News headlines

by Anisa Fathima,, Mangalore
with inputs and pics from Rons Bantwal, Mumbai bureau

  • The former Miss Universe proves she is a beauty with a social commitment

Mumbai/Mangalore, Jun 30: It is customary for beauty title aspirants to claim to have a commitment for social causes when asked by the panel of jury at the contest. Then most of them jump into the Bollywood bandwagon and amass a lot of wealth and then forget the old claims.

But former Miss Universe Lara Datta, who already has a good foothold in Bollywood has proved that she is firm in her commitment

Lara Datta and Puneeth Bhat

Puneet Bhat is a four-year old born with a hearing impairment. Without having heard a word in his short life, he has been unable to develop verbal skills and therefore the curse of dumbness has also caught up with him. But now his dream of being able to listen and learn words is slowly turning into reality, thanks to the generosity of philanthropists, President APJ Abdul Kalam and film star Lara Dutta.

Puneeth's parents Divaspati Bhat and Mangala Gauri are teachers by profession. While Divaspati who hails from Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district has been a teaching at Vidyadayini High School, Suratkal in Mangalore, his mother is a teacher at Bajalpadpu Primary School.

Puneeth Bhat in front of a computer

His worried parents, in an attempt to seek treatment for their son, took him to Dr Jayashree Bhat of KMC, Mangalore, who suggested therapy. Accordingly, Puneet was referred to renowned ENT specialist of M V Shetty Memorial Hospital Dr Dattatreya, who said that Puneet had a problem with the cochlea of the ear and suggested a surgery. As this surgery would cost Rs 10 lac, Puneet's parents, on the advice of many, took the help of the media and local newspapers to appeal for funds.

Following this, Puneet's parents came in touch with Norbert Miranda of St Aloysius College, Mangalore, whose child had undergone a similar problem. On Miranda's advice, Divaspati referred his son to the famous ENT specialist Dr Sandra D'Souza of Mumbai, who diagnosed what Puneet was suffering from and immediately finalised a date for his surgery at Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai.

Puneeth with his father, and the hearing equipment

Meanwhile Divaspati Bhat appealed by post to nearly 45 Bollywood film stars and actors for help. The appeal letter he sent to President APJ Abdul Kalam bore fruit in the form of a cheque for Rs 40,000 from the President.

As luck would have it, former Miss Universe and Bollywood actor Lara Dutta who was with Kelly Dorjee at a social work organization next to the Jaslok Hospital, happened to hear about Puneet. The former Miss Universe's generosity came to the fore when she spent around 15 minutes with the boy and wished him a bright future while writing a cheque of Rs 4 lac for his treatment.

Post-surgery, Puneet is slowly recovering. His hearing capacity has improved significantly and he has started learning words. Divaspati and his family expressed their deepest gratitude to all those who helped their son.


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