[AI] A tribute to Baba Amte

Rahul Kelapure rkelapure at gmail.com
Mon Feb 25 07:15:49 EST 2008


very good article!
it reminded me my good old days whn i was a student of anandwan blind
school and i had sceene that life very closely.
regards,
rahul

On 2/25/08, mufazal munshi <mufshi at hotmail.com> wrote:
> beautifully depicted by the author of the article......
>
> made very nice reading!
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Rajesh Asudani" <rajeshasudani at rbi.org.in>
> To: <accessindia at accessindia.org.in>
> Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 12:43 PM
> Subject: [AI] A tribute to Baba Amte
>
>
> > SPACES OF CHANGE
> >
> >                  Living with dignity
> >
> >
> >                                                              NEETA
> > DESHPANDE
> >
> >             Beyond rejection by relatives, friends and society, to rebuild
> > one's life and a community based on hard work and dignity - that's the
> > essence
> > of Amte's Anandwan.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >                                               Photo: PTI Hope and refuge:
> > Baba Amte.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >                                        The incredible story of Anandwan,
> > an expansive, cooperative town of 2,000 leprosy-afflicted and disabled
> > residents,
> > began one rainy night. While returning home, Murlidhar Devidas Amte -
> > better known as the humanitarian crusader Baba Amte - ; came across what
> > seemed to
> > be a bundle on the side of the road. When he took a closer look, Amte, to
> > his horror, encountered a man in the last stages of leprosy. He saw a
> > rotting
> > mass of human flesh without fingers and toes, with holes, sores and worms
> > in place of a nose and eyes. Horrified and afraid, he ran home. But he
> > could
> > not live with himself. To overcome the fear he had experienced, he
> > resolved to work with the leprosy-afflicted, a life-changing decision that
> > laid the
> > seeds for his future course of action.
> >
> > In 1951, on 50 acres of stony wasteland inhabited by wild animals near
> > Warora in north-eastern Maharashtra, Amte along with his wife Sadhana and
> > six patients
> > crippled by leprosy, started building Anandwan, a leprosarium and farm
> > where those shunned by their families and society could live and work with
> > dignity.
> > Among the first tasks, Amte and his companions with deformed hands and
> > feet, built shelters and dug a well which took almost two months. In three
> > years'
> > time, Anandwan grew to a community of 60 people building a new life
> > together. Agriculture, the mainstay of Anandwan's economy, developed
> > gradually, along
> > with its diverse endeavours.
> >
> > Impressive growth
> >
> > Today, Anandwan sprawls across 175 hectares, encompassing hospitals for
> > the treatment, training and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, schools
> > for the
> > leprosy-afflicted, blind, deaf-mute and handicapped and a home for the
> > leprosy-afflicted old. It boasts of 120 hectares of agricultural land and
> > vocational
> > training centres for disabled youth and rural school and college dropouts.
> > It also includes a home for senior citizens, a community nursery for
> > orphans
> > and the children of those with leprosy, and housing for some 2,000
> > residents, among various other endeavours. These varied activities at
> > Anandwan are carried
> > out by the leprosy-afflicted and disabled themselves. More than five
> > decades of hard, laborious work has created this "grove of joy" which
> > offers opportunities
> > to live a life of dignity to its residents.
> >
> > During my visit to Anandwan, I watch a partially blind man named Govind
> > weaving a handloom mat. The task demands craftsmanship, patience and
> > attention to
> > detail. Govind progresses extremely slowly but with confidence. A visitor
> > comments, "He can't see a thing so I don't know how he weaves." At
> > Anandwan,
> > countless such persons with disabilities are trained in trades ranging
> > from carpet making to carpentry, handloom weaving to electrical work,
> > tailoring
> > to repairing air conditioners. The rehabilitated members of Anandwan's
> > community produce a diverse range of products including cloth and carpets,
> > leather
> > products and metal furniture, coolers and bicycles. In a country where the
> > disabled are usually sighted begging on the streets or in trains in
> > miserable
> > conditions without any dignity, Amte's creative response - "Work builds,
> > charity destroys" - comes alive in the vocational training centres here.
> >
> > Through the years, Anandwan has been home to many remarkable individuals
> > who have overcome enormous odds to rebuild their lives fruitfully,
> > utilising the
> > opportunities provided here.
> >
> > Courageous lives
> >
> > Eighty-three-year-old Bansilalji is one such individual. A long-time
> > colleague of Amte, Bansilalji talks of the devastating discrimination he
> > faced when
> > afflicted by leprosy. "Anywhere in the world," he tells me emphatically,
