Baba Amte, a leading social worker who devoted his life to the care and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, passed away today.
Murlidhar Devidas Amte, popularly known as ‘Baba Amte’ (‘baba’ is a honorific and his last name is pronounced as Am’tay) was born on December 1914 in Vidharbha, Maharashtra, India in a wealthy family. Educated with a law degree, he setup a successful practice in Warora, and was leading a very prosperous life. One one rainy day, he saw a leper on the street getting drenched in rain and left helpless. Baba Amte thought to himself – ‘What would have happened if I was in his position?‘ This little incident was enough to cause a paradigm shift in his perception of society. The well educated rich professional simply quit his practice and decided to dedicate his life to the cause of social justice.
Leprosy was/is probably the most damned disease in India. Plenty of myths and orthodox beliefs existed around leprosy patients. As a result, they were (and still are to some extent) subjected to severe social boycott and condemnation. Baba Amte devoted his life for the cause of the leprosy affected, even allowing his body to be used for medical experiments. With 14 Rupees, two cows and a makeshift building, Baba Amte and his wife established a community project at Anandwan (आनंद वन abode of happiness) near the woods of Nagpur, Maharashtra, central India.
Today Anandvan is recognised all over the world and has led the crusade for dispelling prejudice against leprosy in India. It has a sprawling campus of 180 hectors and runs a budget of millions of Rupees. Thousands of patients live in this colony.
This is one of his compositions that touches my heart. (I’d be thrilled if someone can translate, I can’t)
Update: Ash has translated the first paragraph, and Devendra has translated the entire poem. Checkout the comments section, thanks guys 🙂
A picture that speaks more than a thousand words.
“Joy is more infectious than leprosy”
– Baba Amte
माणूस माझे नाव, माणूस माझे नाव…
दहा दिशांच्या रिंगणात या पुढे माझी धाव…
बिंदु मात्र मी क्षुद्र खरोखर,
परी जिंकले सातहि सागर,
उंच गाठला गौरीशंकर
अग्नीयान मम घेत चालले आकाशाचा ठाव…
मीच इथे ओसाडावरती,
नांगर धरुनी दुबळ्या हाती,
कणकण ही जागवली माती
दुर्भिक्ष्याच्या छाताडावर हसत घातला घाव…
ही शेते अन् ही सुखसदने,
घुमते यातून माझे गाणे,
रोज आळवित नवे तराणे
मी दैन्याच्या विरुद्ध करतो क्षण क्षण नवा उठाव…
सुखेच माझी मला बोचती,
साहसास मम सीमा नसती,
नवीन क्षितिजे सदा खुणवती
दूर दाट निबिडात मांडला पुन्हा नवा मी डाव…
[संग्रह: ज्वाला आणि फुले]