A 50-year-old woman in India stopped growing aged five and her family now admit they do not know if she’s an adult or a child.
Jhunnu Kumari, 50, from a small village, in Bihar, eastern India, was born in 1966 but she stopped developing when she was a child due to a hormone disorder.
She was taken to several doctors over the years but no one was able to explain her condition and help.
Now, she has the mental maturity of a 50-year-old but looks remarkably younger.
Her brother and guardian, Ashok Kumar Nandan, 53, said: ‘She’s the lifeline of our house, everyone loves her. My wife and children care for her very much and she’s treated with respect just like any other older person in our community.
‘She doesn’t feel there’s anything wrong with her, she understands everything and responds normally and properly. The only difference is that she doesn’t have that decision making ability in her due to inexperience. And she still looks like a child.’
Jhunnu, who is 3ft tall, was born normal but after her fifth birthday she stopped developing. The family initially thought Jhunnu had polio. And her father, Shri Nandlal Mahto, now 80, took her to local doctors for help but no one offered any answers.
‘My father tried his best to help her,’ Ashok said, who works as a government official. ‘He tried all the doctors in our area, he did all he could but there was just no help. So he did what any other father would do, he offered her all the love in the world.’
‘We all love her very much.’
Jhunnu hit puberty when she was 14-years-old but never graduated from school like other girls her age in her village.
And as she’s aged the lower part of her body has become weak. She cannot walk properly because she lacks muscle and strength in her legs.
Ashok’s wife and Jhunnu’s sister-in-law and best friend, Kanti Mala, 40, said: ‘I love spending time with her. She keeps us all busy and entertained. She doesn’t need me around all the time as she can do many things herself but I’m always around if she needs me. We don’t ask her to work or do anything around the house due to her condition.
‘She talks to me all the time, she tells me everything and freely expresses her sadness and joys in life.’
‘She’s quite immature in some ways but we’re like friends, I understand her the best.’
Jhunnu enjoys shopping for dresses, shoes and jewellery. She likes make-up and always has her nails painted. She has a box where she keeps all her belongings in one place, which includes her make up and toiletries amongst other things.
‘No one is allowed to touch her box,’ Ashok added. ‘It’s her private property and she’s very protective of it.’
‘She is very possessive about her things; be it materialistic things or members of her family.’
‘If she’s happy, she’ll share anything, but if she’s in a mood, then nobody can dare mess with her.’
And if anyone suggests she gets married she becomes very angry.
Ashok added: ‘She loves to see others getting married and will show a lot of enthusiasm during a wedding ceremony. She gets a new dress and joins in when the women apply henna but if we talk about her getting married – even as a joke – she gets really angry and refuses to talk to any of us for days.’
Despite Jhunnu’s child like ways the children in her community see her as an adult and always show her respect.
Ashok said: ‘She’s very much treated like an elder woman despite her childish ways. No one would dare say anything bad to her because of respect.
‘She’s never been an embarrassment for us. We are very proud of her. She understands she’s not like other people but if someone is not paying her respect, she gets angry and teaches them morals and values like a mother would. She’s very wise. And a very special woman’