Published: 14th November 2018
A #TouchOfCare can transform lives: Nisha Lobo's story sheds light on the stigma around adopting specially-abled children
Nisha Lobo lives every day of her life proving that what you look like on the outside doesn't matter, it is who you are on the inside that does
As teenagers, we tend to worry about pimples, acne and facial hair growing in all the wrong places. But here is the story of a girl - different from you and me - that will warm your heart and make you think twice about the meaning of 'self-love'. Aloma and David Lobo had a big family with five children. But when they first saw Nisha at an adoption centre 18 years ago, they realised that they had space in their home and hearts for one more. Nisha was born different, but it was this that caught the attention of the Bengaluru couple. "A colleague of mine called me one day and told me about a two-week-old baby who had been abandoned because she was born with a rare genetic condition, so rare that it is literally one in a million," recalls Aloma. Wrapped in a white sheet was Nisha who suffers from Ichthyosis, a condition that causes her skin to be scaly and dry.
And as if the skin issue wasn't enough, Nisha was also born without eyelids, a part of the disorder. The couple was informed that the baby’s eyes were ulcerated as they remained open through the day and that the doctors had estimated that she had only 15 per cent vision. But scaly skin and dry eyes did not stop the Lobos from taking Nisha home with them. Knowing that children can be unfiltered at times, I'm sure the Lobos, like me, must have wondered how their children would react to the newest addition.
We went to see her with our two daughters. Our second daughter bent down, lifted her up and said that we should take her home. All of Nisha's siblings are quite fond of her and extremely protective of her. A little bit of thought and prayer, talking about it with our children and the rest of our family made it easier for us to take the decision
When Nisha first came home, she was pretty vulnerable and the first three months was the biggest challenge. "She needed a lot of care," says Aloma, "But she was a beautiful little girl growing out of her cocoon and blossoming gradually." On most days, the little girl had to be fed with an ink dropper or spoon because her mouth remained open. But with round-the-clock care and help from the family, Aloma was successful in nurturing Nisha. Then came schooling, a major part of which was done at Trio World Academy, Bengaluru. "It was a very inclusive environment. Children treated her with respect and care, just like any other child. She was always an integral part of the school," says Aloma. Currently, 18-year-old Nisha works as an intern for Autumn Worldwide, a digital marketing company. "They have warmly accepted and mentored her at the organisation. And Nisha has always been a fighter with a great amount of self-respect," adds Aloma.
Although Nisha has always been showered with love from her family, the world outside is known to be harsh. "Someone once spat on her! I was very upset, but she came up to me and said, 'It's their problem Mumma, not mine'. People have stared at her, pulled their children away when they saw her, got up when she sat next to them - but she has dealt with it all gracefully. Once, a man refused to board a flight that she was on, but everyone stood up for her. She often says, 'My condition doesn't define me; I am who I am. I might look like this, but I am a good person'. Nisha accepts that people might have a problem and she handles any type of curiosity or discrimination gracefully," says Aloma proudly.
Nisha’s story recently came into the spotlight this year when she was featured in an advertisement by Procter & Gamble’s product Vicks. As a part of their #TouchOfCare campaign, the ad film, which crossed five million views within 48 hours, captures the joy of adoption.
Aloma says that she worries about Nisha's well-being as she and her husband are growing old. "We have to create awareness. Even if someone has a genetic disorder, it doesn't make them less valuable or less of a human being. We have to make the world around us more inclusive. We hope Nisha's story and Vicks' ad film helps break these stereotypes and decrease the stigma around the topic," concludes Aloma.