Life

By Taniya Dutta


A real-life ‘Mowgli girl’ who was discovered living in the wild has been taken into care after authorities could not track her family down.

The 10-year-old, called Puja by shelter staff, was extremely malnourished when she was found by firewood collectors near a highway at the Katariaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in northern India.

She was unable to walk or communicate and would screech every time people, including doctors and nurses, approached her.

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In further animalistic behaviour, the girl would spill her food onto the floor and eat it up without using her hands.

However, after two months of treatment at a hospital in Bahraich Puja she has made significant progress.

Puja is now able to eat by herself, and video footage shows her taking her first tentative steps on two feet.

Doctors are hopeful that with further psychiatric treatment her condition will continue to improve.

She has been taken into care at the Drishti Samajik Sansthan, a shelter home for children with learning difficulties, after no family came forward to claim her.

Staff christened her Puja, which means ‘Worship’ in Hindi.

Dr Ehtisham Ali, a pediatrician at the hospital, said: “Her development has happened away from humans, and that is why she is behaving like an animal.

“If psychiatric treatment is given to her, there is a chance the girl will show improvement.

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“She had a skin infection when she was brought in, but physically she is fine now.

“She is eating well and learning to walk, but she is still not mentally fit.

“She has been treated here since January 25 and since then she has shown a lot of improvement.

“We have informed the child line authorities.”

It is believed the girl was abandoned without clothes by her parents in the nature reserve. It is not clear how long she had been left by herself.

Police officer Dinesh Tripathi said: “She was very comfortable in the company of monkeys.

“When woodcutters tried to rescue the girl, they were chased away by the monkeys.

“When a police officer tried to rescue the girl, the monkeys attacked him but he was able to rescue the girl.

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“He sped away with her in his police car while the monkeys gave chase.”

Inspector Ram Avtar Singh of Motipur station, in Bahraich, said: “She was terrified of us, she could not speak or hear us properly. She was surrounded by three monkeys. She had wounds on her body specifically on her elbow and one on her leg.

“She was wearing clothes but not very dirty, it looks like she was abandoned by her family.

“She looked weak and was very hungry. We gave her some food to eat. She looked miserable. If we hadn’t rescued her she could have been eaten by other animals.”

Puja now has a fine appetite and eats a varied diet, including porridge, dahl, rice, chapatti, vegetable curry and fruits.

She has reportedly made several escape attempts, although she has often returned by herself if she has not been chased down by ward staff.

But doctors still describe her as very “self-involved” and she continues to wear nappies.

Her nickname, ‘Mowgli girl’, refers to the Rudyard Kipling’s story The Jungle Book, in which a boy named Mowgli is brought up in the Indian jungle by wolves.