I belong to a small village called Sadhana, near Meerut. My family lived with limited means and despite all the hardships, always maintained a positive attitude. However, when I was born with a cleft, it posed another challenge, as they had never seen or heard of a cleft before. Both my elder siblings were born ‘normal’. People in the village believed it happened because of the eclipse, and eventually, due to lack of proper information, so did my family.
Luckily, when I was only 5-7 days old, I was taken to a hospital for a check up where the doctor told us that this can be treated, and that treatment was available at a hospital in Delhi.
My father was determined to help me live a life as normal as possible, and with a lot of hope took me to Delhi for treatment. We were told that I was malnourished and had to wait till I reached an ideal weight to undergo surgery. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I underwent surgery at a hospital there and was brought back to the village a few days later.
After the recovery, it was difficult to make out that I was born with a cleft. But, I started facing difficulty in talking. I was teased at school for my speech but ignored it. Back then, nobody knew that ancillary treatment is required after a cleft surgery, in most cases, and hence did not think it was important to consult an expert.
This year in October, I was brought to Anand Hospital for a regular check up when the doctor noticed the problem in my speech. I was advised to undergo speech therapy under the Smile Train program at the hospital. More than me, my father was elated to hear that speech therapy can help me have near-normal speech, and immediately agreed to travel to Meerut for all sessions.
I had never imagined that speech therapy would lead to such a drastic improvement in not only my speech but also my confidence. I feel like a different person.
My father has invested a lot in my well-being and has left no stone unturned to ensure that I get the best in life. The only way I can thank him is by making him proud, and that is what I aspire to do in life. Today, I am 25 years old, and currently pursuing an MA in Economics. I am hopeful of securing a good job and fulfilling my family’s wishes. I thank Smile Train for helping me move closer to my dream with every session.
As told to the Smile Train team by Amar Tyagi. Amar is undergoing speech therapy under the Smile Train program at Anand Hospital, Meerut since October 2017.