In son’s death, Dalit couple breaks an ancient taboo | india | Hindustan Times
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In son’s death, Dalit couple breaks an ancient taboo

Four-month-old Lucky becomes country’s youngest cornea donor in a place where superstition says those who donate eyes are reborn blind, reports S Raju.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2009 01:39 IST
S. Raju

The parents of a dead dalit infant in a remote Uttar Pradesh village donated his eyes, making him the youngest such donor in the country. <b1>

Lucky, the four-month-old son of Satyapal Singh, 28, a tailor, and Meenakshi, 25, of Budheri Ghogho village, 140 km north west of Delhi, died from high fever late on Tuesday night.

The Dalit couple was overcome with grief, but at the insistence of Satyapal’s elder brother Harpal, 30, they immediately got in touch with Dr Ashok Jain and his wife Kusum, who run the Roshni Eye Bank in Saharanpur, about 100 km away.

“It was a difficult moment for us but we decided to keep our son alive by donating his eyes,” said Meenakshi, who had studied up to Class 10.

Apprehending controversy and opposition from other villagers, the family requested Dr Jain to remove Lucky’s corneas before daybreak.

In doing so, they not only gifted vision to an eight-year-old girl and a 55-year-old man, but also helped break several centuries-old social taboos.

In caste-conscious UP, Dalit organ donors are still a rarity. Then, there is a widespread belief among villagers that cornea donors are born blind in their next birth.

“I extracted the corneas in the wee hours of Wednesday and transported them to the Meerut Eye Bank,” said Dr Jain.

“It was really difficult to extract corneas of such a small child,” said Kusum, a paramedic trained to extract corneas from donors. Before Lucky, the youngest cornea donor was a two-year-old child in Pune.

Thereafter, Dr Sandeep Mittal, principal and head of the department of ophthalmology at the Meerut Medical College, and his team successfully transplanted Lucky’s corneas to Khushboo, 8, a student of Class 3, and Ram Prakash, 55, a farmer. They had both an eye each.

In Meerut, both the recipients struggled for words to thank Satyapal and Meenakshi. “I’ll remain in their debt all my life. I want to meet them personally to express my gratitude,” said Khushboo’s mother Meera Sharma, a homemaker.

Ram Prakash, a farmer, too, wants to do something for Lucky’s parents.

This is second time in five months that the extended Singh family has donated eyes. In February, Harpal, a social activist, had convinced his in-laws to donate his mother-in-law’s eyes after her death.