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Learn from the Least : Read this at the original blog by Sulekha:

I met this leprosy affected person at Champa in Chattisgarh, India. Observing her life for a couple of hours challenged me.  Story and pictures: Philipose Vaidyar

Moharmati Yadav, daughter of a post master, was married at the age of fourteen to a steam-engine driver. After four years she learned that she had leprosy. It was thirty two years ago when there was no effective treatment for the disease. They had a daughter and a son of six months old. Her husband took her along with their little son to the Leprosy Mission Hospital at Champa, accompanied by both their fathers.  The hospital was six hours away by bus. Diagnose of the disease was easier and the detection at a very early stage. But it did not make much difference in Moharmati. Knowing the disease, her husband did not want to take her back home.

It was shocking for her and she learned that there were several such people who had come to Champa for treatment from far and wide and never returned. There was a small settlement of such people growing just at the backyard of the hospital.

Her father did take her to his home. He travelled to the hospital periodically to take the drugs for her daughter. In spite of the treatment, the signs of leprosy grew in her (from pauci-bacillary to multi-bacillary and to nerve function impairment). Her father too decided to leave her at the leper’s colony at Champa so that the family will be out of the stigma and Moharmati can access treatment easily at the hospital. Along with her six months old son she landed up in the hospital again and stayed around.  Her father was kind enough to hire out a tiny veranda of a hut in the colony.

Rejected by her husband, parting her older child, Maharmati learned to cope with life like a leper. Her father supplied her some basic vessels for cooking and occasionally visited her with some financial assistance for a few months. Before he got a transfer and moved from the native place, he insisted her to make a living on her own.  She started some rice business in the colony with the extra money her father had left her with.

Thirty years after, sitting inside her grocery shop in the colony, she narrated her story in bits and pieces as customers came, one after the other with their home needs. 

The settlement known as Gogranalla Colony has people from different regions and language background. They or any of their parents had made their way to Champa decades ago for leprosy treatment and made their home here. They made their huts in the nearby land and over the years that followed, migrating ‘birds of the same feather’ flocked here. There are over 1,200 households and about 600 people carrying visible marks of a long affected disease.

The little boy who wants a toffee and the girl sent by her mother for shampoo, mothers who were in the middle of cooking the evening meal, the tailor who wanted a matching thread for the blouse to stitch; all were part of her customers in a brief time.

 

Mohramati, as a sick person under treatment, also had to earn for living, taking care of herself and her little son. “Those days, everybody in the colony had ulcers”, speaking about her little son, she pointed across the street. “All these areas used to be full of litter and when my son started walking, he used to play with those thrown away bandages. It was good to send him away to his father. He was one and half year old then”. 

She continued her heart breaking story; her husband married again, but her father and later her children did visit her. But now Gogranalla is her home and its dwellers her dear ones.  Living alone, she still saves some money to support her children.   

 

For leprosy care, Mohramati has become an opinion leader in the village. During the CADIP Project’s (Community Awareness, Disability Impairment Prvention by The Leprosy Mission Trust in India) feasibility study, Mohramati’s inputs were very important and strategic towards self care training. She has a ‘voice on behalf of the leprosy affected’ and she leads four different Self Care Groups.  She visits the sick and the needy and counsels them. When people from the colony or elsewhere are uncomfortable to access the hospital, she leads their way, and her references are always well attended at the hospital.  CADIP had drawn lessons from Moharmati on Self Care Groups, business ventures and on several other components. She has been a voluntary helper for all the community projects which came in to the colony. She is a good ‘advocate’ and had mobilized more than 45 people for the ID camp and led most of them to the Disability Mela conducted at the early period of CADIP project in the district.

Her home cum shop, the surrounding, and the wash basin kept outside, the stock inside, the mosquito repellent coil she lit that evening for us, her grinning face and the casual conversation she makes with her customers, all speak volumes. The champion who trekked the single-foot path over thirty years against all odds is an open book. 

 Read the original blog: