Friday, July 9, 2004

Chickening Out

From NBC 6.

Aid Workers Retrain Man Raised As Chicken

Sponsor Says Man Is Making ‘Remarkable Progress’

A man in Suva, Fiji, is being taught to act human after being raised as a chicken.

Sunjit Kumar was locked in a chicken coop for several years as a young boy, after his parents died and he was handed over to his grandfather.

He had little contact with humans during that time and picked up the habits of the birds.

Kumar escaped from the chicken coop and was taken to a local hospital. But the staff did not know how to treat him, so they confined him. He spent 20 years there, often tied to his bed.

Kumar, who is now 32, finally got a second chance at life when he was discovered by Elizabeth Clayton, a native New Zealander and president of the Suva Rotary Club.

Clayton said doctors examined Sunjit and found no mental defects. Professionals agreed that his condition was the result of years of neglect and abuse.

“He had imitated or imprinted with the chicken,” Clayton said. “He was perching, he was picking at his food, he was hopping around like a chicken. He’d keep his hands in a chickenlike fashion, and he’d make a noise, which was like the calling of a chicken, which he still has.”

Clayton took over Kumar’s care and he has reportedly made “remarkable progress,” learning to walk and speak like a human.

I was wondering what kind of family would do this to a person, but then I remembered what Woody Allen says at the end of Annie Hall: “I thought of that old joke, y’know, this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.’ And, the doctor says, ‘Well, why don’t you turn him in?” And the guy says, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’ Well, I guess that’s pretty much how I feel about relationships. Y’know, they’re totally irrational and crazy and absurd but, I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.”

[Updated for minor edits]