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July 14, 2000
Indore's Palak Muchal sings for a cause
Rahul Singh in Indore
Palak Muchal is an eight-year-old girl with a mission. She saves lives of underprivileged children, suffering from heart ailments, through singing.
The little angel from Indore has helped half-a-dozen poor children, organising charity shows and raising funds for their surgery, over the past few months.
Palak is a member of the Kalyanji-Anandji Little Star Group. Endowed with a melodious voice, she can enthral the audience for hours. She has performed in various states and abroad too. "Singing is my hobby. It is good that it has become a mission to save children's lives," she says. Requests have been pouring in from poor, working class families that cannot afford surgery.
Palak's task is daunting. Each operation costs an average Rs 80,000, despite concessions extended by a local hospital. But Palak is undaunted. "All will be operated upon," she says. Among those who have benefited from Palak are Abhishek, Gaurav, Roshni and Pooja.
Seven-year-old Gaurav is the only son. His widowed mother had given up hope, as she could not afford his surgery, till Palak chipped in with money. He was operated upon last May. The same was the case with three-and-a-half-year-old Abhishek.
Six-year-old Pooja was born with a hole in her heart. Doctors advised surgery that would cost over Rs 80,000. But her father, Amar Singh, simply could not afford it. A farm labourer, Singh earns Rs 50 per day to support a family of six.
Palak staged several shows in Indore to raise funds for Pooja's surgery. The girl was operated upon last May and is now back in Ahirkhedi village in Indore district.
Roshni, the three-year-old daughter of an Indore tailor, Anil Kale, was diagnosed as having a hole in her heart when six months old. Anil, who earns Rs 50 per day, could not arrange the Rs 90,000 required for surgery. He read about Palak in a local daily and approached her. Roshni was operated upon last month.
Palak comes from a lower middle class family. Her father, Rajkumar Muchal, 35, is an accountant in a private firm. Her mother, Amita, 30, is a housewife. Besides supportive parents, Palak receives help from her four-year-old brother Palash. He also performs at her charity shows.
Palak started singing when four. She used to sing at school and family gatherings. She joined the Kalyanji-Anandji Little Star Group when six. But events took a turn last year, when she moved from shop to shop, singing and collecting donations for Kargil martyrs. She raised Rs 25,000.
Later, her parents helped her organise a show for Orissa's cyclone victims. This time she raised Rs 19,000.
Teachers of Nidhi Vinay Mandir, a local school, approached her to help five-year-old Lokesh. The boy, suffering from a congenital heart defect, would get sudden seizures and turn blue. His father, Radheshyam Kuril, who works as a casual help at a footwear shop earning Rs 60 per day, found surgery (costing Rs 80,000) beyond his reach.
Palak organised a charity show last March and raised Rs 51,000. The event was widely covered by the media and doctors at Manipal Heart Foundation in Bangalore offered to operate on Lokesh for free.
This gesture reduced the cost to Rs 40,000. Palak's parents made it known through local dailies that they would offer the remaining money to needy children. Within a week, there was a long queue. But they chose only those who were very poor and below 11 years.
As her name spread, over 20 children lined up seeking help. The youngest is seven months old and the eldest 10. All need surgery to repair holes in their hearts.
Palak has had to sacrifice studies for her cause. She attended school for only 40 days in the last session. But the rewards are satisfying. She is happy when the children she helped greet her, saying, ''Palak didi aa gayi (Palak has come).''
Some doctors have also extended help. Besides the Manipal Foundation, Dr Dhiraj Gandhi waived his fee for surgery performed at Indore's Choithram Hospital.
As per the Choithram Hospital's norm, children of Palak's age are not allowed to enter the critical care ward. But no one minds when Palak visits the ward to see patients.
They all know that Palak is not just another child.
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