Transformation Factory: Dr Amte’s Anandwan

Have you heard of any organisation which transforms people regularly and systematically? May be you have. Or maybe you haven’t.

You would have experienced transformation if you worked with people of great capabilities. We all do. 

It takes Dr Baba Amte and his sons Dr Vikas and Dr Prakash, ably supported by their respective spouses, to create an organisation which transforms people systematically, sympathetically and continuously. Much has been written about Anandwan. So let me share the moments I captured there. They tell a story.

Here is a board. Simple board. 

It says ‘Anandwan Plastic Tyre Bandhara’. They have created a dam made of tyres and plastic on a rivulet. Here is an incontrovertible evidence of the belief that ‘constraints spark innovations.’

But what’s so special about the board? It is made of plastic sachets of gutkas! Of course they do tell you not to chew tobacco. But if you do, they also make use of the plastic sachets! Nothing is wasted.
Another story: Here is Govinda Khodpe. 

He is, sorry my apologies, he was obviously leprosy patient. He puts small pieces of wood in a plastic bottle and creates art. Take a look at his fingers. I could not even figure out how he managed to put big figures inside the bottle. He told me the trick. He puts small pieces inside the bottle and then puts them together using wire devices. 

But it is not a trick. It is a skill. His small hut has several articles, perhaps over three hundred articles. Some of them are ‘carved’ figures. All made by him. In teak wood. In various other woods. 

Let us imagine. A man – an able bodied man whose fingers are not deformed by leprosy - demonstrates this skill of putting a big wooden figure inside a bottle. And then you spot Govinda Khodpe shyly demonstrating it. Why the latter takes you by great surprise? Why does he earn our immense appreciation?

The answer is simple and obvious. Govinda’s story involves overcoming great mental barriers, and great physical adversities like deformed fingers. When we see Govinda smile and look in to our eyes, we realise that it is a bigger transformation. Much bigger than our ability to comprehend.

It is a transformation from a ‘self-certified useless person’ [that’s how leprosy patients feel] to a well-recognised craftsman. Such a transformation requires love. Dr Amte provided it though he often called himself a ‘cruel man.’ It changes mind-sets, not just of the patients but also of care-givers and even onlookers like me! The feeling can’t be described, something just cracks inside you. As Osho says, love causes mutation! It changes the mind-set, the DNA forever!!

Govinda Khodpe is not alone in this journey. There are few hundred others. And there were few hundred others. At Anandwan.

In that sense, Dr Amte and his family created a ‘transformation factory.’ What do you think? Hmm… How do you feel?

Vivek S Patwardhan
PS: More stories follow…, watch this space!

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