“Doing my own business makes me feel empowered” – Mahesh Kumar
Mahesh Kumar a resident of Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh was living a happy family life with his wife and two daughters when an unfortunate tragedy struck him and he was diagnosed with leprosy. Due to leprosy his fingers and toes started falling off and this gave him a distinct appearance which led to him facing the stigma attached with leprosy. His wife left him and remarried some other man, also he was ousted by his family from home. In this state of utter despair, he decided to leave his village and reached Lucknow in search of work, but here also he couldn’t find any suitable work due to his body being severely affected by leprosy. When he couldn’t find any other option to ensure his survival, he resorted to begging alms. In 2015, when he was found by organization members he was wearing torn and tattered clothes and a long unkempt beard. He hid his face in shame by putting it between his knees and eventually after much exploration, with a lump in his throat he poured his heart out by saying “मुझे अपनी इस ज़िन्दगी से घुटन होती है पर मजबूरी में पेट भरने के लिए सिर नीचे झुकाकर हाँथ फैलाना पड़ता है | he continues with sobbing eyes “अगर मुझे कोई काम करने को मिल जाए तो मैं अभी भीख माँगना छोड़ दूं, शरीर साथ नहीं देता है, कुष्ट रोग के कारण कोई काम पर भी नहीं लगाता है की हर दिन मजदूरी कर पाऊं, अब तो सिर्फ पेट भरने के लिए भीख मांगता हूँ, मांग के इकठ्ठा नहीं करता हूँ.” He used to feel ashamed and humiliated of himself when he used to beg and say would rather die than live such a life. However, once he was enrolled in the rehabilitation process at the shelter home he received prompt medical care and now he has recovered completely from leprosy also by means of various activities conducted regularly at the rehabilitation center such as muscle relaxation exercise, individual and group counseling sessions he showed improvement and through regular mental math classes, he also improved his financial literacy and his skill of doing calculations so as to become better in knowing his daily income and overall profit and loss. Today he earns his living by selling water bottles, frooti, cold drinks and now he feels alive and much better.