Saturday, May 2, 2009

Exchanged kids live reel life

Exchanged kids live reel life

UPENDRA LAMICHHANE BIRGUNJ, May 3: In a script that seems as if it´s straight out of a Bollywood potboiler, two boys have been living an “interchanged” life for the past decade. To add spice to the plot, as if it needed more, one of the boys is a Hindu and his surrogate a Muslim.
Roshan (left) and Sahil.
Upendra LamichhaneExchanged at the maternity ward of the Narayani Sub-regional Hospital, Roshan Chaudhary and Shahil Ansari have long outgrown the nurse´s blunder committed while the newborns were being given a bath on August 28, 1998. The parents have accepted the incident as a divine act, and the grandfathers want to make Shahil and Roshan ritualized friends (mit in Nepali). Shahil, born to Srikanti and Jayaprakash Chaudhary on that fateful day, has already been circumcised and attends Friday prayers at the mosque with his family members, while Roshan, the son of Guddy and Moinuddin Ansari, is a Hanuman devotee who also prays to Goddess Saraswati.The two live five kilometers apart--Shahil at Parsawa, Parsa, and Roshan at Bakauliya, Bara.When Shahil was a mere two-month-old, his grandmother had the first inkling of suspicion among anyone that there was something amiss; so she went with her husband Zaheer to Bakauliya to see Roshan. Her first sight of Roshan confirmed her suspicions. On a reciprocal visit to Parsawa, by Roshan´s grandfather, he also immediately realized that Shahil was his real grandson.The grandfathers first agreed to exchange the toddlers, but motherly love--the love that had developed for the ward under their keep--reigned that day. And the mothers refused to part ways with their kids, insisting that the kids had not been exchanged at birth. “We had even planned to stand them side by side, clad in similar clothes, and ask the mothers to pick out their real sons. But the mothers didn´t comply,” says Hari Chaudhary.But the fact that the kids had been exchanged at birth became starker as the boys grew. Shahil, studying in class one, resembles Jayaprakash, while Roshan, who is in the third grade, looks like Moinuddin; and Roshan´s younger brother looks like Shahil and Shahil´s kid brother resembles Roshan.Like the mothers, the villagers too have been accepting of the kids, now lovingly called Shahil ´Chaudhary´ and Roshan ´Ansari´. The kids attract huge crowds whenever they go to the common market in Jitpur shared by the villages.But for the family members, adjusting themselves to the small things that can crop up has taken some getting used to. During a recent Bakri-Eid day in Jitpur, Jayaprakash saw Shahil and his brother on a bike. “I thought that was my younger son on the bike, but when I rushed home to confirm things, I found him playing at home,” says Jayaprakash.He now no longer doubts that Shahil is his son but he has accepted fate´s irony. “I can do nothing more than pray for Shahil´s well-being. At the same time, nothing can diminish my immense love for Roshan,” Jayaprakash says. Jayaprakash talked about the feelings that he had to deal with on that Bakri-Eid day with his wife, but she suggested that he not to dwell on the matter. “What happened happened. We won´t exchange them again, she said, and I concurred,” Jayaprakash adds.But Moinuddin has yet to see Roshan and is still in denial. “I don´t think they were exchanged at birth, even though the whole village believes otherwise,” Moinuddin says, staring at Shahil, who is playing nearby. He then embraces Shahil and proceeds to dismiss those exchange-claims as rumors.Moinuddin may deny the fact, but his father has long accepted the truth and smiles in acknowledgment when the villagers call Shahil by his nickname “Chaudhary.” The grandfathers have become good buddies and often visit their grandsons. “I recently met Shahil in Jitpur and gave him some sweets,” Hari says. “He stared at me for a while, not recognizing me, but then ate the sweets,” Hari adds.To foster friendship between the families and make it easier for them to live with the fact, the grandfathers have also decided to make the grandsons ritualized friends. “We are awaiting an auspicious occasion to ritualize their friendship,” Hari says.Jayaprakash wants to meet Moinuddin, for the sake of the kids. “I want to meet him and discuss the futures of the duo,” Jayaprakash says.The kids are small now and do not understand how things really are, but it can become complicated later. Even so, the efforts made by the understanding families should make things easier and make this divine intervention work.

Published on 2009-05-03 00:00:01


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