- Posted September 6, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Three month baby boy suffers burns, stigma, and exclusion
The news of the baby boy burning spontaneously caught the media like wild fire during the month of August 2013. I had to be sure that it was nothing like the Incredibles movie wherein the third child of the Incredibles, Jack-Jack, burns to escape from the villain. Well, this time I think the comic and the real have come to some kind of terms to make everyone bewildered. The baby boy named Rahul, is the second child of Karnan (26) and Rajeswari (23). The father is from a village named T Parangini and the mother from Nedimzhianur in the Villupuram District, Tamil Nadu India.
The news started pouring in from August 10th. That was when the baby was sent to Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, Chennai. The mother told me that the baby was kept in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for fifteen days in Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) Hospital, Chennai. Now the baby is back in his mother’s village where it all started.
The village was officially (Revenue Department) called Nedimozhianoor. On the contrary when I reached Kootteripattu after Thindivanam on the National Highway and inquired, I was told by the people there that these are two villages – Nedi and Mozhianoor. And the village where the baby boy lived now was called Mozhianoor. From Kootteripattu one has to travel 5 kilometers west of the National Highway crossing a railway gate to reach the village.
No fire now:
It has been more than two weeks now after KMC Hospital treatment and there was no report of any fire from the baby. That was when I visited the baby on the 27th of August 2013. The baby and his mother were staying in their mother’s house. This is a hut which was built new after the original one was burnt down when the baby was on fire the first time. When I entered the hut the baby was lying on a mat near his mother and kept cool by a table fan. He was surrounded by two old ladies and his maternal grandmother. The elder brother of the mother joined us along with his friend.
How the events unfolded:
The fire accident started when the baby was just 9 days old and kept in the maternal grandmother’s house in the month of May 2013. They took the baby to the Primary Health Centre (PHC) near their village where the baby was treated for burns and sent to the Mundiambakkam Government Hospital. (We must note here that the baby drank the amniotic fluid during birth. I do not know whether this particular information holds any significance regarding the fire on the baby). After some days the baby was on fire again and taken to the Mundiambakkam Hospital. This time the doctors raised their doubts about the fire and questioned the parents. The parents confirmed the doctors that the fire was spontaneous and that it is not like the case of female infanticide. The father of the child was then sent to Chengalpet Government Hospital to get blood. The baby boy was kept in the hospital for one month and cured.
The parents were advised by the Mundiambakkam hospital doctors not to return to Mozhianoor village and advised them to go to T Parangini, the village of the baby’s father near Marakkanam, Villupuram district. There again after a few days the baby was on fire in the head region. This time the baby was taken to Pondicherry Government Hospital and was cured. After some days again the baby was burning in the leg region. This time the village inhabitants attributed the incident to some bad spirits and asked them to vacate the village to save it from further fire accidents. One of the news reports said that the baby was nick named as the “fire demon” by the T Parangini neighbours. The mother of the boy was very much upset by these negative comments and consumed poison. This time the mother and the baby were hospitalised in JIPMER hospital. After that they were sent to the KMC Hospital. The baby was in the KMC Hospital ICU for fifteen days and there was no incident of any fire. It is even strange that the baby did not catch fire when he was admitted in any of the previous hospitals. The fire incidents took place when the baby was in the houses at Mozhianoor and T Parangini villages in the Villupuram district.
History of fire accidents in Mozhianoor village:
It is learnt from the village people in Mozhainoor that the first instance of fire strange accident took place in the year 2004. In that year 85 houses were burnt and strangely no one was hurt. In the year 2010 two girls suffered burns when they were watching TV at home. Electrical problem was ruled out. In this incident the village inhabitants were vacated and huge police force was stationed in the village. The village people said that fire used to break out even in the presence of police and the police themselves were disturbed by this. They also said that surveillance cameras were positioned to monitor the situation. At that time certain Christian denomination priests were also interrogated by the police. An old lady recollected that a goat with a rope made of cloth material also died of fire. Banana trees at the backyard of the huts used to burn were seen burning in that year. The dalit community people clearly said that they do not suspect any foul play on the part of the high caste community of the village. They also recollected that there was a story that a soothsayer (kudukuduppaikkaran) was ill-treated by the village men and that he cursed the community.
At present the dalit community in the village is living life as usual. There is a sense of alertness on the part of the parents and relatives of the boy. The baby is oblivious of these apprehensions and looks happy and is visited by many. The District Revenue Authorities have authorised a house for the family in Mozhiyanur under the Green House Scheme of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Selvi Jeyalalitha. They have also promised to help the father of the baby to get a driving license and to be employed as a driver.
Possible causes of the fire:
The medical community has overwhelmingly declared that this was a case of “spontaneous Human Combustion” (SHC). Besides a strong case for SHC, the news reports suggested some other causes for the fire on the baby. One of them was the “Munchausen Syndrome by proxy” wherein the guardian fabricates or exaggerates a child’s sickness to gain attention. This suggestion was, I think, in itself an exaggeration in this case. Then there was this suggestion of methane build-up, acetone and a particle called pyrotron. But nothing is sure since the KMC Hospital tests have not been completed yet. However, SHC holds for now.