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Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 10:12 UK

'Miracle baby' is feted in India

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

Mother Sushma holds her daughter Lali
There's even talk of a temple being built in Lali's honour.

They're calling her the miracle baby.

Barely a month old, baby Lali was born with a rare condition which has given her two faces.

It's called Craniofacial Duplication and she has two sets of eyes, noses and lips.

In the village where she was born, close to the edge of Delhi, her condition has made her an object of fascination and reverence.

'Blessed'

"When I first saw her, I was scared. It's natural," her father, Vinod Singh, tells me.

"But now I feel I'm blessed."

Doctors have told him them that despite having two faces Lali is healthy and normal.

She is able to drink milk through either mouth and breathe normally.

Mr Singh is a poor farm worker. At his mud and brick house at the end of a narrow dusty lane, a neighbour applies a fresh coat of paint to his front door.

Vinod Singh
We just want to enjoy time with our first born child
Vinod Singh

Inside, he stands surrounded by villagers, some sitting on sturdy hessian cots, others smoking pipes.

For the past few days, people have been lining up to see his daughter.

Many of them bring offerings of money, believing that Lali has special powers.

"When you see something unnatural, it can only be the miracle of God," says Jatinder Nagar, a neighbour who's taken on the self-appointed role of tour guide.

"It's something so magical that we believe that she's a goddess. We regard her as one."

Uncomfortable

Eighty-year-old Ballabh Saini is a grandmother and respected as a village elder.

But even she bows her head in reverence.

"She has brought us fame and she is blessed," she tells me.

"So many people have been coming to see her - travelling long distances on cars, motorbikes, horse-drawn carts."

But all this is making Vinod Singh increasingly uncomfortable and upset.

"She's my daughter. I don't want any more of this. I'm fed up," he says, throwing up his hands in despair.

But he's up against centuries of superstition.

Faced with something they're unable to comprehend, the villagers believe she is the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess.

There's even talk of a temple being built in her honour.

Her new found status is lost on Lali, as she lies cradled in her grandfather's arms.

Doctors in Delhi say there is no possibility of separating her head.

But they do want to carry out more medical tests to determine if her internal organs are normal.

But her parents won't allow them.

"What is the need? As far as we are concerned she's like any other child," says Vinod Singh.

"We just want to enjoy time with our first-born child."





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