We know about the rapidly expanding India, the cosmopolitan-with-multiplexes-and-big-malls India, the Bollywood India, the proliferating IT industrial India…but what of the other India?
Along the same lines, starts Mallika Sarabhai’s play UNSUNI – Unheard Voices. Monologues, songs and dances on social issues like manual scavenging, life on the streets, and exploitation, strive to give voice to those true, recent stories many have turned a blind eye to.
One of the monologues was on leprosy: a leper who wanted his son to get a good education. Though all the stories invoked a shocking reality, this one really got me thinking...
Now, what do people think when they hear the word “leper”?
Ironically, in this “modern” and “advanced” day and age, the reaction is not so different to that of biblical times: “stay as far away as possible!” Lepers today are still shunned though leprosy is curable and not as contagious as people think it is! They are sent to leper homes which are usually filthy and not maintained well, especially here in India, where a large percentage of the 1 million infected people worldwide reside. Leprosy cannot be contracted by simply touching someone with the disease, as is commonly believed. Close and long-term contact with an infected person usually do the trick.
Leprosy is also known as Hansen's disease. It’s a chronic infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae that results in damage primarily to the peripheral nerves (the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord), skin, testes, eyes, and mucous membrane of the nose. There are two common forms of leprosy, tuberculoid and lepromatous, whose symptoms actually take a few years to surface. Tuberculoid leprosy symptoms are a few well-defined skin lesions that are numb. Lepromatous leprosy symptoms are a chronically stuffy nose and many skin lesions and nodules on the body. Early detection is important but it can still be treated if it’s detected late.
Due to the ignorance of the common man on this issue, lepers have become social outcasts. In order to overcome this ignorance on leprosy and other social taboos like avoiding HIV positive people (though more and more people are learning that touching, hugging or even kissing an infected person won’t spread it!), educational measures must be taken. Only through awareness can we overcome these baseless prejudices which cause us to turn away fellow human beings…
Image from: http://www.hbci.com/~wenonah/hydro/jewelwed.htm