Kanai Das has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disfigurement that covers his face. Das begs for money on the streets in Baruipur, West Bengal, India, where many people consider the 42-year-old man to be reincarnated from Lord Ganesha, the elephant god (video below).
“I do not want to beg, but I have no other way to earn money and look after my mother," Das told the Mirror. "People think I am God because I have a trunk like him. But I was not like this always.
"I have fond memories of seeing from both the eyes, but over the years, my right eye has disappeared. I could see it in the mirror some years ago, but now I cannot find it in all the pile of flesh. I do not even remember how I used to look before."
According to the Mayo Clinic, neurofibromatosis is a disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerve tissue. The tumors are most often noncancerous, but can become malignant.
People are usually diagnosed with neurofibromatosis when they are children, which was the case with Das when he was 9.
Das' birth mother abandoned him, but he was adopted by Bharati Roy, who was working as a shopkeeper at the time.
“I was in the shop when I saw a young boy, wretched and sifting through the [trash can] for food," Roy told the Mirror. "His nose was bulging, and his right eye was sagging. I was so moved by his condition that I could not stop myself from bringing him home.”
“I had 22 members in my family, and no one really hated him, but his condition was such that none wanted to touch him or get close to him," Roy added. "It has always been me who feeds him or bathes him. I have always taken care of his needs.”
The two now share a small room in an apartment.
“People revere him as Lord Ganesh and give him money," Roy explained. "You should see how much they give him when there is a festival. Everyone loves him and seeks his blessings. But we need the blessings. He needs it more as he lives a very painful life.”
Das is hoping one day to have surgery to give him a normal face and a normal life.
“I always pray to God and ask him for forgiveness," Das said. "My life is very painful. I cannot walk or eat. I spill the food while eating. I do [not] visit others as it embarrasses me. The flesh irritates me; it always feels like burning and itching. I have to always take medicines so to keep the skin soothed."