus station before we left, and came back on the bus, to Gokarna, where the family settled again at their corner of the dusty street.
i started feeling both guilt and a sense of wanting to get away. i had nowhere to hide- to get onto the main street on the way form my guesthouse, i had to pass their corner. i was with them every day, and i felt as if it was beginning to get to much for me.
i was not able to stay out of the suffering of this boy, and i was under the illusion that i could help him.
i felt guilty for having started this whole project of helping with the gari, and now not being able to finish it. if i had really wanted to, i could have taken him on the train to Bangalore, but in fact, i was slowly starting to feel physically ill by the whole situation. it was intense to be inside the life of this family every day for about two weeks.
the day i announced i was moving on to Delhi, they all were very sad, and i made a promise to them that i would soon be back, and we would continue the search for a gari for Shiva.
he never asked for it himself- it was his family, only, discussing the matter- Shiva himself was always serenely looking into my eyes and sometimes taking my hand in his twisted ones.
the last day we were together i took Shiva and his sister to the town beach.
after swimming and playing, we had ice-cream, and the little god-boy was so sweet with the sunset glistening in his eyes and the melting vanilla ice-cream smeared all over his face.
i realised, that thee is nothing i can do to help this boy.
i can only learn from him, and that thing i can learn, is acceptance of the things that i cannot change, and courage to live as fully as possible within the conditions i have been given.
just like he does.


  1. Linda, I so enjoyed your writing and your sentiments and your stunningly beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing this. You know I am trying to build a children's home near the ashram where I stayed after our teacher training in Italy and have returned to several times. At first my focus was to help girls at risk of trafficking but lately i've felt very called to help disabled children. Thank you for this story as it may be confirming that even more. Right now I've bought land and begun to clear it. Now I'm waiting for funds to build a small first house. I've two presentations this week and support is growing. I and this project are so blessed. I am praying for everything to be given by God. I will send you some info. Let me know what you think and any ideas, advice.

  2. Dear Cindy!
    Thank you!
    Wow, I didn't know you were doing this work?!?! Could you send me some more info on it, please? Maybe I could visit you there next time I go to India? I would love to hear more about this and wow again to you for doing such an amazing thing!!!!! all my best wishes for the economical support that we unfortunately need to do good things like this... i cross all my fingers and toes that it goes well and I know youll do the rest!
    peace and big LOVE


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