The boy raised by the wolves? Mowgli, who was lost in the jungles? What if we said we brought for you the story of a real-life Mowgli? As shocking as it seems, this is the story of Zanziman Ellie.
The young boy fled his home and lived in a jungle for a long time. Many years later, he’s back home, trying to get used to a completely new environment. It seems a real challenge now as things dramatically changed here, and so did the boy.
In 1999, in Rwanda, a very special boy was born, named Zanziman Ellie. His parents had been trying to conceive for a long time and it was after a lot of tries they finally received the good news.
The day Zanziman was born, his parents were extremely happy and distributed sweets to the entire village to share their joy. Who knew the same village would one day become the source of Zanziman’s sadness?
When Zanziman began to grow up his parents started noticing some abnormalities in him. He looked different from other boys his age and even sounded different. After his abnormalities began to show prominently, they decided to take him to the hospital.
After numerous hospital visits, tests, and scans it was revealed that Zanziman suffered from an ailment called Microcephaly. When that happens, the person affected has a significantly smaller head than the body. This not only affected Zanziman’s physical appearance but also his mental capacity. Naturally, he soon became a point of ridicule but not for long. What Zanziman did next, left the whole village in shock!
Young school-going boys can be mean sometimes and Zanziman was often put at the receiving end of their meanness. His classmates could not understand why he looked different and bullied him extensively. They would make fun of his physical appearance and mock him when he couldn’t answer questions in class.
His teachers also did not make it easy for him. They scolded him every time he was unable to answer questions. They never made the effort to understand what makes him unable to answer. All this time, Zanziman was going downhill mentally. The constant taunts and name-callings were taking a toll at him. Until one day, when he suddenly disappeared …
It is very difficult for a mother to watch her son suffer. Zanziman did not like talking about what happened with him in school, but she always knew. The sadness was quite visible!
She tried numerous times to make it better for him by talking to his teachers and friends, but nothing worked. With time people grew more insensitive towards her son, affecting him tremendously. It was all adding up with each passing day until it became too much to handle!
One day when Zanziman returned from school he was extremely sad. It was usual for his mother to see him in low spirits after school but today something was very unusual. When he sat down to eat his lunch after changing his school uniform, his mother asked him what was wrong.
The moment she asked him the question, Zanziman had a major breakdown and started crying loudly. This was the first time; his mother was watching him cry so violently.
Zanziman was crying so violently that his whole body shook, and he started gasping for air. His mother rushed to calm him down and it was a few minutes before she could finally calm him down and get him to tell her what exactly happened.
After regaining his composure Zanziman told his mother why he was crying. What his mother heard next broke her heart into a million pieces.
Like always Zanziman was sitting on his desk alone at school, trying to finish his classwork. After a while a group of guys who constantly bully him came and sat on the tables near him.
They started mocking him and that day they went a little too far and called him an ape and a monkey. The moment Zanziman heard this, tears sprung up in his eyes and when the boys saw him crying, they made more fun of him.
When his mother heard the whole story, she felt angry and sad at the same time. She was tired of people ridiculing her son for no fault of his, hence, she decided to go to his school the next day and complain about the boys.
She could see the situation was getting out of hand and Zanziman was suffering mentally and emotionally. She promised her son that she would go to school the next day and fix the situation.
As promised, the next morning her mother got ready to go to the school with Zanziman but he refused to go. She decided not to push him and give him time to recover from the trauma. She went to the school alone, went to the principal, and complained about the boys.
She tried explaining the intensity of the problem to the principal, but he was no better. He believed it would be better if she took Zanziman out of school and home-schooled him; he denied him access to education.
Disappointed and shocked with what the principal said, Zanizman’s mother returned home. All the way back home she tried making arguments in her head explaining why Zanziman can not go to the school anymore.
In the end, she decided to hide the truth from him and tell him she is changing his school instead. However, when she returned, she found the house empty with Zanziman nowhere to be seen.
After being shunned by the whole village and bullied by his classmate, Zanziman Ellie could not take it anymore and decided to run away from home. He fled from his home in Rwanda, leaving his parents extremely worried to live in a jungle.
There he believed he would not have to encounter mean human beings and would be able to live on his terms without being worried about what others will say about him. By the time his mother came back from school, Ellie had fled leaving his mother searching for him frantically.
Zanziman’s parents continued going around the village in circles trying to find their son but to no avail. They asked the villagers if they had seen Zanziman somewhere, but everyone was clueless.
