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SONGS from the HEART

Meet Palak, a child prodigy, who sings to help children with cardiac ailments



Soulful strains... Palak (extreme right) — Pic. by K. Pichumani

WITH A fuzz of black curly hair and eyes that smile, 11-year-old Palak Muchhal will fit the role of an angel in a Nativity play. But behind such sugar-candy features lies a steely determination to save ailing children.

Palak, hailing from Indore, exhibited a precocious talent for singing even as a toddler. For three years now, the child prodigy has been using her talent for the common good. By holding charity shows, she helps save lives that hang by a thread. So far, 108 children have got a new lease of life thanks to Palak who provided funds for their treatment. Another 232 children are awaiting similar succour. This single-minded commitment has earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's youngest social worker. Palak was in the city recently for a charity show.

"It all began in 2000 when a boy named Lokesh approached us for help. He had a hole in his heart and needed immediate medical attention. I raised funds for his treatment through a stage show. However, an Indore-based doctor, Devi Shetty, came forward to perform the surgery free-of-cost. The money collected for Lokesh was therefore used for other kids suffering from similar ailments," recalls Palak.

When the little girl from Pakistan - Noor Fathima - was in India for a heart surgery, Palak offered to raise money for her. During the Kargil war, she raised funds for the jawans. She has also donated Rs. 2.51 lakhs to the Bhilwara Blood Bank through her performances. Palak and her parents do not take anything from the collections that her shows bring in. For remembrance sake, she gets a doll for "each child saved".

Why only heart patients, and why only children?

"With the first one I saved being a heart patient, the idea that I should do something for others with heart ailments just stuck with me," says Palak. "I am helping out kids, because there are so many who are doing a lot for adults."

Palak just has to listen to a melody and she picks it up instantly. Her repertoire includes film songs (mostly Hindi), Indian classical numbers and ghazals. She has already cut two albums — the first one "Child For Children" saw the light of day when she was just nine and the second "Palake" was released recently — and it is her ambition to become a playback singer. Palak, her brother Palash Muchhal (8), Sunidhi (5) and Parag Chhabra (13) constitute a troupe. Unlike Palak, Palash, who also performs mimicry, is reticent. But he sheds his inhibitions once he goes on stage. Palash is keen on helping those with kidney disorders. Till date, he has helped three through his charity shows. Like sister, like brother.

PRINCE FREDERICK

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