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Baba Amte – One in a Billion

September 1, 2009

Writing about the life of great people in a few hundred words is extremely difficult. But some people inspire you so much, that you are forced to pen down few lines on them. One such personality is Muralidhar Devdas Amte also known as Baba Amte. Baba Amte is a legend. He has given dignity to thousands of Indians afflicted by leprosy, brought hope against exploitation to many thousands of tribal people, and provided a way of life to thousands abandoned by a callous society.

Born in a wealthy Brahmin landowner’s family, Baba Amte basked in the comfort of sumptuousness and grandeur as a kid. He used to drive the best of fancy cars of that age, used to hunt boars and deer with his own gun, used to take pleasure in classy hobbies like watching Hollywood movies and writing reviews for them. He had also written film reviews for the film magazine “The Picture Goer” and had even corresponded with Hollywood icons like Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer.

To add to all this, Baba Amte had a lucrative career as an advocate. But since he was inspired by the ideologies of Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, John Ruskin and Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin, he couldn’t accept the pressures of exploitation in his profession. At times, his legal practice forced him even to be dishonest. This bothered him even more. He discovered that many clients expected him to lie for them, something which he found unbearable. Thus, gradually he lost interest in his law practice. More and more he admired the ‘richness of heart of the poor people’ and despised ‘the poverty of heart of the rich’. It was the ‘common man’, he felt, who was really uncommon. He felt that one way of ensuring a full life was to become one with the poor and oppressed.

From being a person blessed with all the riches of the world to being a social worker and helping the poor, Baba Amte had come a long way.  The sight of Tulshiram, a man dying of leprosy, changed his life forever.  To quote Baba Amte, “I have never been frightened of anything. Because I fought British tommies to save the honor of an Indian lady, Gandhiji called me ‘abhay sadhak’, a fearless seeker of truth. When the sweepers of Warora challenged me to clean gutters, I did so. But that same person who fought goondas and British bandits quivered in fright when he saw the living corpse of TuIshiram, no fingers, no clothes, with maggots all over.” He further says, “I took up leprosy work not to help anyone, but to overcome that fear in my life. That it worked out good for others was a by-product. But the fact is I did it to overcome fear.”

Consequently Baba set about changing what he could. In his endeavor, his wife Sadhanatai is equally valued. Her incessant desire to help others attracted Baba Amte to Sadhanatai. Both of them, with a dream to help others, together started shram ashram near Warora. Since they both lived with ‘low-castes’, Sadhanatai and Baba were considered outcasts by their families. But nothing could stop these two undeterred souls who were passionate to change the world of the poor and the needful.

Baba’s legacy has lived on through the work of his two amazing sons (Dr. Vikas and Dr. Prakash Amte) and their wives (Dr. Bharti and Dr. Mandakini Amte, who in their own ways have contributed significantly to furthering Baba’s vision. Dr. Vikas Amte runs Maharogi Sewa Samiti and coordinates operations between Anandwan and satellite projects; his wife Dr. Bharati Amte runs a hospital at Anandwan and his brother Dr. Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Manda Amte run the school and hospital at Hemalkasa.

One can just go on like this but the significant thing that everyone needs to notice here is that if there is a will then one doesn’t have to search for the way; the way comes searching for you and you have to just tread that way to reach your dreams. Baba Amte left all his riches and opulence to follow his passion, thus changing, for the better, the lives of thousands around him.

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