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We were fully reassured by the child specialists' comments about Sapna’s health. We credited Sapna’s arrival for bringing good luck to our family. I got orders from the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India that I was being transferred to San Francisco as the head of the Government of India Tourist Office there. A foreign posting for Indian officers was like winning a lottery in those days. The Government paid salaries and allowances in line with living standards of the country you were posted to. The officer and his family were also provided rent-free housing in accordance with the status of the officer. There were other perks like a rent free telephone at home and low-interest loans from the Government to purchase a car in a foreign country. It was my first foreign assignment and that too a posting to the US which was most coveted. It was an English speaking country and there would be no problems with my older children’s schooling. My daughter was in elementary school in Calcutta and my son had just entered the sixth class.

My wife attributed this transfer order to be the blessing of God and the good luck brought by Sapna. Sapna was now everyone's playmate. She was able to sit down and attempted to crawl at about seven months. That to us appeared satisfactory though we still wanted her to be more vocal. We started packing to get ready for move to USA. Our household goods were sold or given to friends who needed them. And, we moved to Delhi to say farewell to my boss as well as other colleagues and friends. There was also the matter of a marriage in the family. A bride had to be located for my wife's younger brother in great haste so that we could attend the marriage before leaving for the States.

In the early sixties, air travel was not very common. Only officers of the level of Ambassadors and above were allowed to travel by air by the government. The rest of us had to travel by ocean liners in a leisurely fashion . It was less expensive in terms of fares but the Government probably ended up paying more in terms of salary of the officers who enjoyed a free ride on luxury ocean liners and the hidden costs. We took a month to travel from Mumbai to New York by ship and then on to San Francisco by train. It was a fantastic experience especially for my two older children, Anil and Sushma.

Sapna was a one year old when we reached New York in early 1964. Unfortunately, she was not too well on the journey from London to New York even though we travelled on the luxury ship, S.S. United States. On arrival in New York, we had to take her to the hospital where she recovered. However, when we reached San Francisco we were staying initially in a hotel and she was again taken ill and we almost lost her. However, she recovered fully as soon as we moved into the house which was to be our home for our four years in San Francisco. Sapna had got back her smiles and resumed the little antics which were her own.

A year went by but Sapna made no progress on her speech front. We were worried and I wrote to my mother for advice. She responded that some children do take as long as three to four years to vocalise. In course of time, Sapna too started making loud and clear sounds but her utterances made no sense. She could not even say 'Mummy' despite our efforts. The voice was there but was vague and meaningless. My impatience had me seek an appointment with an American medical practitioner who was known for his expertise on children's problems.

After hearing our story about Sapna, her slow growth, her feeble voice and meaningless chatter, he asked us to get a chromosome blood test done. The test revealed that the child had Down's syndrome. The test revealed that Sapna had 47 chromosomes instead of 46 which comes in 23 pairs for normal children. The one extra chromosome affects some parts of the brain and body adversely of such children. Children with Down’s syndrome were often referred to as Mongoloid children because they tended to have features similar to the Mongoloid race. In Sapna's case, at that time she did not look like a Mongoloid though she did as she grew older.

This was the first time we had heard this word called 'chromosome' and the impact that an extra one could have on the human brain. Apparently, the disease had nothing to do with heredity. In any case, there was no other such child on either the mother's side or my side of the family. They told us that we were lucky that the child was not deformed physically and that only her brain was affected. She looked like a normal child. Her mental faculties would not develop normally but they could not tell us how far she would grow in her mental age. We were advised that no medicine had been discovered so far for this disease and that we will have to cope with her retarded growth.

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