CATCHING UP WITH SINGESWHAR

In May 2009 I caught up with Singeshwar, one of our former leprosy patients, in Benares. I already knew from my team that he had come from his village a few weeks earlier to ask Back to Life for medical help. He was suffering from severe diarrhoea and struggled with the enormous heat. Many leprosy patients – even those already cured – are not sweating enough to cool down their body temperature. Singeshwar is severely affected by this phenomenon. Luckily, our team was able to nurse him back to health with some medicines and care.
 
I was so happy to see him and listen to all his news. He told me about the little girl he had brought to Benares back in 1997 to receive leprosy therapy at the Back to Life street clinic. She was cured before the disease could cause any visible mutilation to her body. Now, I learned, she had married and given birth to a healthy child. Singeshwar proudly showed me a photo of the young woman. Although a long time ago, for a moment it felt like it was only yesterday that I met her.
 
He told me that the water buffalo cow, which we had bought him 1.5 years ago upon his return to his village, had given birth to a healthy calf and was already expecting another one. Also her milk would make the most delicious yogurt. He was very happy. Singeshwar also spoke to me about a child from his village who had contracted leprosy. We figured he would bring the boy next month, have him tested and started on therapy.
 
Singeshwar showed me his disability card, which he had applied for. Though I was happy about his initiative, I could not believe he had only been granted 40% disability. In my opinion, Singeshwar was severely handicapped. He had not a single finger or toe left and walked on stumps, most of his nose was gone, his lower eyelids hang down so far that they were constantly at risk of dehydration and blindness, and had enormous organic problems. I felt frustrated and thought that a Western country would have probably granted him  120% including all support services. However, I knew the comparison did not make sense. Singeshwar, in turn, did not understand why I was upset. He was so content to have an official document with his name on it. It acknowledged his existence and belonging to the Indian society. His modesty and positive outlook have never ceased to impress me.
 
He then put photo film into my hand, wanting to share the latest impressions from his life in the village. Singeshwar had taken these pictures with a small, almost antique camera, which I gave him many years ago, so he could document his “old new” life. The simple model worked well for him as he had to handle it without fingers. His body was in very good condition, for the first time I could not see any sores on him. Thanks to the little house Back to Life helped him to build he was now able to take good care of himself. However, Singeshwar shared with me he would like to have a hand-operated wheelchair so he could move around at greater ease. We gladly fulfilled his wish. After a few more days in Benares, he returned to his village with his new wheelchair.

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