India - A father-to-be has spoken for the first time about living with no face – and how he’s terrified he has passed his condition onto his unborn child. Mohammad Latif Khatana, 32, from Kashmir, India, cannot see or work due to the severe creases on his face.
He is now over the moon that his wife is seven months pregnant, but worried his son or daughter will look like him.
He saya: “I cannot wait to be a father and have some happiness in my life. But I worry every day and pray my child is not born like me.”
Latif, who lives high in the mountains with his 25-year-old wife Salima, in Tuli Bana, in Jammu and Kashmir, travels to Srinagar for four months of the year to beg and find money.
He was born with a small lump on his face, but it has continued to grow and now form huge flaps across his face, making it impossible for him to see.
Latif says: “My mother still cries when she looks at me. She feels so much guilt and cannot understand why her youngest boy was cursed.”
Latif is the youngest of two brothers and three sisters - and the only child suffering this condition. Without his siblings, he would’ve lived a very lonely childhood without friends: “Nobody wanted to play with me as a child,” he recalls. “The boys in my village used to beat me and taunt me every day. I lost my left eye when I was eight years old and they used to call me one-eye freak.
As an adult, Latif continues to face many struggles. He is a strong man, but because of his failing eyesight and facial condition no-one would give him a job.
He says: “I’d love to do an honest day’s work like a normal man providing for his family. It would make me so proud, but no one will give me a chance. I have to beg and hope people take pity on me so that I can feed my family.”
Latif remembers many occasions when people spat on him as they walked past.
However, four years ago Latif finally met the love of his life. His parents tried hard to find him a wife, but no girl would come forward, until Latif heard about Salima.
“My wife has only one foot, and so for many years she struggled to meet a husband. As soon as we met we knew we were right for one another,” he says. “We were both medically incomplete, we were a good match.”
They married in a traditional Muslim summer ceremony with 400 guests, in August 2008, and have been very happy ever since.
“I feel very blessed to have met Salima, she is good for me.", Latif adds. “I feel a little normal now I have a wife, a little more complete than I did before. And now that she is pregnant with our first child, I am even happier. No matter how I look I am a happy man right now.”
But Latif, who is in no pain and takes no medication, still worries his child will be born with the same facial condition.
He says: “We can’t afford to see a doctor now, we’re too poor. And no doctor in the past has told me not to have children. I can only hope and pray that our baby will be healthy.”
Latif’s brother decided to sell some land eight years ago to pay for a trip to send Latif to see a doctor.
But, Latif says, “The doctor told me that my condition was due to a solar eclipse when my mother was pregnant with me. I don’t know whether to believe him.
“And now there is so many veins going through my creases that surgery would be too dangerous. I have lost all hope of help.
“This is how I’ll look forever.”