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The leper

Thursday, October 22, 2009 , 37 Comments

I was traveling by this newly operational Howrah-Ranchi intercity express. I scheduled my trip in last moment and hence could not seek a proper reservation. The road towards the Howrah station was at its usual worst. We just reached the station on the nick of time and had to rush through the overly crowded platform to board the train.

At the time of entering the coach, I saw this weird old man sitting in the corner seat of the bogie. He looked very different with his eyes popping out and his skin a manifestation of unhealthy colors. He was very awful to look at, very appalling and smeared. He sat right opposite at the passage window seat. He stopped the hawker passing by and purchased a cup of tea in exchange of a shining 5-rupee coin. The hawker despite the sordid appearance did not bother to loose his customer and handed over the beverage quietly.

The leper indeed was a bad sight to look at and definitely posed as a big risk of airborne infections as such. While I was contemplating to change my seat, a woman came inside the bogie with two police guards and directed them towards that old person. She apparently wanted those guards to chase him away. The police guards happily obliged the lady or, whatever you call her.

The woman who called the guards to chase him away heaved a sigh of relief and despite of having a place well enough for 2 people to sit in, almost sat on me. For once I wondered whether who is more disgraceful- the woman or the leper.

Feeling disgusted, I tried to move to the other side of the bogie, and found that leper person lying on the floor near the washbasin. No, the guards did not take him out of the train to some place to quarantine. They made the leper to sit near the washbasin on the gate. Another look at that person and you may sense that he looked more distressed than dangerous. He looked like a person who needs urgent medical help and restoration. If not, at least, a comfortable place to sit.

My new seat was not too far away from the gate and I could hear many passengers crossing by that basin area. They cursed, humiliated and ignored the leper and moved away to pursue their own interests. None of the passerby seems to have shown concern towards the person’ condition. No, I am not talking about showing sympathy and saying, “we do care but we are helpless”.

My station came and I tried to get down without having to see that person again. I did not see him but I could not forget him. He made me to think that how beautiful is the world we live in.

We expect sun, moon, plantations, earth and skies to give us everything that we as a human want, but do we bother about expectations on us to sustain the balance of humankind and universe. We clean our house but dump the garbage on road or at neighborhood. Sometime, we do not even rise beyond the parapet of our homes.

In a way, all human beings become a leper or treat others, once or many times in our lives. Leper not by the virtue of skin disorder but by semblance of- old age, gender, lower financial status, physical injuries, caste, any disease, accidents etc. Our most loved possessions, becomes tradable. From our lenses to our vision, everything is disposable and subjected to secondary approvals. We discriminate, sympathies, make faces, draw conclusions and then start cutting corners. It does not end there. It is just one instance of “social contamination”.

Social contamination is another form of leprosy and unlike the latter it does not just corrupts our skin but our minds, our souls too. Those too without being in the same direct contactable area. No matter the techno scientific advancement, people still considers it as dreadful as an avoidable nightmare. They not just discriminate, conclude or cut corners but they also start spreading this germ of “social contamination” to many others incl the sufferer. The social lepers count their leprosy to be a beauty, and take delight in sins, which in the sight of God is far viler than the worst disease of the body. They associate with other social lepers and form a confraternity. A confraternity that equally hates cleansing and do not show any faith for healing.

Respectable are the people like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dr. Ambedkar and many others who have fought some of these social viral and set new standards. Unfortunately, they were just handful. Fortunately, they did not let this fact daunt their cause.

Would you agree that social contamination is like leprosy? Would you also agree that it is curable, needs treatment, and not just raised eyebrows and illogical objections? Would you agree enough to adopt the same in your life? Finally, after so much of agreement, it would not be surprising if many of us back off in name of many excuses to not adopt and be able to bring the change. Agree? Congratulations, you are “socially contaminated”. We are the contributory generation, which carries hi tech gizmos, labels and nano age living but failed social structures.

“Complaint I, as I had no shoes until I saw a man with no legs.
Complaint I, as I had no legs until I saw humanity with legs, shoes but sans spine, sans compassion.

The autor is half Human, half machine. Go Figure or just revel in what I write


  1. very true. I feel as an Indian, we are much more discriminative to our-own people than most people...last lines are inspiring.

  2. we dont have any other option do we? Yet we all complain and none of us act! We dont deserve to complain abt the system when we dont contribute anything to it!..last lines were nice!

  3. @ ZB
    Thanks. Seeing you here after long time. Take care:)

    @ HAry
    We have many options...all we need to do is open our eyes and see. We need to start contributing towards immunity.

  4. Good to see you after a long gap.
    It is a superb post by you.
    We need to rediscover ourselves.To a great extent,I think,our SANSKAR at early days in life have a lot to do with this attitude towards various other people.

  5. i am speechless...
    i am really at the loss of words....

    u have simply woven a good post which touches our hearts and souls...

    really good one...
    bole to wait for a post on ur blog was worth

    keep them coming...

    take care
    b well...

