How would you like it if you were worshipped as a god? Many people want to live this fantasy but only a few ever get to. But for this boy, you are about to read about, he became a god and then lost his status.
Arshid Ali Khan was born with a a seven-inch fleshy tail growing from his back, which gave rise to him being worshipped as a god has had his extra part removed – so he can finally walk properly.
He was just 14and had spent his short life being prayed to in his own temple with visitors often leaving cash or gifts in return for a blessing, in his rural village outside Chandigarh in northern India.
Called Balaji to his devotees, worshippers believed the youngster was the reincarnation of Hindu monkey god Hanuman.
Doctors at Fortis Hospital Mohali in Punjab have removed it, free of charge in a seven-hour operation to help him walk better in the future.
Balaji was born in 2001, with his tail measuring 10cm at birth. Hundreds of people visited to worship him. In 2004 Balaji’s father died, and his mother, Salma Begum, 28, abandoned Balaji a year later to marry again. His grandfather Iqbal has been caring for him ever since.
“We’re extremely happy and thankful to the doctors for operating on Balaji and help him get rid of the tail,” said Balaji’s grandfather, Iqbal Qureshi.
“It was really unfortunate that he was born unusual but now he can go on an lead a normal life.”
Many doctors went on to encourage the family to have the tail removed, but community pressure meant it went untreated.
The reason why they had to have his tail taken out was because as Balaji grew, the tail made his legs and feet twisted leaving him unable to walk unaided.
Then they finally had some hope from a doctor at Fortis Hospital.
Iqbal said: “As we belong to a village and are not very educated, we didn’t know which doctor to meet.
“When we consulted doctors in the past they never seemed confident and we were also scared for Balaji’s life.
“But then a well-wisher told us about Fortis Hospital Mohali and doctors assured us the ‘tail’ could be removed and the spinal cord could be released.”
Director of Neurosurgery, at Fortis Hospital Mohali, Dr Ashis Pathak, and his team of surgeons performed the intricate surgery.
“Balaji was born with clubfoot deformity and weakness of lower limbs. The ‘tail’ was stuck at the bottom and it had to be freed or removed as it was likely to cause changes in the normal spinal cord above, Dr Pathak said:
“The surgery lasted close to seven hours and was complicated. Unfortunately, though nothing can be done to rectify the clubfoot deformity, we wanted to give the best possible medical treatment to Balaji, who is a very young boy.
“This surgery and treatment will ensure that Balaji not only sustains himself, but also supports his family when he grows up.”
Balaji, who wants to be a music teacher when he grows up, said: “I’m very happy and delighted with my successful surgery. Now people will stop calling me god. I never liked it because I always believed I was a normal kid.
“My friends have been to see me at hospital and they were very excited for me. I can now be one of them.”
According to doctors, the tail was a rare congenital condition and it appeared during the development of the foetus in the womb for a brief period between 31-35 days of gestation and should have disappeared naturally with time.
“The clubfoot associated with this spinal anomaly reflects the imbalance in development of foot muscles.
Iqbal added: “We’re now contemplating changing his name from Balaji back to Arshid Ali Khan. He won’t go to any Hindu festivals from now on, that time of his life is over.
“People used to think he was different but for us he was like any other child. Now he will be equally normal.”