Poonam, 10, lives in Deroli Ahir village in the north Indian state of Haryana. Her father, who used to trade bulls and drive a truck, is sick and unemployed. Her mother sells milk from the family’s two buffaloes. Her father wanted a son, but her mother gave birth to four daughters before eventually having a boy.
Poonam has three sisters: Anju, 12, Anil, 8, and Monika, 6. Her only brother is Lalit, 3, who gets the most parental attention. Because she is a girl and affected by polio, Poonam is often neglected.
She wakes up at five o’clock, washes utensils, cleans clothes, sweeps the floor and then gets ready for school. At school she has very few people to talk to and is often found sitting in a corner or being made fun of. If she is lucky, on some days her mother will come to pick her up. Otherwise she will have to crawl on her knees, as the wheelchair given to her by the government is broken.
Poonam is, however, determined to study and is learning to stand up on crutches given to her by a non-governmental hospital. If her family can manage $100 for an artificial leg implant in New Delhi, then she may even stand up on her own some day.
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