The Man With A Purpose
It does not take a lot for one to realise the plight of the poor and be thankful for the privileges one has, however acting upon this social and economic divide is what makes these people ‘doers’ and differentiates them from the ‘thinkers’. Murlidhar Devidas Amte or more famously known as Baba Amte is one who has positively impacted numerous people’s lives in India with his social work. He was born in a Hindu Brahmin family, making him belong to the extreme upper class. However, that did not deter him from working towards his goal of reducing the gap between the rich and the poor, by empowering the poor. There is an incident in Baba Amte’s life that is a deep impression on him. It is from the time when he met a blind beggar on the road during Diwali, and he emptied all his coins in the beggar’s bowl. The beggar felt he was fooling him and put pebbles instead of coins. Thus, Baba Amte realised the injustice the beggars face in India and realised that the beggar objecting to so many coins and thinking of them as pebbles is deep rooted in their minds. Thus, Baba Amte felt the need to change this.
Baba was able to become a successful lawyer and he lived a life of luxury. However, he was restless from within which caused him to volunteer and play an active part in the freedom struggle. He was influenced by Tagore, Gandhiji and Sane Guruji. By volunteering as a social worker, he was able to come across another event in his life that would play a big role, this was of a man who had Leprosy. While describing him, he said “A rotting mass of human flesh with two holes in place of a nose, without traces of fingers or toes, with worms and sores where there should have been eyes. Literally a living corpse”. He ran away from there, leaving him in shame of himself. He cared about the man and wanted to make a difference to his life, however he was not able to muster the courage to face a person with Leprosy. After this incident, he decided that the only way for him to overcome this fear was by working with the people suffering from Leprosy. Not only did he help them, but he also gave them company by living with them.
Thus, after working with the people suffering from Leprosy, Baba Amte had overcome his “Mental Leprosy”. He said that the biggest disease is not losing one’s limbs but it is one’s strengths to feel kindness and compassion towards other human beings. His next step was coming up with the Maharogi Sewa Samiti (Leprosy Service Society) which was established for the treatment for Leprosy and also for the people who were affected by Mental Leprosy. It was founded in ‘Anandwan’ or the Forest of Bliss. Baba Amte had decided that he was not only going to help them for the short-term but he was also going to help them for the long term.
This is why he also founded the MSS, which would help in being a self-sufficient and productive society made up of these people. The jobs for the people would range from agriculture to textiles to wood work. The investment made towards the initiative in 1949 was a mere 14 rupees. There were six people and one lame cow. However, after that the initiative took flight expanding from that one place to the whole of Maharashtra, whole of India, and now the whole world. Baba Amte was able to have the impact he wanted to have.
Baba Amte was not only involved in Anandwan but he was also involved in environmentalism. He was against the building of hydroelectric dams on the Narmada River, which was because he believed it was bad for the environment and people would be displaced due to the dams. He felt strongly for the cause that he went to the extent to leave Anandwan in 1990, so that he was able to contribute towards the cause. However, towards the end of his life he came back to finish serving at Anandwan. Even after he has passed away, his sons, Prakash and Vikas Amte are continuing to carry on his legacy.
An inspiring video of his son, who gave a TED Talk on how it felt like being a doctor to a reluctant patient:
He won the 1988 UN Human Rights Prize, 1990 Templeton Prize and the 1999 Gandhi Prize, however these awards did not amount to the amount of happiness and pride he received when he was able to fight and win against Leprosy for numbers of people. A true hero who cared for others and felt happy from benefiting from treating diseases.