Seven-year-old Anjali Mishra was confined to a wheelchair when she came to the Kumbh Mela. One month on, her father is confident she will be "healed" soon and it's not because they have taken a holy dip or any spiritual salve offered by the religious congregation.
It's a miracle, said a delighted Praveen Mishra. But one rooted in the corporeal rather than the spiritual.
His daughter, who has been suffering from cerebral palsy, has got a new lease of life thanks to the NGO Narayan Seva Sansthan (NSS) -- a Spiritual-cum-Surgical Camp -- inside the makeshift township of Kumbh Nagri, said the father.
Young Anjali has undergone a corrective orthopaedic surgery for her feet and Mishra, a salesperson from Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, is hoping she will be up and about in a few days.
"My daughter can barely speak, she can't walk, can't sit on her own... when I came here, the doctor came to me and said, 'Aapki beti chalegi' (Your daughter will walk). The conviction in his voice made me very hopeful. And then this is the Kumbh. What can possibly go wrong?" the 32-year-old asked as his daughter lay beside him, plasters on both her feet.
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder, which affects motor skills, movements and muscle tone.
The 100-bed facility that has come up at the Kumbh may not be able to do much to help Anjali's underlying problems, but doctors are optimistic that she will have some mobility.
The NSS hospital has conducted 127 procedures to correct conditions such as bow legs and club foot at the ongoing Kumbh Mela. It's all free, said NSS president Prashant Agarwal.
The hospital may be makeshift but is fully equipped with an anaesthesia machine, autoclave sterilizer, C-arm radiography system and a specialised orthopaedic operating table with extension devices and surgical power tools such as orthopaedic reamers and cast saws, he said.
There is electricity back-up too in case of a power outage.
"It was quite challenging for us to manage so many patients while trying to provide right solutions for them. The UP government assisted with providing electricity supply at all times in the camp.
"We also have enough oxygen cylinders in stock to perform these surgeries successfully," Agarwal told PTI.
While there are other medical camps providing basic healthcare, Agarwal claims that theirs is the only one performing free of cost orthopedic surgeries inside the premises of Kumbh Nagari.
Headquartered in Udaipur, NSS runs a 1,100 bed hospital for disabled people in the Rajasthan town. This is the NGO's fourth Kumbh.
Initially, no one, not even people from the NGO, thought the camp would work, said Udaipur-based senior surgeon Amar Singh Chundawat, who has been working with the NGO since 1996.
According to him, back then everyone was of the opinion that the disabled come to Kumbh either for a dip in the waters of the Sangam or to beg, not for treatment.
"I remember the NSS sending a bus full of patients -- even those who were already treated -- from the Udaipur facility to Haridwar so we could have some patients to show. But then, in my very first OPD, there was this huge rush of patients coming from different parts of the country so we had to send the bus back to Udaipur," Chundawat recalled with a smile.
The team at the Kumbh includes a chief surgeon, five doctors, one anaesthesiologist and 35 paramedical staff. Though they can perform 12-14 procedures a day, Chundawat said the mela administration has restricted them to five cases a day.
"About 80 per cent of disabled patients here require surgeries. I don't recommend private treatment. They are poor people, most of them cannot afford it," he said, explaining that follow-ups like callipers and physiotherapy also takes a lot of money.
To help people who may need help beyond the surgery, NSS has also set up a makeshift artificial limb development unit at the Kumbh.
According to the NSS, 52 artificial limbs, 95 calipers, 11 crutches, 11 tricycles and 11 wheelchairs have been distributed.
It's not easy performing medical procedures in the chaos that is a mela amid speeches, performances by artists and general cacophony. Chundawat said he doesn't get distracted but it can be tough for his patients recovering from their surgeries.
"Sometimes it becomes very loud
there are so many camps nearby and some of them play very loud music," he said.
Keeping busy with his patients, Chundawat too has not found time to take the holy dip.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)