  6. So true. Life is hard on everyone including us. As I say its not how life treats us but its how we treat life which is important :)

    Good post :)

  7. Hmm a thought provoking post!!!

    The problem with us is that we want to see change and society to improve but when it comes to us we always lag behind!!! Sometimes it is our traditions which stop us and other times it is our upbringing!!!

  8. @ BKCji
    Thank you and i truly agree with you that we have formed lot many wrong notions as part of our sanskar and allow us such attitude or attrocities.

    @ Yogesh
    Thanks a ton Yogesh. That was a very lavish for a praise:) Keep coming.

  9. @ Aditya
    Thanks and keep writing:)

    @ Smita
    Thanks and am happy that you too believe the same:)

  10. You've touched a very serious issue!! We live in a society that addresses these in that very manner..and some how we have too become like that so as to be a part of that society!! I sometimes feel that we wear blinkers which is really running away from our duties. Social responsibility is something which is really missing in us!!

  11. hey as u suggested to me ,I ve just created a new blog ..exclusively for discussin social topics....i have invited you.. :-p.
    these issues will be more powerfully expressed if its from a common base..i feel else it will get sendimented with lots of comments and no results...

    plz do inform me about bloggers who are ready to take this up.. :-p

  12. Everything you mentioned made a whole lota sense.

    Its not only in India, elsewhere even, they find it hard to acknowledge the different kinda people that exist in the society. It is indeed saddening.
    Hope your post made a difference :)


  13. @ Nazish
    Than ks in anticipation that you will not let shallow gains/ insights affect ur decision and strive to make a change:)

    Pl remember no one is small or alone to be the change he/she wants to be

    @ Rahul
    Sure, pl gimme the URL...lets see how it is:)

    @ Usha
    Thanks Usha. I find unacceptability more in India than many other countries. But u r right that it is a world phenomenon- a gen human nature. Never mind, we are here to bring change as small they are and I hope will get ur support as well:)

  14. Hey I dont know what is blogrolling but I have followed you long ago and I get your updates regularly :). You can see my stupid face in your followers list ;)

    I love your writings. SO dont expect me to miss them :P :)

  15. Is it easy to change?

    Why do ppl spend money abroad? and are reluctant to spend it in India?

    Is it bcoz there they get more value for their buck? While this argument may seem out of context, it actually is not.

    the taxes that we spend are not utilised effectively. if that is done, there would not be any 'lepers' on the streets or in our minds. E.g. there was a huge amount of grains that rotted in govt godowns due to lack of care... enough food to feed ppl 4 1 (or was it 3) months. yet it was found only when a drought was imminent. Why was this not news last year?

    Like Gandhiji said - we have enought for our needs, but never enough for our greed.

    PS: Even if u or I wanted to do anything for the man, how easy/difficult would this be in our country?

    Just watched this movie called Shikhar starrig shahid kapoor, ajay devgan, bips, and amrita rao. Excellent movie that showcases reality of how people r fooled by corporates and govt. This movie bombed @ the box office and didnt get good revus (surprise surprise) yet its awesome as it shows reality. Do watch it....

    Post was very nicely written.

  16. We can't expect care and empathy from a society that revels in watching reality shows and mega serials than a neighbour suffering next door.

    No one chooses to make a difference but turn their backs on the known evils. The veil of ignorance should be lifted from our humanity.

    It could never happen to me is the general opinion. What if that discarded wire lying under water could electrocute you or your family? In a world of absolutes, atleast Relative thinking could bring a semblance of needed action.

    The authorities of our so called Welfare State are bidding their time abroad basking in the sun and bathing in the seas while we are left in the lurch. Common man fighting for social rights and justice for others is not so common in this country!

    Good Insights! This disease is worse than leprosy or Aids.

  17. @ Aditya
    Thanks for the lavish adulation:)

    yes, i can see ur pic in my blogdost and i am sooo glad that you like my writing:)

    Keep writing.

    @ Spike
    Yes, i truly agree with you. We Indians have a thing for "phoren" brand even though if it is made by an Indian/Asian and sold thru firangi label. And the grain thing is right...It was for months..Hoarding, black marketing etc is a big problem...Look at Orissa-kalahari and all.

  18. @ Surya

    thanks for sharing your valuable insight. I agree that welfare commitee does nothing remotely related to "welfare". There has to be a solution of this. You can credit this less to ignorance and more to irresponsibility and carelessness. Moreover, absence of action against the above 3 "governmental virtues":)

  19. Theres a saying "Those who love you the most, show the least".
    The most active contributors speak less, and do more. I second that.
    The post is a good insight on the social stigma and apartheid caused subsequently. Kudos.
    Hope you're not one of those who "just writes".. Your feelings, your goodwill can only be justified when you actively start contributing to the eradication of such issues.
    I do, do you ? :)
    Keep writing, keep the wonderful awareness-effort on. Cheers !!

  20. great post ekta! sometimes we can be so callous and selfish!! this reminds me of a song.. check it out

  21. @ SC aka Sanjib Chakraborthy

    Thanks for finally making here. No, i do not just write. In fact i do as well. For eg- I spent an entire evening chatting with a person in distress:)

    @ Hemish
    Thanks Buddy. the video sounds interesting. I shall sure check it out and give you my feedback. Have fun!

