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Baba Amte’s brave and compassionate life bears the marks of greatness without any myths enveloping it. It’s when I tried to know about this great man that I understood the meaning of ‘naked truth’.

During the six decade long hard work he put into the making of Anandwan (Forest of Joy), providing “meaningful rehabilitation” to India’s leprosy patients and other outcasts, he never allowed any myth or label build around him or his work.

That’s no mean achievement in a country where gurus and yogis of all sorts abound; where common people are easily hoodwinked by peddlers on god preaching and publicizing the scope of their charity work.

Like Buddha, Baba Amte renounced all luxuries and privileges that were rightfully his by birth. But Amte’s goal was not enlightenment. He took his young wife and two little sons along with him and went in search of lepers and others rejected by ‘healthy society’ from its fold. He found them a place to live in, treated and nursed them, taught them productive skills and thereby restored their ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-worth’.

He showed the world how to build man out of his very ruin!

Baba Amte himself was handicapped by cervical spondylosis (degeneration of spine) for four decades. He couldn’t sit erect and stand or walk without support, so he was bed-ridden most of the time. Still, he directed all his activities from his bed and found joy in it. Of this he said, “…pain and sorrows became the witness to my happiness… I asked only to be used till I lie down in the company of mother earth.”

Yes, “to be used” – When Baba Amte died on 9 Feb 2008, at the ripe age of 93 years, he was buried as per his wish so that his body could become one with “mother earth” and be useful for plants.

Links: 1. For information on Anandwan and satellite projects click here. 2. For a biography of Baba Amte click here. 3. For another one click here. 4. For a short film on Baba and Anandwan click here. 5. Economist has an article on Baba Amte here.

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