Dignity, Divinity and Devotion…

  • SumoMe

anandwan.jpgAnandwan, a community based on hard work and dignity, has been a rebuilding of Baba Amte’s life, for those who have faced rejection from relatives, friends and society. The expansive, cooperative town of 2000 leprosy afflicted and disabled residents began one rainy night, several years ago. While returning home one day, Murlidhar Devidas Amte, came across a bundle, on the side of the road. It wasn’t a bundle, but a man living his last breath, huddled up in a corner on the footpath, struck by the last stage of leprosy. A rotting mass of human flesh without fingers and toes, with holes, sores, and worms instead of eyes and nose. A horrified Murlidhar ran home frantically. Although he tried his best to live his life as planned, but could not get over the sight he had the other day. Thus he decided to work with the patients of leprosy, to overcome his fear. This was certainly a life changing decision that laid the seeds for his future course of actions. This made him the human crusader and the well-known, Baba Amte.It was in 1951, on 50 acres of stony wasteland inhabited by wild animals near Warora in north-eastern Maharashtra, when Baba Amte came along with his wife, Sadhana and six patients crippled by leprosy to build the Anandwan, a leprosarium and farm where the destitute shunned by families and friends could work, and live a life with dignity. Amte and his first patients, with deformed hands and feet, built shelters and dug a well which took about two months. In three years’ time, Anandwan grew into a town of 60. Agriculture is the mainstay of its economy, and interestingly the bank balance is zero. This community has given life to thousands of people. Today, it sprawls across 175 hectares, encompassing several hospitals for treatment, training and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, schools for the leprosy-afflicted, blind, deaf-mute, and handicapped and also a home for the old patients. 120 hectares of agricultural land and vocational training centres for youth and rural school and college dropouts. There is also a home for the senior citizens, a community nursing for the orphans and housing for about 2000 residents. There are several other activities which are carried out by the leprosy patients. It’s been over 5 decades of hard work and dedication which changed the lives of many.Weaving handloom mats and other such tasks involving concentration, craftsmanship and patience are all done by the visually challenged. Carpet making, carpentry, electrical work, tailoring, repairing air-conditioners, producing products like cloth, leather products, metal furniture, coolers, bicycles, etc. are the numerous activities in which these people involve themselves.The work gives a meaning to their otherwise dampened lives. A country, where on every turn you see a beggar, a blind, and a disabled living a life in miserable conditions, you have those hundreds of them living a dignified life under the shelter, love and protection of Baba Amte. Through the years Anandwan has served a home to the individuals who overcame their disabilities and lived lives fruitfully. “Work builds, charity destroys” is an apt phrase of the vocational training at Baba Amte’s Anandwan. Apart from the various endeavours at Anandwan, the most indigenous and interesting endeavour is its very own orchestra, the Swaranandwan. Popular film songs are sung by the disabled in self-assured, confident voices. A sign on the backdrop tot the stage reads, “Give them a chance, not charity” and has a raised fist beneath it. In spite of moving on their hands and being blind, nothing stops them from performing with their undaunted, charismatic, and confident style. We should thus, not provide charity to the underprivileged, instead give them a chance, may be send them to Anandwan, where you never see “Disabled” but “Differently-Abled”. Give these desolate lives a chance, a life of dignity and love.Aditi Raman

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/meanestindian/99467639/]

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