In April 2011, I visited Anandwan (Forest of Joy) close to Warora (Chandrapur district) in Central India. Founded in 1948, it was set up by social activist Baba Amte to treat and rehabilitate leprosy patients. Anandwan is a place of refuge for these patients discarded by the society.
Apart from the medical treatment, rehabilitating patients primarily means getting their self-respect, their confidence back, giving them a sense of community and belonging, which they lost when they contracted leprosy. Anandwan gives these people a second chance – a chance to get back their self-respect. A chance to get back on their own feet. A chance at happiness.
The patients, in turn, show incredible courage and an indomitable spirit to fight their situation – social, physical, psychological. They are survivors, who receive little solace or support from family or from organized religion – which traditionally views leprosy as an act of God and treats patients as outcasts. What does such exclusion do to one’s faith – in the society, in religion, in God? Who/what would they look up to?
That’s where this sign comes in – the one in red, bold Devanagri (Hindi) font, which would roughly translate as “Work is our only God”. If I were to interpret this sign, it would seem to reflect their rejection of organized religion and, more importantly, their defiance at the society that treated them so inhumanly.
It’s taken a while for me to write about this – mainly because this visit took a few years back. But as I read the topic of the Weekly Photo Challenge from last Friday, this was the first and only thing I could think of.
So, here’s my entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge of Oct. 3, 2014 and the theme is Signs.