> > "once you have leprosy, you have no father, no mother, no brother, no
> > relatives.
> > No one loves you." With a smile on his wrinkled face, he is rational and
> > understanding about the absolute rejection he faced from his near and dear
> > ones.
> > They were very afraid of getting infected, he tells me. They were
> > illiterate and believed that leprosy could not be cured, he reasons
> > further. People from
> > his village, including his own relatives, would refuse to visit his house
> > and buy the milk of his buffaloes. Bansilalji found that people who used
> > to love
> > him and care for him - his parents, siblings, wife and friends - now
> > systematically avoided him. They refused to eat with him, refused to talk
> > to him,
> > rejected him entirely. Utterly frustrated, he decided to leave home,
> > resolving to commit suicide. But fortunately, he happened to meet Amte in
> > 1956, and
> > in the days that followed, played a significant role in helping him
> > develop Anandwan's agriculture in its early days. Today, Bansilalji's son
> > and grandson
> > visit him at Anandwan, but the scars of the discrimination he faced are
> > etched on his mind so deeply that he refuses to visit his old home.
> >
> > Another life lived with courage is that of Sadashiv Tajne. Sadashiv was
> > afflicted by polio at the age of three, hence he cannot walk. I had
> > decided to talk
> > to him about his disability, but he spoke to me about his work at Anandwan
> > with so much hope, energy and enthusiasm that I forgot my original
> > purpose,
> > forgot that I was speaking with a disabled man. Sadashiv's parents
> > educated him up to Class 10; throughout those years, he would move about
> > on his hands.
> > In 1972, he met Amte and enrolled at Anand Niketan College - the Arts,
> > Science and Commerce College built by the leprosy-afflicted for those
> > without leprosy
> > from the world beyond Anandwan. To educate himself during college, he had
> > to travel two kilometres back and forth on his hands everyday. While
> > pursuing
> > his formal education, he learned various trades at Anandwan's vocational
> > training centre. Today, he is the supervisor of the same programme, and
> > also the
> > director of Anandwan's orchestra. At Anandwan itself, he married Asha, a
> > deaf and mute woman, with whom he has what he describes as a wonderful
> > marriage.
> > Sadashiv has never considered himself disabled, never avoided any task due
> > to his disability, never said no.
> >
> > A range of endeavours
> >
> > Over five and a half decades, Anandwan has pioneered a diverse range of
> > endeavours in various fields ranging from community living to caring for
> > the environment.
> > One such endeavour at Anandwan is its very own, extraordinary orchestra -
> > Swaranandawan. I am moved beyond words to see this group of performers
> > with varying
> > disabilities on stage. Swaranandawan belts out popular, lively film songs
> > in self-assured, confident voices. A sign on the backdrop to the stage
> > reads
> > "Give them a chance, not charity"; beneath it is painted a raised fist.
> > Some performers move to the centre of the stage by supporting themselves
> > on their
> > hands. Other blind singers have to be helped in order to face the
> > audience. But, in spite of the difficulties, they are undaunted, confident
> > and charismatic.
> > A little girl sings "Dil hai chota sa, Choti si Asha". Her talented mother
> > sings "Jo bhi kiya, Hamna kiya, Shaan se". After the performance, the
> > audience
> > - visitors from Bihar - crowd around the artists. One of the
> > polio-afflicted singers, who is also the flamboyant compere of the show,
> > has sung a song dedicated
> > to his life-partner, who is deaf and mute. Who is she, people from the
> > audience ask him? Can we see your house, they continue. She is very lucky
> > (to have
> > a husband like you), remarks one lady.
> >
> > Back to reality
> >
> > Having spent a few unforgettable days at Anandwan, I take my leave. On the
> > train, I encounter many beggars, some blind, some without legs who are
> > crawling
> > on their hands, some pointing out their deformities to me. What kind of a
> > society are we, I think to myself, that cannot even provide a basic life
> > of dignity
> > to our fellow human beings? As the beggars stream past me gradually, I am
> > reminded of my days at Anandwan. I am reminded of the girl who confidently
> > pointed
> > out directions to me with her hand amputated at the elbow. I am reminded
> > of a group of deaf and mute students talking animatedly amongst themselves
> > in
> > sign language. I am reminded of the partially blind girls who danced
> > beautifully to the beat of the Anandwan orchestra. Outside Anandwan, the
> > world seems
> > to be back to its usual self. It is difficult to keep in mind that a place
> > such as Anandwan really exists.
> >
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-- 
Rahul Kelapure
(ADVOCATE)
+919811650159




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