By Taniya Dutta
An Indian girl who was born the size of a mouse has defied the odds to survive and turn 18 years old but stands just 33 inches tall.
Mandeep Batwal is a famous name in her nondescript village in Punjab in northern India, where people either adore her or see her as a curse because of her strange features and tiny frame.
Mandeep is the shortest person the villagers have ever seen.
She is only an inch taller than a cricket bat and her palm and feet measure 2.5 cm and four cm respectively- the size of a two year old.
Because of her tiny body and weak organs, walking and playing is a task for the teenager. She has to be carried on shoulders like a toddler.
While her younger siblings, sister Sudha, 10, and brother Sukhdev, 9, are growing up as normal kids, her parents- mother Raj Rani, 36, and father Desh Raj, 38, say she behaves like a four year old.
Raj Rani said: “We are always worried for her. She is 18 but acts like a four year old. She is very weak and has no stamina to walk or play like other kids. We send her to a nearby government- run school once a week where she sits with nursery kids but learns nothing.”
Mandeep was a premature baby. She was born in 28 weeks naturally at home. In the absence of money and awareness, Raj Rani and Desh Raj, a daily wage labour, who makes just £2, went for an ultrasound only once during the pregnancy.
Raj Rani said: “My first baby was a stillborn. He was a boy. A year later Mandeep was born. We were delighted with the pregnancy and went to local healers for medicines as we had no money for advanced medicines.
“We were not aware of her condition. In the seventh month, I got severe labour pains and gave natural birth to her at home.
“She was like a mouse. Her face had not fully formed and she was extremely tiny and weak. We were scared to see her. We had to feed her with the spoon from kid’s kitchen set.
“The whole village had gathered when the news spread because no one had seen a baby like her before.
“We had taken her to doctor once but he said there is a slim chance that she would survive.
“We did not lose hope and gave her our love and care. We have raised her up with
much difficulties. As parents we feel glad that we could save her but when we think of her future, our heart sinks.
“One has to be with be her at all the times and circumstances. We never leave her alone, whether it is day or night. But we worry who will look after her when we will be old and die.”
Mandeep is a happy teen but her bizarre features have earned her the name of the ‘Mouse Girl’ in the village.
Aunt Meenakshi Batwal, 28, says people do not say anything to her in face but behind the back, they call Mandeep with rude names.
She said: “She is a sweetheart. I was married to her uncle ten years ago. When I saw her first I could not believe what she was! She was smaller than a one year old.
“People call her with all sorts of bad names in the back but she understands nothing. She is a well-mannered child and loves to dress up and make up. She sits at one place all day, playing with herself.”
While Mandeep is said to act like a toddler, her body is changing internally like a woman.
Raj Rani said Mandeep gets periods once in four months and that’s the worst time for the mother to deal with her child.
“She was 13 when she stopped growing tall. We thought she would be like this, like a child forever and that there were some problems with her hormones. But two years ago she got her first periods. It was a harrowing experience.
“She obviously does not understand what it is and because she thinks like a child, we cannot explain it to her either.
“Her cousin was born just a month after her and she stands 5’3 tall. She would soon get married but my daughter will be trapped in this body forever.”
The desperate parents are now looking for a miracle that would treat their first child’s condition and prolong her life.
“We do not know why she is born like this. Some say she is the result of our past sins but we want our daughter to live happily and healthy as long as she survives.
“She is different but she is our most favourite.
“When she was born people had said she would not survive for more than a few days but she just turned 18.
“We would want to consult doctors to find out the reason but we have no money to pay the expensive medical bills. We are only hoping for a miracle that would find a cure to treat her and prolong her life.”