  22. Nice post. People are disgusted at a leper because it is visible outside. God knows how many people have more dangerous disease that are not visible. Many people do not know leprosy is not contagious. Poor man. I pity him.

  23. @ SG

    Social contamination is also not contagious but it spreads in a strange way. A la "kyonki saaas bhi kabhi bahu thi" types!

    Moreover, it is less about ppl and more about the railway administartion! If you have ever travelled Via Kolkata-Howrah station? It is disgusting!

  24. I feel so terrible for that leper, why was he on his own? Maybe his family threw him out? I have no idea where he could have been taken or sent... there must be places for rehabilitation for those suffering from leprosy?

    Touching post. Made me think about how tough Gandhi, Ambedkar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy were and how strong!! They fought against so much all those years ago!!

  25. @ indianhomemaker

    Hi, even i too do not have answer to these questions. I am sure there must be places but what i am not sure is that whether they can cure it or not. He appeared as a leper with all those dreadful patches.

    Hats off to ppl like Raja ram mohan roy and others!

    PS: IHM, welcome to my blog, I hope to see u again. keep writing.

  26. When I see such old men the first thought that will come to my mind is, how he would Have been in his younger days? Maybe he would Have had a wonderful family but his kids may dumped him... Or he would Have lost them in some tragic incidents... Anyways I feel really bad...
    And coming to the main thing of this post... I always think about doing Something useful that may help the society around but something or other stops... Today while returning from office I Have been thinking about this... What a life I am living now? Completely unworthy for everybody :(
    A great post Ekta... If we see more posts like this often that itself will tempt people to think and act on this...

  27. We all come with deformities, some physically and rest in their minds and brains... but yes we all. So, how does it differ? Treating one with physical deformity with pity and sympathy is also equally wrong. I am not saying, shun them and put them on the same pedestal as that of others who are physically fit. What I mean is, show care not pity should be our concern. I know I am all blabbering here.... Maafi.

  28. @ Kanagu

    I appreciate your thoughts but I would reserve my comments as we do not know what could be the real reason. Was he a real needy person or escaped from some place or thrown out. We can definitely bring a change in many ways. A lot of such helplines could be enabled.

    Thanks for liking my post and yes, i am sure you are not living a unworthy life. There is something beautiful yet to be unexplored:)

    @ Vee
    No, you are not balbbering at all. What you said is very right and appropriate. Thanks for writing in. Keep visiting:)

  29. Yup u are so right. Although to be honest, althgh i wld feel pity for the poor man..i wldnt really go up to him to chk if he needed nethin..i guess its just not a part of who I am..i wld just just like u did..get off the train and try to frgt all abt him :(

    PS: On a unrelated note, u look so much like a frnd of mine in this profile pic, that for a sec I actually thought u were her. :)

  30. @ Shanu
    Thanks for writing and i admire the fact that you are being very honest on the case.

    I love all your blogs and am glad to see u in n/w.

    PS replied: Cool, i must thank your friend and would be delighted to see her picture. Take care.

  31. Hi Ekta,

    You have been awarded:

  32. @ Kanagu

    Thanks that seems great...lemme check:)

  33. At times even if one wishes to help, the systems are not in place in India. Like if you had a number to call up which could help this guy, wouldnt you have done that? There are times when i buy a packet of chips and have to carry the wrapper all the way home, because of lack of availability of dust-bins. But as rightly said by you, you would not call for medical help even if it was available, if you dont feel it :)

  34. @ ani_aset
    Thanks for writing in. Its been long time since you were here:)

    Its good that you carry the pack to home n not litter like a lot of ppl around. Thats a good thing and kudos!

    BTW, I do not know if such helpline exists. I know of one helpline in Kolkata-traffic police- It is useless for sure!

  35. I have noticed that you write so much about what is all around us. Things which probably would have been there but forgotten behind. I like it that you bring these all up.. There is much to be read in your blog but I am on it. Keep writing :)

  36. @ Isha

    Thanks dear. I am glad that you have taken time to read my other posts too and not just read the latest one. Thanks for encouragement buddy. Stay tuned, love to have you here:)

  37. while i commend (and agree with) the application of the disease analogy to social contamination in the latter part of your post, it's the opening episode that interests and worries me.
    we find fault with the woman who had the leprosy patient (gandhiji insisted on calling them that instead of 'leper' on account of the derogatory connotation)shooed away by poice women. Are we any different? i'm not sure about myself, so i dont put such questions to myself and hope i'll not be put in a position you found yourself in,in the train.
    will i take that man out of the train and arrange to have him taken to the hospital, or some place he can be looked after? leave alone all that, WILL WE TALK TO HIM AND TREAT HIM LIKE A HUMAN BEING AND TRY AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP HIM?
    I'm not sure of the answer regading myself?
    this being the situation, what moral grounds do we have to judge that woman?


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