There was great jubilation in the village when Chikoo was born. His mother Salma had lost five children in childbirth. Her face was prematurely lined with grief, but she broke into laughter when blessed with a healthy baby. Chikoo was plump and active, and his loud, lusty cries when hungry would rouse the entire neighbourhood. He proved to be a boon to the family. Salma, who would stitch clothes on her sewing machine for the neighbours, began to get more business coming her way. Shabaz, Chikoo’s father, was a carpenter and a cricket aficionado and an ardent fan of Kapil Dev, and he whittled a cricket bat from a piece of wood, waiting for the day when father and son would play cricket together.

But then unexpectedly, gradually and imperceptibly, Chikoo became sick. He could not eat or play, and his lusty cries dwindled to feeble whimpers. His parents went running from pillar to post to find a cure. But no diagnosis could be made. They bled themselves white to pay for his treatment. The sewing machine had to be sold.The cricket bat kept gathering dust in a corner. Chikoo’s condition kept deteriorating till he became a shadow of his former self.

Then one day, Operation ASHA’s health worker Laxmi met Salma at a village gathering. Laxmi fixed an appointment in the local public hospital and took Chikoo there for testing and treatment. Chikoo was diagnosed with paediatric TB, and thus began a long and difficult journey. For full six months,Laxmi gave every support to the family. She would go everyday on a bicycle to visit and would coax Chikoo to take his medicine. She would take him on her lap and rock him and tell him stories. Sometimes she would bring little gifts and candy. And everyday, without fail, she would give him medicines with her own hands.

Now Chikoo has recovered fully. He is three years old. His voice is loud and clear and confident. Salma and Laxmi are the best of friends. And yes, the father and son play cricket every day. “My son will be another Kapil Dev! He will score centuries and beat the British,” boasts Shabaz proudly. And all
of us are watching and praying for Chikoo, and waiting for the day when he will grow tall and strong and become an ace batsman, and make his country proud.