Girija weighs 12 kg and is 2.5 feet tall. ‘I don’t want sympathy’, says the teen, who doesn’t want to be known for her rare condition, but for her ‘art’
As one enters a tiny house in Muneshwara Layout, the array of colourful embroidery on a bed casts an instant spell. A quick scan reveals a cheerful pixie-like figure, nearly lost in the various works of art strewn around. When our eyes meet, she looks away just like any other awkward teen. This child-woman is Girija Srinivas.
At 19 years of age, she’s trapped in the body of a child. Born with a condition called congenital agenesis, which has crippled the development of her limbs, Girija is 2.5 feet tall and weighs a mere 12 kg. She is forced to survive on a semi-liquid diet. Unable to lift anything beyond a cup of coffee, her’s is a life far from that of a normal teenager. Yet, she exudes an aura that compels one to look beyond her physical constraints. Her canvas might be limited, but Girija has ensured her palette is not. Minutes into our meeting, she launches into a marketing spiel for her embroidery designs and craft work.
“I don’t want to be popular because of my rare health condition but I want to be famous some day for my art. I do not want sympathy, I want recognition,” she says without any ambiguity, even though her voice is like that of a child.
Like any other teenager, she’s taken up with malls, movies, clothes. Though all those options are nearly ruled out, she refuses to succumb to the several downsides of her condition, and the huge picture portrait of actor Rajkumar seems to announce her outlook.
Mum Nanda says when the late actor got kidnapped, she refused to eat. “The worst was when he died and she could not stop crying because she did not get the opportunity to meet him. A friend who knew she was an ardent fan the actor then took her to his memorial.” Her loyalty toward the Rajkumar family is so strong that she has met Puneet Rajkumar on the sets a couple of times just to take his autograph.
Girija has a fairly large circle of friends too in the locality. “They don’t come to meet me when they have to study,” she says, a twinge of regret flashing across her face. Soon, though, a smile lightens up her visage and the dimple deepens when the trailer of Puneet Rajkumar’s new film Power comes on television. “I wish I could watch it in the theatre. There is no fun watching his films on television, and the long advertisements just make it worse.”
Her family did try to fulfill that wish, but gave up soon after. “We had all gone to the theatre when Shahrukh’s film Ra.One released. I had to seat her on my lap and she wore 3-D glasses and watched the film. But the people behind us kept complaining because they could not watch the film properly. After that we stopped going to the theatre,” says her mother.
Though the incident ended her theatre outings, she decided the TV could be a loyal companion. “I want the television to be ‘talking’ to me all the time,” she says.
Girija lives with her parents and an older brother. Her father is a tailor, while her mother has devoted her life to her care. When Nanda realised her daughter would never have a normal life, she infused colour and beauty in her life by teaching her embroidery and craft work.
As the teen picks and chooses from the heap of accessories lying beside her, she’s like any other artiste giving shape to a work of art. While some of it has been gifted by loved ones, she sometimes goes all the way to Jayanagar to get the material. She lovingly runs her nimble fingers through them, talking about her dream to put her works on sale.
However, even the colours she surrounds herself barely mask her daily battles with pain and disease. Because of the abnormality in her bone development, she has a respiratory problem which causes breathing issues, resulting in frequent hospitalisations. Glancing at a half-done Ganesha craft work, she says, “While I was making this, I got hospitalised.”
The cost of her long-term treatment will go up to about Rs 2 lakh which her family can ill-afford. Her family recently went to the CM’s Janata Darshan to seek help. Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Dr Somashekhar A R, Professor of Paediatrics, MS Ramaiah Hospital says Girija has to be evaluated further to know the exact cause of this syndrome. “As of now, she needs to be put on oxygen cylinder because there is no development in her lungs. This costs about Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 a month.” Doctors say oxygen cylinders or continuous positive airway pressure therapy could help tackle her respiratory issues.
Meanwhile, Girija is happy in the simple joys of life like hankering for a visit to Mantri Mall and basking in her mother’s love. She curiously asks our photographer, “Who is there in your family?” “My sister, wife and mother,” says the photographer. “You should have named your mother first!”, she retorts quickly.
Those who wish to help Girija can call Nanda on 8904087100.