Date: 6 May 1960
Calvary Mission Children’s Home, Shakkarganj, Uttar Pradesh, India
D.O.B & Age: Unknown, approximately 6-7 years Height: 3 feet 10 inches
Weight: 46 lbs
Family Status: No known relatives
The child was brought to us by two forest guards from the Hathi Talao Wildlife Sanctuary, thirty-six kilometres north-east of Shakkarganj. He was in an emaciated condition, with a severe case of malarial fever and clear evidence of malnutrition and dehydration. From the state of his health and hygiene, the boy appears to have been living on his own for several weeks, possibly months.
His hair was long, matted, and infested with lice. His elbows and knees were heavily calloused and there were festering sores on his upper body.The guards reported that he was naked when they found him, lying near a waterhole in a section of the park known as Meethapani Block.There were no injuries on his body or any evidence of physical abuse though his right shoulder was bruised.
He was semi-conscious but resisted examination even in his weakened state.Twice he tried to bite me and scratched one of our aides with his fingernails, which were untrimmed and ragged. He did not respond to either Hindustani or English, or any of the local dialects of this region. With some difficulty we were able to administer an intravenous drip of chloroquine and several other drugs for the fever. His sores were cleaned, and an antibiotic ointment was applied, though he tried to lick it off immediately. We have quarantined him in a storeroom behind the dispensary.
Fortunately, Anjali Joseph, one of the nurses from the mission hospital in Amrudpur, happened to be here on her weekly visit, when he was brought in by the forest guards. She agreed to stay back for several days to attend to his condition. At this point, we do not know if he will survive for his body is constantly trembling from the fever and twice he has had what seem to be epileptic fits.
Of course, there has been a lot of speculation, encouraged by the forest guards, that this boy was living in the company of wild animals and he may have been raised by wolves, bears, or monkeys. I have discouraged our staff and children from spreading these rumours.
While it might make for a good story by Rudyard Kipling, the truth is that a child of his age would have been more likely to be eaten in the wild by any number of predators, rather than nurtured by some other species. From his appearance and behaviour, he seems to suffer from mental disability and my initial assessment is that his parents, being desperately poor and ill-equipped to deal with his disabilities, found they could no longer care for the boy and abandoned him in the forest. A number of migrant communities, some of them hunters and gatherers, pass through this region, along the foothills of the Himalaya, and it is likely that he comes from one of these nomadic tribes.
We have filed a report with the police in Amrudpur and they will investigate whether any cases of missing children are pending in the district, though it doesn’t seem likely and the superintendent of police has given us temporary custody of the boy. In situations like this there is always a lot of paperwork and red tape that must be completed, and I imagine the district magistrate will get involved. In the meantime, our primary objective is to save the boy’s life. If he does not respond to medication, we may have to transport him to the hospital in Amrudpur.
The Lord has sent us this foundling and it is our calling to provide succour to the weakest, most wretched and forsaken of His children. As it is written in the Gospels, after Jesus was baptized, ‘The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.’ (Mark 1:12-13) But as the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed, “I will restore health to you and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast.” (Jeremiah 30:17)
Miss Elizabeth Cranston
Calvary Mission Children’s Home Shakkarganj
14 June 1960
Daniel was christened this morning before the Sunday service.
I don’t think he understood anything of what took place and he does not respond to his Christian name. Once he reaches an age when he can recognise and appreciate god’s love, he will be confirmed and receive communion. Another younger child, Mary, was also christened. She came to us last week, the daughter of lepers who gave her up for fear she would contract their disease. A bright-eyed, cheerful girl of two, she laughed when I sprinkled water on her forehead and seemed to think it was all an innocent joke.
I can’t help comparing her to Daniel, who has such a wary, unsettled expression on his face and flinches every time I come near him.Two of the aides held him by the arms and brought him to the altar. With a lot of difficulty, we have been able to dress him in a loose smock though he often pulls it off and prefers to be naked. After the baptism he was taken back to his room before I conducted the rest of the service, for he becomes disruptive and the other children begin to laugh and whisper among themselves.
It has taken us a month to gain some level of trust with the boy. For the first week, he could hardly move and the fever made him delusional, tossing about as if in a nightmare. We prayed over him every day and Nurse Joseph helped heal his sores.
Once his malaria subsided, he got his appetite back and had no hesitation in eating. We gave him khichri at first and he sniffed it suspiciously, but his preference is for fruit and raw vegetables. He chews on carrots as if they were candy. Last week, we harvested our litchis and he ate so many, he threw up. But it was the mangoes that provided our first breakthrough. Until then, he hadn’t let anyone come near him and we had to tie his hands and feet before we could wash him and cut his hair.
He struggled violently and the aides were afraid of him but when I brought him a mango from one of the trees behind my bungalow, I could immediately see his expression change and he let me kneel in front of him. Taking the fruit, he eagerly squeezed it with both hands, as if he knew exactly what he was doing, then bit a hole in one end and sucked the juice and pulp. From his gestures, I could tell he’d eaten a mango before and he peeled it with his teeth, licking the skin and seed as if he dared not waste a drop.
After that, every day I have brought him a mango and he no longer cringes in one corner, the way he used to do. He even lets me place my hand on his head while he sucks at the fruit. There is still a kind of wildness about him, what some might call a savage nature, though I can tell it is mostly fear.
I chose the name Daniel because he came to us from the tiger’s den. Though it is inconceivable that he was raised by wild beasts, the fact that he was found in the jungle proves that the Lord protected him and delivered him from danger. After choosing his name I went back and read the Book of Daniel. The verses describing King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream struck me as prophetic. “Let him be wet with the dew of heaven; let his lot be with the beasts in the grass of the earth; let his mind be changed from a man’s and let a beast’s mind be given to him.” (Daniel 4: 15-16)
Excerpted with permission from Feral Dreams: Mowgli And His Mothers, A Fable, Stephen Alter, Aleph Book Company.