An Indian beggar revered as the Hindu god Lord Ganesha by some is hoping for a miracle surgery after sagging skin has taken over his face causing him a life of discomfort. Kanai Das from West Bengal has struggled since the age of nine with a rare condition called neurofibromatosis that has disfigured his face and arm and caused him untold pain and grief.
To get by the 42-year-old pounds the pavements of his local bus station whilst punters hand him small amounts of money – sometimes he earns £3 a day, sometimes less. The ones that do donate often pay him out of respect for Ganesha or the 'Lord of Obstacles' but this can cause problems too.
As well as the indignity of dribbling and spillages when he eats, constant itching, stares from strangers, and no vision in his right eye, hairdressers in his village are too afraid to cut his hair in case it falls on their feet and they are punished by the god. And to compound his misery he has never been able to get a job – so resorts for begging for cash.
"I do not want to beg but I have no other way to earn money and look after my mother," he said according to the Mirror. "People think I am God because I have a trunk like him. But I was not like this always.
"I have fond memories of seeing from both the eyes but over the years, my right eye has disappeared. I could see it in the mirror some years ago but now I cannot find it in all the pile of flesh. I do not even remember how I used to look before."
What is neurofibromatosis?
For many people with neurofibromatosis the condition is mild and causes no serious health problems, but some people will have severe symptoms, like Das.
As a child gets older, usually during teenage years or early adulthood, they can develop bumps on or under their skin. These are caused by non-cancerous tumours that develop on the coverings of nerves. They may vary in size, from pea-sized to slightly bigger tumours. There is a risk of developing serious problems such as certain types of cancer, which can reduce life expectancy in some people by up to 15 years.
The number of neurofibromas a person has can vary. Some people only have a small number while others have them on large sections of their body. Repairing the damage from neurofibromas involves surgery to remove tumours and improve bone abnormalities.
Source: NHS website
Das was born with a small lump on his head but the rapid growth of his skin only took place aged nine. His condition got so bad that his mother abandoned him and he began scavenging for food in dustbins.
Then one day he was spotted by Bharati Roy, 73, a mother with six children of her own and she adopted him. She said: "I was in the shop when I saw a young boy, wretched and sifting through the dustbin for food.
"I was so moved by his condition that I could not stop myself from bringing him home."
Her family refused to help the deformed Das and doctors told her that nothing could be done. She added: "His condition was such that none wanted to touch him or get close to him. It has always been me who feed him or bathe him. I have always taken care of his needs."
But Kanai has not given up hope and wants surgery on his disfigured face. He said: "Though doctors have told me there is no cure, I still hope for a miracle. I want to be a healthy person and lead a normal life."