If courage had a face, what would it look like? Perhaps like 25-year-old Surya Prabhakaran from Tamil Nadu's Dindigul district.
Ten years ago, Surya, a frail 15-year-old drafted a mercy killing petition addressed to a district Judge in Dindigul. The petition filed in February 2006 was one seeking his own death. Surya had no option but to write it himself as he was the only one educated enough in his family.
His father Muthu Pandian, a wood cutter, thought the mercy killing petition was the only way to save his son who suffered from a rare genetic platelet disorder called Thrombasthenia, which results in unstoppable bleeding in case of injury.
"My father sold land worth lakhs for just a few thousands whenever there was an emergency and I had to be rushed to a hospital," says Surya Prabaharan.
Surya says it was agony to live as a child whose small bruises would bleed profusely, who often felt faint as he bled through his gums and nose. But more than his personal agony, it was also his fatherâs suffering that made him write a euthanasia petition on a fellow villagerâs recommendation.
Ten years since his father thought he must put an end to his sonâs pain, Surya is now an IT engineer working with Real Image, a film technology company in Chennai.
Muthu Pandian and his family lived in a quaint little village called Sitharevu in Dindigul district. He could hardly afford to buy three proper meals for his family. His wife and Suryaâs mother passed away of a blood disorder when Surya was young. The family was shattered when Surya too showed signs of having a blood-related-problem.
âWhen I was three I fell and the bleeding on my nose just did not stop. I have a vague memory of my mother being around and dabbing the blood off my nose. It was then that the doctor said I canât be running around and should be careful,â he said.
However, until he was 12 years old there was no clarity as to what the problem really was. âWhen I would feel weak, I would have to go to a health center, where they would do a blood transfusion. We would not be given any other details about what this condition was,â he says.
âMy father sold four small houses and some land he owned for an undervalued amount just to attend to emergencies. We went to many big hospitals in the state and even travelled to Bengaluru. It would be the same old drill- a million tests and then the doctor would say the disease is not curable,â he says.
Suryaâs story was first reported in 2006, by The Hinduâs Dindigul reporter K Raju. He was in the media spotlight when the petition was filed. Many people from across India offered money for his treatment. A doctor in Chennai claimed he could cure Surya, but that never progressed.
In spite of all the help offered to Surya, a cruel twist of fate awaited them. In October 2006, Muthu Pandian died of ulcer, leaving his son to fend for himself. With the few thousands of rupees that he had got as donation, Surya lived in a hostel and studied for his higher secondary exams.
âBy 2008, the bleeding started again, not so often, but once in a few months. I wanted to become an engineer and was determined to score well in entrance tests,â says Surya.
Having passed Class XII with 76% marks, he went for counselling accompanied by journalists who had kept in touch with him.
A day before the counselling, a story appeared in TOI by Pushpa Narayan on the âboy who escaped euthanasia is now fighting to enroll for engineeringâ. Hundreds of people called the newspaperâs office wanting to help Surya.
Surya's picture that appeared on TOI
âIt was overwhelming. So many people came forward to help. My education was funded by people I had not met once in my life. I could have got through a good engineering college in Chennai. But I chose a college in Palani which was closer to home. I wanted to be close to my two sisters and did not want to disturb others as my hospital visits were frequent,â he says.
Not just philanthropists, even retired people living on their meagre pensions wanted to contribute. âOne elderly woman wanted to give me Rs 200 and we did not want to say no. We spent almost the same amount on auto and went to take her blessings,â he said.
The helping hands did not stop there. After he passed out of college, Senthil Kumar and Sudha Panchapakesan of Real Image Media Technologies Pvt Ltd offered him a job. They had heard of the boy who had lived.
âI still bleed at times; I cannot run or take even small risks. I was hospitalized a few months ago. I am not scared anymore,â he says.
Surya has come this far, but the quality of health service in and around his village remains the same. âMedicines have never helped me much, its generosity of strangers that let me live. If you can, donate to people who need it. However small the amount, it will help someone.â