Saturday, July 11, 2009

She moves, she compells,she disturbs, she tells and how!

"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget." — Arundhati Roy

Friday, July 10, 2009

In memory of my beloved camera

I am deeply saddened to inform all of you of the untimely disappearance of my Sony Cybershot. I dedicate this post to its memory.

To my first digital camera

For giving me perspective and vision.

P.S: Advice on how i should have been careful or on what to do next is not welcome.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Anandwan- The forest of joy

Picture courtesy Anandwan Website.

“A human figure-just bone and flesh -was lying on the side of the road. A human body without any vital signs of life. It was merely a form. There were maggots wriggling in the wounds all over the body…Fear gripped Babas mind for the first time. He felt at once fear, disgust and repulsion. At that moment the only thought was to run away as fast as he could. But as he recovered from the shock, he threw a piece of sackcloth over his body and walked home. How shall I describe that chance encounter? I can only say that it was an encounter with what you would call the ‘ugly’, the ‘repulsive’, the ‘ghastly’ and the ‘piteous’. Leprosy was the name for it.”

This sudden encounter with Tulsiram as recalled by Sadhnatai is what led Baba Amte to start the Maharogi Sewa Samiti in 1949. Tucked away in a remote corner of Maharashtra in the village of Warora breathes MSS first project, Anandwan- the forest of joy. Nursing Tulsiram was just the beginning. Till today thousands of bruised souls and bodies have found solace in this forest of joy.
Take the example of Kalpana Meshram. At the age of 35 when she discovered she had leprosy she harboured thoughts of jumping in the well and ending her life. For three years after she developed leprosy she continued living in Nagpur trying to hold onto her job in a tailors shop while trying to deal with the trauma of her own family distancing themselves from her. It was during this period of utter consternation that she heard of Anandwan. Today she has a job in the Anandwan mess and a regained sense of dignity and self respect. That the job pays in monetary terms as well is a fringe benefit. For shelter, food, healthcare, electricity, water and education are all taken care of by the institution.

What Baba Amte and Sadhnatai gave birth to has today groomed into a thriving community under the guidance of Dr.Vikas Amte. The industrial unit has expanded to include units of power looms to leather works. The disfigured hands and feet that society rejected are today running departments ranging from handlooms, carpentry, fabrication, and tailoring etc. The products manufactured at these workshops not only place Anandwan at the verge of self sufficiency but also have a demand outside. The agricultural produce too is consumed within the community and the surplus is sold in the market.
What is overwhelming is not the facts and figures that go behind these units. Or the economics that is applicable here. Or the number of beds in their hospital. Yes, these feats are important too but it is the spirit of the place that truly stands out. Everyone in Anandwan, age permitting, is contributing in keeping the community alive in some way. Regardless of the number of toes they have or if they can see or not, no one is living on charity. They toil day and night to keep alive this wonderful world they have created for themselves. More importantly the strength the members demonstrate is awe inspiring. It disturbs moves and compels one to action.
Miracles abound in Anandwan. Pinky whose hands are challenged makes cards with her feet. Malini who lost all her fingers to leprosy runs errands on her bicycle. Swaranand, the orchestra consists of instrumentalists who are blind and dancers who are deaf. Yet they hit the right notes and the steps to go with it. It is perhaps the labour of love Sadhnatai mentions in Samidha that casts such magic.

Even after their treatment was over society refused to accept leprosy patients. MSS responded to this by extending into various projects where the cured patients could be rehabilitated. In Somnath families are farming on their independent lands. Mohammad Kaka a patient of leprosy has prevented many farmers from committing suicides in Zari Zamini. Some others are conducting experiments in small dams. Some have helped Dr.Prakash and Mandakini Amte in Hemalkasa to continue their remarkable work with the Madia Gond tribals. There is no end to the list.

Times were not always so good. Right from the beginning of the pilgrimage that Baba and Tai undertook there were several obstacles to overcome. They came in various forms- financial difficulties, health problems, lack of doctors etc. When they started out all they had was a hut in the middle of a jungle and scorpions and snakes as uninvited guests.

Today Anandwan has achieved a level of 45% of self sufficiency. For the rest it is still dependant on donations. For it to have reached such heights a dedicated team was a must. This need is today fulfilled with the presence of Dr.Vikas, Dr. Pol, Dr. Bharti, Prabhu kaka, Sathe kaka and kaustubh sir amongst many others.

Places can awaken emotions. Anandwan does that, in a positive sense. But to capture and confine those emotions into words is an impossible task. Another aspect of Anandwan is that it heals not only the body but the mind and soul too. So regardless of whether you are in need of medical help or not take that trip to the little forest. For it will heal you in places you didn’t even know were wounded at.