Gajanan Vasu dips his forefinger in a small pool of milk and lifts it up in the air. The white blob clings to his fingertip; not a drop rolls down.
“See,” Gajanan tells me proudly. “Hundred percent pure. We’re not like other dairies that water down their milk. People trust us. Doctors even recommend that children be given only our milk.”
As Gajanan talks briskly about how he has improved milk yields and sales by cross-breeding, feeding his animals high-protein fodder, and advertising on cable TV, he seems like any other manager boasting about his accomplishments. But this short man in his mid 50s radiating self-confidence is no typical executive.
Three decades ago, Gajanan was driven out of his village for contracting that most stigmatized and dreaded of diseases—leprosy. His own family shunned him.
“I thought then that I had only two choices—to commit suicide or go mad,” Gajanan says.
Then someone told Gajanan to go to Anandwan, the community near Nagpur founded by Murlidhar Devidas “Baba” Amte. Here, Gajanan was welcomed, and given shelter, food and treatment. He was also quickly put to work—initially simple jobs like delivering letters, and then trained—by a leprosy patient like himself—to weave carpets. Within a couple of years his leprosy was arrested. But he decided to remain in Anandwan rather than risk an uncertain future in his village. A quick student, he learnt a variety of skills including stage lighting for the community’s musical troupe. He fell in love with a young woman who’d come to Anandwan for the same reasons and married her. A few years ago, he was appointed the manager of Anandwan’s then languishing dairy and quickly turned it around.
“At Anandwan, I regained my self-respect,” Gajanan says. “It enabled me to become all that I could be.”
During a recent visit to Anandwan, I came upon numerous such inspiring examples of resurrection. I’d gone there to find out what shape this famous institution was in, more than six decades after its founding in 1951. It was an interesting time to visit—the Amte family has always run Anandwan and now the third generation is taking over. How will Baba’s grandchildren fare?
This then is the legacy that Prakash’s sons Digant and Aniket, and Vikas’s two children, Kaustubh and Sheetal, have to live up to. Fortunately, all four are determined to do so—and have spouses that not only support them but are themselves involved in the organization.
The third generation of Amtes is as dedicated to the Maharogi Sewa Samiti, Baba's charitable organization for aid and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, as the second. The tug of Anandwan and Hemalkasa is very strong, and they all confess that they can’t possibly live anywhere else. Not that they are clones of each other. Digant and Kaustubh are the strong,
Post A Comment