It recently happened with me. Two weeks ago my parents asked me,” Aayush lets go to Lalpur”. I said,” Ma, what will I do there? There is nothing to do there, there is no network in the phone, they don’t even have a television to kill time” to which my mother said,”Come on, it has been a long time since you visited grandpa, he is all alone there”. Half-heartedly, I agreed to visit my grandpa at Lalpur.

Lalpur was 17 long hours from Mumbai by changing trains and then two hours roller coaster ride on bumpy roads. OMG!!! I was in a foul mood, cursing myself for having agreed to the plan. After almost 20 hours I was so bored and angry on myself as to why I agreed for this. 

When we reached, grandpa gave us a warm welcome and showed us our room. I went into his room and saw, his room was neat, a clean bed, a small temple, some spiritual books, the ceiling fan moved so slowly that one could count the number of times it moved . I wondered how could someone live in such place. Being a Mumbaikar may be I was not used to slowing life and slow fans.

At night, mother cooked dinner for all of us. Grandpa came to me and said, “Aayush, son can you fix this tape recorder for me as I want to hear bhajans”. I agreed. After fixing it I told grandpa to give me cassettes to test it. He showed me a bag full of cassettes. When I saw it there were many old ‘labelled’ cassettes, however, there was only one cassette which was ‘unlabelled’. Out of curiosity, I  picked that and played it.

The Cassette started

“Dear Father, this is probably the last time you are hearing my voice, because when you hear this tape I will not be in this world anymore.

Suddenly all came to the tape recorder and started listening to the tape.

” Father, I just want to tell you that you have always taught me values make a person beautiful and not the outer appearance. I always tried to be beautiful from inside (never sacrificed on values) and follow your lessons. But, Today I have come to a conclusion that the world doesn’t think so. This world loves you only when you are useful to them, their loyalty ends when the benefits stop.

I got this body since birth. I was always looked with disrespect and fear due to my leprosy. I tried to ignore them. I used to cry in my room alone. I never had friends as no one was willing to talk with me. When all students of my class used to play games and talk, I had to surround myself with books to save myself from humiliation.I decided to move to Mumbai thinking that maybe there, people would understand me which lalpurians couldn’t.

It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.

Sadly, I got the same reaction. I pushed, strove to make myself busy in work so that I do not have to face humiliation and unempathetic folks; I failed miserably. My seniors and co-workers used to make fun of me. Even my boss never gave me an opportunity to develop and grow. I know you’d never tell me this but I want to tell you that I know that I got rejected five times for marriage due to my disease.

I feel so lonely today, I do not have anyone with whom I can share my problems. I know I have put your values at stake by doing this but I don’t see any reason to live. The world has not accepted me. It would be better I go from this world.

I was electrified after hearing this.  I asked grandpa about this. He told me that the story is about Bhakti Aunty (My dad’s sister) Bhakti aunty was born with leprosy. Grandpa never discriminated between his two children. Unfortunately, at the age of five Bhakti Aunty started discovering that she is not normal. She used to ask Grandpa why nobody would play with her or even be friends with her. Grandpa always used to support her. She studied well and became a doctor. She also managed to get a job in reputed hospital. She was never happy from inside. At that time, the cure of leprosy was not found and there was a lack of awareness among the society towards this disease. She was so upset with the general stigma towards her disease, she took her life.

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I was six years old when my aunty had ended her life by eating poison. That time, I was not able to understand all this. But now at the age of twenties, I could feel her as one of my friend had leprosy and she has recently been diagnosed.Fifteen years has passed Still the stigma towards this disease has not gone. The cure has been found but people facing it has a lot to suffer.

You might be thinking now cure has found so the problem is solved. Following are some facts which may make you reconsider your attitude towards this disease:

1. Laws in the states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa prohibit leprosy patients from running in local elections.

2. Almost all of the marriage and divorce laws of India consider leprosy as grounds for divorce with the Special Marriage Act of 1954 declaring leprosy “incurable.”

3. If you are a leprosy patient you aren’t allowed to drive a vehicle because the Motor Vehicle Act 1939 considers leprosy patients ineligible for a driving licence.
Likewise, Section 56 (1) and (2) of the Indian Rail Act 1990 declares a leprosy patient ineligible for rail travel.

Lastly, I would like to request you all that if you know anyone with leprosy or any other disease, be friends with them and treat them like you treat your other friends. Having a degree be it any is a waste if you are not human first. Be empathetic and spread love, who knows tomorrow even we would be less able to do things.

Just because we all are blessed to be normal, we have no right to make fun of disabled. Rise up, embrace humanity..