"You may forget with whom you laughed, but you will never forget with whom you wept."
~ Kahlil Gibran
About halfway through my time in Anandwan (the leprosy and outcast community introduced here) I started spending time with 8-ish year-old Neesha, who I'd written about recently and also last year. Neesha is blind and quite severely mentally disabled, so it's hard to know what she enjoys, though she hugs like a champ and really just melts into your arms when you pick her up. I took her one day to the deaf kids' playground and had her on the rocking contraption, since she seems to enjoy that. When the deaf girls got out of class they completely enveloped us - 12 kids on and around the four-person swing. They were really curious about Neesha, miming questions about where she lives (in the hospital just down the road,) where her parents are (she's an orphan,) and how old she is (no one knows for sure). The girls were sweet but also a little afraid, since Neesha does look different and they're not used to her.
At one point I looked at one of the girls and she had such a beautiful and compassionate expression on her face as she looked at Neesha that I got the tiniest little tear in my eye. Another girl looked at me, looked surprised, and mimed, "Are you crying?!" I shook my head and said no, I'm not crying. She mimed, "You ARE crying!" I shook my head more, and said, "No, I'm NOT crying!" She ignored me and motioned to the rest of the girls, "He's crying! He's going to get on a plane, and fly home, and Neesha is going to stay here, and he's going to miss her, and he's sad, and he's crying!" All the little girls looked at each other, nodded their heads in agreement and mimed, "Yeah. He's crying."
Love to you!
Me and Neesha on the swing.
Another shot of the cabbage garden near the old folk's home.
The barber, who is also a leprosy patient and lives in Anandwan, in his barbershop, festooned with colorful posters of Hindu gods.
This is Sue from England, massaging the hand of a man with no fingers and one bent thumb.
This is the lady I described in a newsletter last year as "snaggle-toothed." She's the sweetest thing, but really having a hard time right now. When we first arrived and she saw Zohar, who comes every year, she burst into tears. She came to Anandwan when she was only a teenager, by which time she'd already lost all her fingers from the combination of leprosy and working with building materials. That would have been about 40 or 45 years ago.
This is Maria and Mausie, who I worked with last year doing wound care. Maria had that job this year and these two fell in love!
This woman was born without arms and uses her feet for everything, apparently, including making these stitched greeting cards. When I left she raised her feet together in a "namaste" position, as if they were hands.
These ladies are working in the big kitchen.
Tending the cows.
Up to no good, you can just tell!
You are so busted. You can't fool me just cuz you're cute!
A well-to-do couple was married in Anandwan while we were there, and we had at least one fancy meal. Yum.
My favorite pixy. She's so adorable.
Another one of the deaf girls.
More lovely deaf kids.
This is the girl we call "Lala," though no one seems to know where the name comes from, or if it's actually her name. Last year she was my favorite photography model, and I really like her - maybe because I didn't spend so much time with her. She's deaf but also has some emotional problems. Like the rest of us! She's a real handful.
The kids would move in a big circle as they're jumping rope. Impressive! They even got me out there. Not impressive.
My new favorite grandma. This lady can talk and talk as though you've known her your whole life, and as if you speak the language. I love her.
Beautiful Jyoti, just after a shower, and sitting up in a chair that the doctor recommended for her. She just refused to be left sitting up if we were leaving, since the old ladies are so rough with her. I'll bet she hasn't been in that chair since this photo was taken.
We met this older man walking down the road one day. He has a great face.
Poor, banged-up Sana. I wrote about her before - she's got advanced leprosy, pretty severe mental deficiencies, and she's an orphan living in the hospital. Maybe she's just accident prone, but also leprosy patients lose sensations in their extremities so they don't feel pain, typically in their hands and feet. I don't know what's going to happen to this little one.
This gentlemen works at the wound clinic.
We took Jyoti, at her request, to visit her family. We have no idea what's the "right" thing to do when we're in Anandwan - whether we should push Jyoti's family to take more responsibility or give them space or what. So we just hope for the best and mush forward. When her brother didn't want to come out of the house for a photo with Jyoti, I went in and said, "Get your ass out there - we're taking a photo!" Maybe I need to eat more tofu?
Towards the end of our time we threw a little tea party for the old folks, and Assaf and Peter were playing some Hindi devotional music, called bhajans. Fun!
I like these guys.
Just outside the tea party, a family was bathing the body of their mother so they could cremate her. That's her in the chair. So very "India" - it's in public, it's not hidden away, and it's just part of life.
The chapati factory (like wheat tortillas) in the new kitchen. Ladies on the outside are rolling the chapatis, which are first cooked on the metal stove top before being finished over the open fire. They get tossed to cool on the fabric laid on the floor to the left of the stove.
They could really crank out the chapatis in this place.
Rice was made in these giant pots, and a specialized shovel was used to fill the tubs, which were then carried on heads to be delivered elsewhere.
Jyoti smiles as she gets her hand painted with henna on the last day of our time in Anandwan.
After the henna party, this was our last hurrah - a night of "bhajans," the devotional Hindu songs.
Lala and her friend.
Sabiya, who lives in Anandwan with her husband and son, runs the small telephone office and helps out the retreat in many ways.
The work retreatants group photo. Six of us were in France this summer on the Dharma Yatra, plus I've known three others for around 10 years. Either way - we're all friends now.