This is a guest post by Chitra and Part One of a two-part series.
Our bus moved slowly across the tall sunlit trees in the afternoon. Farms of cotton were visible every now and then. The guide who accompanied us told that we were near Warora in Chandrapur district in the state of Maharashtra. As we moved ahead, the board “Grampanchayat – Anandwan” started becoming visible, and with it one could witness the selfless services few human beings had to offer to the society. I had never in my wildest dreams thought that there could be people so deformed and unwanted by others until my visit to Anandwan.
We were welcomed by the silent roads which finally lead to a main hall, very rightly named “Krutagyata Bhavan” (Gratitude Home) in the center of Anandwan. I am not sure if the silence of the whole place reflected the vacuum of thousands of minds living in the premises or if it simply a silence of reverence to the great soul who gave a place called home to the thousands of helpless lives.
It was a good decision by management to show us a beautiful short film on how Baba Amte started his work for the society and how Anandwan grew from a few inmates to the thousands today. It helped us understand the struggle someone suffering from leprosy faced and also introduced us to the great work Baba had undertaken. This was followed by a small talk by Mr. Vikas Amte (Baba Amte’s son).
We had an unforgettable lunch at Anandwan cooked and served by the people who were cured of leprosy but continued staying there helping fellow human beings. For the first time in my life I had a strong feeling of not wasting a single morsel in the plate lying in front of me and I gobbled up the whole food including curry leaves.
After the lunch we were taken to Dr Amte’s home where we met Sadhana Tai, wife of Baba Amte. She welcomed us and made us feel at home. Peace surrounding the room where Baba breathed his last spread across the whole house and towards Anandwan. It had various pictures showing Baba with Dalai Lama and other great leaders. Several months after our visit I got to know that Sadhana Tai was no more and it reminded me of how ill she was when we met her and how she took the efforts to speak to each one of us (around 20 visitors) and made us feel at home. It came naturally to the great soul who had taken the responsibility of standing with her husband and opening the doors of her home to the infinite people outside who were helpless and suffered from the dreaded disease called leprosy.
Later we were taken around the campus which felt like a ride around heaven. It reminded me of my aunt in Chennai. Whenever I visit her, after lunch and tea she would take me around for a trip. This felt the same as if I am a distant relative of the Amtes and Sadhana Tai was my aunt who arranged this trip for me. Beautifully maintained gardens, blooming flowers and the small river created by the people staying there gave the place a complete charm.
Finally we where taken to the place where Baba was laid to rest. It was a small area full of flowers in infinite and bright colours. Close to it was a small rose garden with roses blooming everywhere. Later I came to know that it is the place where anybody who died in Anandwan is buried and a plant in his or her memory is planted. The thousand lives which were discarded by society was beautifully transformed into wonderful, fragrant and beautiful colours by Baba and Mother Nature who distinguishes none.
We also had a glimpse of the small scale industries and jobs that were taken up by people staying there to support themselves.
The majority of us were silent when we headed to Hemalkasa from Anandvan. Nobody had words to express what we saw for what we saw was something which could not be talked about, nor written about. It was something that could be felt by the thing called ‘human’ that exists inside each one of us. I left Anandwan with a strong desire to be of some use to the society.
This visit did bring out a positive change in me. Now I don’t complain and am thankful for the small, comfortable and happy life god has gifted me.
Journey to Hemalkasa
Our journey to Hemalkasa was the most beautiful journey I ever had in my lifetime. It was night when we crossed the forests of Gadchiroli district. Tallest of the tall trees surrounded the roads that lead us to Hemalkasa. The night was clear and infinite stars peeped through the sky. I can bet the number of stars I saw during this journey was at least a 1000 times greater than what I can see in the dwindled sky of my city. And to add to the beauty of the whole night there were fire flies moving across here and there as if stars overflowed from the sky and were stuck on trees. I wished the journey never ended and life continued in this magical moment. I did not know then that the magic had only begun. There was a lot more waiting for me at Hemalkasa.
To be continued… click for Part Two.
About the Author
Chitra loves her job of testing softwares in HSBC Global Technology. She also enjoys reading, writing, travelling and spending time with small kids.
See other posts by Chitra.
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