Like every year, Chandrapur Higher Secondary School is busy conducting the Class X Madhyamik board examinations under the Tripura Board of Secondary Education (TBSE). But there is something new happening at the school this year, something its headmaster Badal Chakraborty has not seen in his 32-year-long career.
Pralaya Dey, who studies in Matabari H/S School, is appearing for his board exams here along with students from other nearby schools. The 17-year-old’s hands are not formed as they should be. So he can’t hold or handle things properly. But his marksheets do not reflect that this is a boy who writes with his feet.
“I was told he can’t write on benches. So I arranged a wooden platform for him to sit and write on. I also appointed a special invigilator,” says Chakraborty. “His pace of writing and intellect is worth mentioning. I stood beside him on the first day of his Madhyamik examination for 30 minutes and saw him write. This student may be challenged but he is brilliant and beats his condition with courage and success”, he adds, hoping Pralay joins his school at the senior secondary level.
Pralay’s father Sujan Kumar Dey is a daily labourer, but has not been keeping well of late. The family runs on the wages of his mother Putul Guha Dey, an Anganwadi helper. The Rs 9,000 she earns every month provides for Pralay’s studies, his elder sister Manika Dey’s college fees and the family’s expenses.
“Doctors and nurses didn’t bring him to me for two days after his birth. To tell the truth, I fainted after seeing him for the first time. Both his hands were twisted behind his body in a most inexplicable way,” Pralay’s mother tells indianexpress.com, adding how the family then did not think the baby had much chance of surviving. Now, she feels accepting Pralay and helping him grow with dignity was the right choice.
“His father felt this boy would never learn and would grow up helpless. I was worried about him too. But soon after I started teaching him, I found Pralay was a quick learner,” she said.
Pralay’s deformity was rare and orthopaedic treatment only had adverse effects with his hands getting thinner by the day. When the treatment stopped, Pralay ended up with small hands and even smaller wrists. He has got one finger in each hand, so for eating he holds spoons and utensils between his elbows.
“As a growing child, it must have been tough for him. So, I decided against leaving him at any child care home and took care myself. Today, I am confident I was right,” says the mother.
Pralay was quick to adopt to the idea of writing with his feet. “He could write English and Bengali alphabets by the age of three. English came easier to him compared to his mother tongue. He also paints with his feet,” says the mother. Pralay scored over 80 per cent marks in his Test examinations, which precedes the Madhyamik board exams.
Pralay wants to study Humanities and become a Professor of English Language and Literature one day. “I feel no shortcoming. My mother and my teachers have taught me well. I am trying to give my best. I practice writing with my feet at least two hours a day. I am comfortable writing with my feet.” His pace of writing is also increasing every day.
Joydeep Podder is a proud neighbour. “He has won numerous awards in state and national drawing competitions. He also has a very nice voice and often sings. The boy might have some shortcomings, but there is more to him than meets the eye,” says Joydeep.
Tripura Board of Secondary Education (TBSE) Deputy Secretary Pradip Sengupta said the Board is aware about Pralay. “We have seen video clips of him and enquired in his school. Pralay Dey is an extra-ordinary students and his academic performance is commendable. I was told he wants to become a college teacher one day. If he succeeds in his aim, I shall be very happy,” he says.
Sengupta says students with physical challenges are provided with extra time and a writer on demand. Pralay was provided the time with provisions of more assistance. But the student never wanted any. “He didn’t want any extra help. He is writing with his feet and competing students with all abilities.”
While Pralay’s goals are clear, his mother doesn’t have lofty ambitions. “I want my son to grow up as a true human being and follow my teachings. The rest is upto him and providence.”