Lying on a hospital bed at Sion hospital, Menaka Thakur, 7, kept calling out for her grandfather on Wednesday. The child’s frail body bore many injury marks including knife marks, two fractures on the little finger of her left hand and large bald patches on her head suggesting that her hair had been torn out.
Clad in a white hospital uniform, Menaka had bandages on both legs and on the left hand. Her eyes were swollen from the injuries and constant crying. Her lips, cheeks and even the skin around her nose ring had abrasions. Beside her on her bed is a packet of biscuits, untouched.
On Tuesday night, Menaka was brought to the hospital by a concerned neighbour after she ran out of her house crying for help. Police said Menaka was allegedly tortured by her stepmother, Aarti, ever since she came to Mumbai two months ago from Muzzafarpur in Bihar, where she lived with her maternal grandparents.
Aarti was arrested by the police on Wednesday for torturing the child. Menaka’s father, Sumit, a carpenter, did not visit her in the hospital on Wednesday. “The child has multiple abrasions all over her body. She is now stable and on antibiotics and has been referred to the psychiatry department,” said Dr Rakesh Verma, assistant dean, Sion hospital.
As she kept crying and calling out for her grandfather, relatives of other children admitted to the ward, tried to comfort her. But Menaka’s eyes kept scanning the room for a familiar face. It was only when her neighbour, Saroj Kumar, who is looking after her in the hospital, came back to the ward and patted her back, that she stopped crying.
“When I look at her, my eyes well up. She is such a pretty child. But, I can barely recognise her now,” said Kumar, who has known Menaka ever since she was born. Menaka’s mother died soon after her birth and her father later remarried. Kumar pointed to an injury mark on Menaka’s abdomen, claiming it had been made with a knife. There was also a deep gash on Menaka’s right palm.
“I want dalmoth (a snack mix),” Menaka pleaded with Kumar on Wednesday. He told her that her baba [referring to her grandfather] would get it for her. “She constantly asks for food. Her stepmother had nearly starved her. Her stomach is completely empty, but any spicy food will irritate her cut lips,” Kumar said.
When asked if she wanted to go back to Bihar, Menaka nodded. “We have informed her grandparents. If they are required here to take care of her, we will ask them to come. Or else we will drop her back there,” Kumar said.