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One of the doctors asked me whether we had some institutions back home in India which could take care of such children full time or did they have to be kept in the family itself. When I told him that families only take care of such children, he was delighted as he felt that immediate families could effectively educate, train and love such children better than the institutions where the care was impersonal and mechanical. He also advised us that the life of such children was usually short – on an average 20 years.

To console us further he told us that we were not alone in having a Down's Syndrome child. Marshal Patain, President of France had a daughter like that and so did the Kennedy family. Kennedy was the President of the United States at that time and he had a Down's syndrome sister. We took it as the will of God and my wife and I took a vow to do our utmost to love and treat Sapna in the same way as a normal child. Fortunately, there were several books in US libraries where we could obtain information on Down's Syndrome and how to handle them. The books prepared us mentally for the task ahead of us. Our simplicity led us to believe that one chromosome extra was no big deal and we will be able to make her normal with our efforts.

Another doctor, Dr Mukherji who was of Indian origin, became a family friend. On one of his social visits to our house he told my wife, “Mrs Seth, you will never grow old in your life, you will always have a 'baby' to take care of.” This sentence appealed to my wife and she repeated it to any lady or gentleman who wanted to express sympathy or pity towards her for having a retarded child. She gladly and proudly brought her to the lounge at informal parties we hosted in our house and introduced her to all the guests. Americans are a friendly lot and love little children. Our guests were always willing to meet and talk to the children. We never felt embarrassed by Sapna and she was a friendly child who loved meeting new people. She responded to them with a smile and in her vague language which many of the American guests presumed was her native tongue. Quite often, we did not even have to explain her inability to talk normally.

When Sapna was three and a half, she was admitted to a normal American school for the children of her age though we told the Principal that she was a Down's Syndrome child. The American educational system tries to adjust handicapped children into normal schools. However, Sapna was not readmitted after the first semester. We were told, she could not take orders like the normal children.

However, we found a place for her in another facility in the Children's Research Centre, where there was a provision for such children to play with colours, pens, beads, building blocks under the supervision of trained teachers. Sapna seemed to enjoy the school where my wife could also be near her. By now, Sapna could take care of most of her basic needs including going to the toilet.

When Sapna was four plus, I was transferred to Frankfurt, Germany as the head of the Government of India Tourist Office (now called Tourism India) in Europe. Although a little upset as language would pose problems in Germany, I was told that it could be better for Sapna. German doctors were doing some pioneering research and developing some drugs to overcome the brain damage caused by Down's syndrome.

We moved to Frankfurt and started looking for the specialist who was conducting research in this area. We were informed that this particular doctor was conducting experiments with special injections prepared from the brains of unborn animals to improve the brains of Mongoloid children. He agreed to treat Sapna with a warning that the treatment may not help Sapna much as the brains of human children get fully developed by the age of seven while Sapna was already five. The injections were given to her at the interval of six months each.

However, my stay in Germany lasted only two years when I was moved to Tokyo to head Government of India's Tourist Office in Japan. The German doctor gave me a letter in the name of his Japanese counterpart who was conducting similar research in Japan and could give Sapna the same injections every six months. The Japanese doctor had worked under him in Germany and knew what he was doing. The move to Tokyo would not involve any disruption in the treatment that Sapna was getting in Germany.

In Germany, we had not been able to locate a special school where Down's Syndrome children could be educated or trained. My wife took Sapna to a children's park near our house in Frankfurt to play with other normal children. Sapna watched the other children with good deal of interest and she tried to play similar games or repeated their activities. She, however, did not have the same level of energy or motor coordination. The other children tried to mix with her and she too made efforts but they would soon lose interest in her as she was unable to communicate and join in their activities.

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