I visited Anandvan, Somnath and Hemalkasa in March 2016; witnessed Baba Amte's work. I hate to admit this. But the only reason I know Baba Amte is only because of the marathi movie about his son Prakash Amte that released in 2014. Until then my knowledge was oblivious to the existence of this selfless family.
|Baba with Sadhana tai (His wife)|
After watching the movie, I read Prakash Amte's autobiography. That's something I did to cross check the authenticity of what was shown in the movie. I was moved. I went online and could only find a handful information about Amte family's work.
It was clear for me that I'll visit this place and contribute in the way possible for me. I made my travel arrangements. I was the only non-senior citizen in the 14 member group going there; two others pushing towards 60! I then Informed my family, office, friends and acquaintances; barring my family only a few people knew where I was heading to. Mind you, I mentioned I was going to Anandvan which was the first and oldest project of Baba Amte and if someone did not know that, he would surely have no knowledge of Somnath and Hemalkasa.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with our people. We know what the press/presstitutes or social networking sites throw at us. I was in the blind too! Why wasn't the internet speaking about them? Here's some replies I actually received when I told people from my life that I was going to Baba Amte's Anandvan:-
1) Ye konse naye baba hain? (Quite an insulting question once you realise who Baba was)
2) Wo lonavala wala resort? (*Face palm*)
Most others would simply send question marks. I don't blame any of them. You and I were unaware because nobody was creating awareness. The media is busy chasing Bollywood actors not speaking to each other or those who went to/got released from prison.
|A board outside the leprosy hospital in Anandvan|
Here's a little info about the places I visited:-
|Vikas Amte, Baba's elder son who is pivotal for the|
administration of all projects.
I had the honor of meeting him. An extremely humble guy!
Literally, Forest of Joy, located in Chandrapur district, 2 hours from Nagpur in the state of Maharashtra is an ashram and a community rehabilitation centre which was started for leprosy patients and the disabled of society. It was founded in 1948 by Baba Amte to provide cure the leprosy patients who were outcasts of their villages, their homes and void of social acceptance even after being cured.
|The ever green Somnath.|
A camp takes place every year which I will soon be a part of!
Baba envisioned Somnath as a village where the cured leprosy patients would live together in a village. There are no inter-caste marriages there; only inter-disability marriages. At present Somnath has about 550 residents, most of them leprosy patients and handicaps. About 1200 acres of land is used for cultivation. This project was started by Baba in 1967 after fighting for and finally being sanctioned "barren" forrest land. At present, it is the powerhouse for all projects for agricultural supplies!
|Prakash and Mandakini Amte treating a tribal kid|
|Amte's Animal Ark|
When I do some sort of social work or I am a part of any environmental initiative, I tend to ask the people around me if they would like to do the same with me. Most people don't want to and a few who want to, make excuses and procrastinate. I don't force anyone. I still won't force anyone. Coz if you don't 'feel' anything then you won't do it. I urge you, or at least try to motivate and inspire you to make a contribution to those who are in dire need of social acceptance, however little that might be. If everybody did a pinch of good, soon there'll be nobody needing any help.
"Social responsibility comes along with wealth and influence" - Baba AmteIf you're reading this, you're definitely 'well to do'! You will do yourself no loss by helping someone selflessly. Let me clarify that. If you have at least:-
1) two meals a day and drinking water
2) two sets of clothes and
3) a roof on your head
you're 'well to do'. Everything else you got whether it just be GOOD food, CLEAN drinking water, house with ROOMS (Plural) and other LUXURIES was only by an ACCIDENT. You were born in a well to do family only by sheer coincidence.
The richest family in the world are not the Ambanis, Tatas, Birlas or Gates, it's the Amtes!