My friends told me to return with an Oscar: Pinki

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Ecstatic: Pinki Sonkar at a function organised by Smile Train to felicitate her in New Delhi on Friday.
Ecstatic: Pinki Sonkar at a function organised by Smile Train to felicitate her in New Delhi on Friday.

Madhur Tankha

With Smile Pinki winning honour, woes of cleft lip patients will receive global attention

NEW DELHI: “Before I left for the United States, my friends told me in Varanasi that I must return home with an Oscar. Now I have one,” an ecstatic Pinki Sonkar, holding a replica of the Oscar won by filmmaker Megan Mylan, said here on Friday.

Earlier in the day, little Pinki had a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur and shared her “red carpet” experience in Los Angeles with her. Ms. Kaur presented her a wristwatch and a bag of goodies. She was also treated to samosas and burfi.

The Prime Minister was, however, unable to meet Pinki as he was down with viral flu.

Happy homecoming

For Pinki, whose transformation from a cleft lip patient to a normal girl was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary Smile Pinki, it will be happy homecoming when she reaches Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh over the weekend.

At a press conference here, Pinki’s surgeon Subodh Kumar Singh, who accompanied her to the Oscars event, said it was a rare honour for him to be one of the subjects of Mylan’s documentary. “Mylan came to G.S. Memorial Plastic Surgery Centre in Varanasi to shoot the film. There was no narrative for us and unlike Slumdog Millionaire, the documentary was a real-life documentation of the lives of these children who suffer so much because of the deformity. The Oscar has strengthened my resolve to work hard with more passion and vigour and treat more and more patients. Four million cleft lip and palate patients are awaiting surgery in Asia.”

Pointing out that each surgery he performed was a modern-day medical miracle, Dr. Singh said that with Smile Pinki winning the highest honour, the complex problems of cleft patients would now receive international attention. “We want this recognition to generate more awareness of cleft lip and cleft palate so that more children would come forward for surgeries. The work of cleft charity, Smile Train, will hopefully change the lives of many other patients. The surgery gives these children not just a new smile but a second chance to lead their lives normally.”

Supporting education

Smile Train regional director (South Asia) Satish Kalra said: “Capturing the transformation in the life of Pinki, Smile Pinki sheds light on the global problem of cleft lip and cleft palate. But we cannot support her education as 10,000 cleft children will suffer. Smile Train only provides a level playing field to these children. We hope somebody comes forward and supports Pinki’s education.”

Before her surgery, the eight-year-old girl was not allowed to attend school and was ostracised because of her deformity.

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