Shubham Patel, a resident of Daultabad village in Madhya Pradesh's Indore district, suffers from a rare disease that has left his face swollen like a 'balloon'. He had received treatment and a successful surgery, but the lack of follow up- induced by the pandemic and a shortage of funds undid the progress.
"My condition had improved after the surgery, however, the condition returned back to the previous state after six months. We didn't have the funds and then when we decided to get treatment, the lockdown started," Shubham said.
"Now I have a problem eating," he added. However, the surgery has improved 30 to 40 percent of his face, according to Shubham, who added that it has also aided in his speech.
"Previously, I would find it difficult to speak. Now, after two surgeries, it has become a bit better," he added.
Sharing her son's plight, Narmada, Shubham's mother she said that the sight of him struggling to eat his food makes her worried.
"I feel bad whenever I see him struggling to eat," Narmada said. "I am in peril, I am a mother and it makes me sad to see my child suffer."
Shubham was one and half years old when he first got operated for a swollen left cheek, which he had had since his birth. As he grew older, the size of the distortion became bigger, taking a toll on his appearance.
His unconventional look has since made him an easy target for neighbours and passersby alike, who take a jibe at him often.
"Wherever I go, people stare at my swollen face and make fun of me," Shubham had said in an earlier interview.
While he helps his family in farming and remains upbeat, Shubham dreams of getting cured and starting a family of his own.
His mother too echoed his sentiment. Narmada said: "I wish he gets cured and is able to eat. I wish he gets married and starts a family."
Popa Singh, Subham's father, too highlighted the social stigma faced by his son.
"I have seen people make fun of him. During his schooling, his mates used to bully him. I think even he deserves to live like all others and be accepted by society," Popa had said during an earlier interview.
Not only bullying but the discriminatory nature of people has also left the family distraught.
"When we take him out for weddings people don't go near him thinking that they too might develop the disease," Popa added.
Shubham said, "Due to my disease, people don't give me a job thinking that I won't be able to work properly. When I go out, people stare at me and discriminate against me. They don't like sitting beside me or taking food from my hand and some are disgusted by looking at me."
For Narmada, her son's cure and marriage are of utmost priority.
The disease has not only affected Shubham but is also ruining potential matches for his siblings as people are hesitant to forge a bond with his family.
"He has four siblings. Potential matches come to see them, however, they go back when they see Shubham," Narmada had said in an earlier interview.
Ready to take the challenges head-on, Shubham says an operation might make his life better.
Pleading to people for help, Shubham said, "I wish people help me the way they had previously done. I badly need a surgery. I am the elder son, so it's necessary for me to get operated and get cured, so I can do something for the family."
Echoing his son's sentiments, Popa says, "I hope he gets treated soon or at least gets some financial support for his treatment."