Billy Briggs; 31/10/09
The rickshaw driver pulls in to the side of the road to allow us to take shelter from torrential rain. There, under a shop’s awning, a small crowd is waiting for the weather to break. The group includes Sapna Sharma and her brother-in-law, Sanjay. Sanjay is holding his 18-month-old nephew, Anshul, who has kohl-rimmed eyes and silver bracelets on his ankles. As we stand talking, some of the people start pointing to the child’s hands and feet while speaking animatedly to us in Hindi, and then Sapna explains through our translator that her son was born with 12 toes and 12 fingers. Shortly afterwards, about a kilometre away in the Shankar Nagar area of Bhopal, we meet another Indian child with congenital malformations, three-year-old Raj, who is visually impaired, cannot walk and whose head is oversized. ”The doctors said bad water could have been a cause of my son’s condition. Older people here are gas victims and now the younger people are victims of the water,” his mother, Poona Bai, says.