Thane resident Priya Mahunta is still undergoing surgeries for the 45 per cent burns she sustained in a kitchen accident last year. But despite the scars and marks, which hindered her learning, she has done the unthinkable. Thirteen-year-old Mahunta has passed her Std VIII examinations with flying colours, securing 94 per cent, in spite of being snubbed by several tuition classes from the area who were afraid that other students would be turned off by her facial disfiguration.
The teenager who was partially burnt after trying to light a gas stove in order to boil milk, experiences tremendous itching even as she waits at the Out Patient Department (OPD) of the National Burns Centre, Airoli-Navi Mumbai, when this reporter met her. A student of Majiwada English High School in Thane, she has made her parents extremely proud by overcoming adversity against all odds. Priya’s mother said that no one in the area was ready to tutor her, as they feared that other students at the class would be troubled after looking at her.
Priya’s mother Aarti, who is a housewife, said that the incident occurred in January last year when she had gone to purchase vegetables. “Priya had worn nylon clothing when the incident occurred, which helped the flames spread rapidly. The burns to her mouth compels her to cover it with a handkerchief, as she is not comfortable leaving it open. My daughter has undergone two surgeries for her injuries till date. Each time she cries writhing in pain, it saddens me,” said her mother.
The Mahunta family has so far spent over a lakh and even sold their gold, and land, which they owned in their native place. Struggling to endure the pain, the teenager didn’t let the severe injuries get the better of her with her resolve giving her the strength to pursue her studies.
Although she has trouble communicating, when asked how much she scored, she proudly said that she scored 94 per cent. Being a bit reserved and shy as well, she did not speak any further. Her mother said that following the accident Priya’s confidence level has dipped drastically. “In comparison to earlier, she gets irritated much faster now, but then it’s fine and we have to understand her state of mind as well. After the accident when she resumed school, it did take a while for her to gain social acceptance.
In fact, it was impossible for me to find a tuition teacher for her as well. They would turn me down saying that other students would be terrified after seeing her,” said the mother. Now that the teenager has passed her Std VIII exams with flying colours, her mother hopes that her performance is consistent in the higher classes too, as she considers Class IX and X to be much difficult. “My only wish is that my daughter should study and be able to get a good job in future, so that she never has to be financially dependant on anyone. Thoughts of her marriage in the future have never bothered me,” said the mother.
Dr SM Keswani, medical director at Airoli’s National Burns Centre and a cosmetic surgeon, said, “Priya was brought to our hospital with almost 45 per cent burns to her body. With her chin stuck to her neck, she would find it difficult to consume food as well. The previous two operations, which were performed on her, helped in improving her condition to some extent. We would be conducting an operation on May 7, to make it easier for her to open her right hand thumb, which she cannot do presently. Besides there are a few other surgical improvements which we are keen on doing to the singed skin.”