After that day, years followed but Zanziman did not come back home. His parents did everything in their power to find their son, but they could not reach him.
Zanziman was finally living the life he always wanted in the jungle. He roamed around in the forests every day, encountering other animals, trying to interact with them, searching for food, making his shelter, etc.
He did not have to worry about what others say about him or make fun of him. Just like Mowgli in The Jungle Book, the animals around him got used to his presence and he became part of the natural habitat.
Zanziman continued living his Mowgli life in the jungle for years until something unusual happened one day. Like always, he was climbing up the trees looking for fruits when he heard a lot of commotion underneath the high trees. He went to the lower branches of the tree to see what was happening.
When he reached there, he saw a lot of humans gathered in the jungle with unusual objects in their hands, which he later came to know were cameras. It was like a cultural shock, one that instantly petrified him!
When we went a little closer to them, he saw they were holding the weird-looking device at weird angles and pointing in all directions. Suddenly, one of the men holding the device looked up and saw Zanziman.
From past experiences, Zanziman expected a laugh from the person peering at him but instead, he received a greeting. Zanziman was taken aback, this was the first time someone was being nice to him other than his parents and animal friends he made in the jungle.
The man asked Zanzimam to climb down the tree and introduce himself. He was hesitant at first because this was his first human interaction after years but this made him feel welcoming. Zanziman climbed down and said hello to the man and his other crew members.
He could see on their faces that all of them had a million questions about his presence in the jungle and also his appearance. But they were polite enough to not bombard him with questions suddenly!
On further interaction, he was told that all of them worked for Afrimax TV. And they were in the jungle to shoot a documentary about the wildlife and the natural jungle habitat.
After a few hours, Zanziman was comfortable enough to share his story with them and how he was shunned. He also shared with them information about his ailment. All the members were very understanding and then they asked Zanziman a surprising question.
The team from Afrimax TV thought Zanziman’s story was extremely sad and deserves a new chance at life. Hence, they asked him if he would let them shoot a documentary on him and let the world know how his community wronged him.
This will not only give a chance to his community to mend their ways but also spread awareness in the world which can be helpful for others who are suffering like him. Zanziman thought about this a lot and could not get himself to turn down the offer. As soon as he agreed the team started preparing to shoot the documentary.
It took the team two weeks to shoot the documentary and one week to edit it. After around four weeks of work the documentary was ready and was released on YouTube.
The moment it was released, it became an instant hit. Soon love and acceptance started pouring in for Zanziman and could not believe this was happening.
After the documentary became a major hit, the team suggested that Zanziman should now return home and live with his family as he deserves. His initial reaction was a big no but when the team explained to him that not all people are the same and some people understand him and are ready to accept him.
After a little more discussion, Zanziman finally agreed to return home. He did after all miss his parents a lot, especially his mother.
Before Zanziman returned home, his parents had seen the documentary and couldn’t believe their son was such a famous person now. It was as if the equation had changed! They were shocked and happy and speechless!
The morning Zanziman returned home, his mother was the happiest woman on the planet. She kept crying and hugging her son, they were tears of happiness. She vowed to never let him go out of sight again.
After the documentary and its major success, Afrimax TV decided to set up a GoFundMe page to help Zanziman and his mother build a new life. It was decided that Zanziman would be enrolled in a special needs school where he would be catered according to his requirements.
Soon donations started pouring in and Zanziman started going to the special needs center at the Ubumwe Community Centre, Gisenyi, Rwanda. Zanziman’s mother was extremely thankful to all the people who donated and especially Afrimax TV, all of this would not have been possible without them.
The community center brought a real change in Zanziman’s life. There he started studying to become an asset to his community, the same community which shunned him earlier were now accepting towards him.
He also got along with his classmates and wore a well-fitting suit to class every day. He enjoyed studying and playing with his peers and was no longer scared of school.
Zanziman’s popularity did not cease to stop but only increased with each passing day. People started stopping him on the streets to take a picture with him and appreciate him for how well he was doing in life.
He was after all a young man whose life changed drastically; he went from being a real-life Mowgli to a suit-wearing student. His mother kept thanking God for finally giving her son the life he deserved.
This story is living proof of how ridicule from society can affect someone mentally and emotionally. It is hence important to spread awareness about people like Zanziman who suffer from certain ailments but are no different from others.
Like everyone, they deserve an equal chance at life with access to education, equality, health, freedom, etc. Who knows what these amazing special human beings can grow up into?