The denial of visa to a Varanasi girl by the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi has ruined the Christmas party of her foster parents in Hamilton city near Toronto.
Fourteen-year-old Soni Alam, who in 2000 was brought to Canada for medical treatment by Dr Bashir Khambalia and his wife Katie after she was disfigured by burns caused by a kerosene lamp, has been coming to Hamilton for annual medical check-ups and participation in Christmas festivities for the past seven years.
"All these years, there was no problem with her visa. Why are we getting blocks in the way this time when this poor girl has been going back to India after Christmas? The Canadian mission in India has not given any reasons. All her papers were in order. We are praying for a miracle so that this young girl joins my family and the community for the Christmas season," Khambalia told IANS.
A family physician, Khambalia said, "Since this will be a white Christmas after a long time, our three children were waiting for their 'sister' from India to join them. They are feeling very sad knowing that she will not be coming here."
He said the family has deputed a travel agent in New Delhi to see if he can manage to get the visa at the last moment. "It is a very emotional thing for us now," he said.
The doctor said he was in India in 2000 when he read the news about Soni Alam's plight after she was badly burnt by the family's kerosene lamp while trying to save her brother.
"Since her poor parents could not afford her medical treatment, she would have suffered major disabilities. So we decided to help this poor girl. My wife, kids and the whole community decided to bring her here and give her the best medical care. The burns had virtually frozen her arms and hands, and she needed a lot of surgical work," Khambalia said.
His wife Katie Khambalia added, "Soni first came with her mother and they stayed here till she was okay. We raised money for her treatment here and her upkeep in India. She needs continuous medical care as her scars are stretching as she grows. So we combine her visits for medical check-ups with the Christmas season so that she can be with us and the whole community."
She said Soni has become very popular with the local community who opened their purses to help her deprived parents. "The mainstream white people, the Sikhs and their gurdwaras, and others helped raise money for her. Today, we have a trust in her name, and thanks to this trust she is getting first-class education in a private boarding school in Varanasi. We pay about $6,000 towards her educational expenses each year. And my family pays for her air ticket each year," she said.
Mrs Khambalia lamented, "Since it is going to be a white Christmas, all my three children came home early and were waiting for Soni to have a great time. But now their hopes have been dashed, and they are feeling very sad. Soni is so dear to them, and they miss her very much."