Have you read Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling or watched the movie before? Mowgli had such an exciting life, didn’t he? Running around and hopping on branches in the forest; even making friends with animals and trying to outsmart a tiger! A great adventure story for children before bedtime. But, did you know that there exist children like Mowgli, who are called feral children? One of the most popular feral children – who also happens to be the inspiration for Jungle Book – is named Dina Sanichar.
One day in 1867, a group of hunters who were deep in the northern Indian jungle of Uttar Pradesh spied what they first thought was an animal sleeping near the mouth of a cave. They planted a fire and smoked the “animal” out of the cave and were surprised to see a human child ambling on all fours. The child was with a pack of wolves and the hunters killed the wolves before bringing the child back to Sikandra Mission Orphanage in Agra. He was named Sanichar, meaning Saturday in Hindi – the same day he was brought in.
Based on the child’s size and weight, the missionary at the orphanage, Father Erhardt and doctors estimated that Dina was around 6 years old. Missionaries at the orphanage took years to try to make the feral child “civilized” but the years he spent in the jungle amongst the wolves have certainly taken a toll on him – physically as well as mentally.
It was noted that Dina Sanichar was not mute since he could make animalistic sounds, but he did not have the capacity for language. He was then known as an imbecile or idiotic. He despised wearing clothes; he prefers walking on all fours instead of on two feet; he only eats raw meat, which he would sniff at first before chewing; and he would sharpen his teeth on bones. Sanichar did not have any interest in other human beings and was also insensitive to heat or cold. However, he became attached to another feral child found and housed at the same orphanage sometime before he arrived. With that child, they formed a strange bond, sort of sympathetic and there even comes a point where the older boy taught Sanichar to drink from a cup.
In those days, no one understood why the children were unable to return to human civilisation after being “raised by animals”. However, as studies on human psychology and human physiology expands, scientists understood that there is a period during brain development (or known as “formative years”) where a child must learn a language and learn how to speak. If a child lived past this period without learning how to speak, it is highly unlikely that the child would ever be able to speak. They would be able to make sounds to communicate but not in the language that civilised humans do.
In Dina Sanichar’s case, however, he was able to learn the very basic human actions but he was unable to discard his old animal-like behaviours. The only vice he picked up from humans is smoking, which he was absolutely addicted to. He was a known chain smoker and he died from complications of smoking around the age of 35 years old in 1895.
Aliza M. is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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