The Ram Raj’s family living in the Indian city of Hyderabad always stood out in a crowd – because nine of the 11 family members are dwarfs- affected by a genetic condition called Achondroplasia.
Fifty-two-year-old Ram Raj Chauhan is the head of the family is also affected by Achondroplasia, which causes short-limbed dwarfism.
Achondroplasia is the most common form of disproportionate dwarfism and is characterized by a normal sized torso and short limbs. The family once consisted of 21 people – 18 of whom suffered from the condition.
Ram Raj originally had seven sisters and four brothers, with eight of the 11 siblings suffering from Achondroplasia, But some of them have passed away, including his elder brother, Prithvi Raj.
Ram Raj now lives with ten of his family members in the Old City in Hyderabad, and nine of them are affected by Achondroplasia, making them the largest dwarf family in the city.
Their condition attracts a lot of attention, much of it unwanted. Curious looks, verbal jibes, and taunts are a common occurrence when the family steps out.
Ram Raj explaining their predicament said: “If we go out, people crowd around us and ask us strange questions like, ‘Why are you so short?’, ‘Where are you from?’. Everyone teases us.’
There are health issues as well. Due to the shortness of their legs, walking can become a problem, he further explained: “After a certain age, the legs become weak. I have seen my grandfather and my father face this, but they still managed to walk properly.
“But I have difficulty in walking and my younger brother can’t walk without help. Same with two of my sisters,” he added.
Ram Raj who works as a ‘Marriage Welcomer’, where he dresses up and welcomes guests to weddings, also explained that finding employment for the family has been challenging.
“No-one was willing to give me a job. I have faced a lot of problems because people look at me and say, ‘How will you manage?. ‘I work at my relative’s grocery store when I don’t have the wedding work to do.” he said.
His 27-year-old daughter Ambika wants to be an accountant but as she also suffers from this condition, she has also found it difficult to find work.
“In the future, I want to become an accountant but this will only be possible if I’m able to get a job. People tell me that because I’m short, that’s why I’m unable to get a job.”
The other members of the family who are of short stature, including Ram Raj’s brothers and sisters, also find it very difficult to get steady work.
Ram Raj believes life is particularly tough for the females in his family.
“It is still ok for the male members of the family. But what about the women in my family who have this condition? Life is much more difficult for them.”
Ram Raj’s wife was of normal height but sadly passed away in 1993 while she was seven months pregnant with their third child.
“Even though people laugh at them, and the condition makes it difficult to travel, get married and lead a regular life, Ram Raj believes God has given them this condition because they are special.”