In room number 304 on the 3rd floor in Global Hospitals, Dheeraj (name changed on request) lies on his bed, in the middle of physiotherapy. He looks weak and seems unable to bear the pain.
Dheeraj, who is recovering from a surgery he underwent to increase his height, caused a stir when he disappeared from his family home without telling them that he was going in for the surgery. A missing persons complaint was filed with the police, who finally managed to track Dheeraj down to the hospital, by which time his surgery had already been completed.
In the aftermath of the surgery, his family are angry that such an expensive and radical surgery was performed on the 22-year-old boy, and have filed a complaint of cheating, although the hospital claim that the entire process was conducted completely according to procedure.
On asking Dheeraj about his health, he says he is feeling somewhat better. His shocked family members are trying to divert his mind from the pain by cracking jokes and making him smile, following suggestions from doctors to ensure that he doesn't get depressed.
âThey are saying that I can now act in Baahubali, as I am tall now and can compete with Prabhas,â says 22-year-old Dheeraj.
"I don't have any grand love story. My friends did not tease me about my height. And I did not want to become a hero either,â clarifies Dheeraj. âThe only thing that bothered me was that I was the shortest in my group always â in college and even in the office. My friends used to say sometimes that I will look better if I grow three inches taller. Even my brother is 5'10 so I always wanted to grow a little taller which made me take this step".
He adds that before going in for the surgery, he had earlier tried natural methods to increase his height, including joining a gym, and consuming protein supplements.
When these methods did not yield results, he started looking for other alternatives. âIn 2014, when I was in the third year of my engineering degree, I googled âArtificial ways of increasing heightâ. I found three ways, of which one was taking human growth hormones. But I thought height limb surgery would be easier and safer, so I tried reaching out to doctors".
He eventually contacted Global Hospitals, where he says the doctor advised him to take a year to think about it because he was only 21 years old, and the procedure would also cost a lot at around Rs 7 lakh. Dheeraj, however, spent the year doing some extra projects to save money for the procedure.
He was back at the hospital the day he turned 22 years old. âI was so curious I was just waiting to turn 22. On 23 January 2016 I turned 22, and the same day, on my birthday, I visited the hospital for a consultation.â
However, Dheeraj alleges that he was not sufficiently informed about the effects and complications of the procedure. "The doctors never told me about all these complications. I thought it would be easy and I never thought it will cause me so much pain, it is really difficult to bear this pain".
He adds that he now regrets what he has had to sacrifice for the surgery. "Now I partly regret doing the surgery because I may not walk for the next nine months and it's not easy for me or my family to bear this pain".
He is particularly heartbroken about not being able to drive a car for a long period. "I love driving but I can't drive for the next two years. The first thing I will do once I'm fine and allowed to drive is visit a temple," he says.
Dheerajâs mother says that he had been behaving somewhat strangely prior to his surgery. âFor the past few months, he was not talking to us much, and kept saying that he is busy with work. Now he tells us that he was silent because he was worried that he might let his tongue slip".
"On Sunday (two days before the surgery), around 11 am, when I was feeding him food he suddenly said âAfter this I don't know when will you feed me like this again.â Even as I was wondering why he said that, he said, âI am just joking, I just said that because from now on I will eat on my ownâ,â she says.
Her suspicions were further aroused when he made a similar comment while holding her hand that afternoon. However, he once again managed to allay her suspicions by saying that he was just joking.
But the next morning, when the family awoke Dheeraj was gone. "He turned off all the security cameras before leaving the house that day. He mailed my elder son at 5 am on the day he was leaving. He switched off his phone so that we couldn't reach him. I was so worried, I started mailing him continuously with the hope to get a reply but finally on Monday night around 11.30 pm he replied, only saying 'Mom, don't worry at all. I will be back soon", she added.
Dheerajâs family members are unable to understand why he took the decision to undergo this surgery, and are surprised by this decision of a boy they always saw as a careful and thrifty person. One of his aunts says, âHe was so careful with money and used to save a lot. I still wonder how he could make such a big mistake."