Saturday, September 27, 2008

Amazing Grace

Yesterday was one of those days when I felt amazingly blessed and honored to be a photographer and to be so generously invited into peoples' lives.

Krishna Gurung, one of Shanti Sewa Griha's founders, took a small group of us to visit his family home. Both of Krishna's parents have leprosy, and Krishna grew up in an isolated leprosarium in the southern Kathmandu Valley. He described the insider's experience of what it was like to have been treated as an outcaste and the miserable housing and prison-like conditions that the lepers and their families had to live in- subjected to a daily roll call, after which they could receive a meager ration of food. It was a hard life in many ways and has made him determined to better conditions for lepers and others left behind by society- a heroic task that he carries out with a lot of humility, grace and finesse.

20 years ago the family was able to move to a small plot of land and build a house. Now there are 2 houses, and an immaculate biodynamic organic garden which Krishna's father, aged 76, lovingly tends. Despite having lost his fingers and a leg from the disease, he works tirelessly and passionately in the garden from morning until night. He donates the extra produce to Shanti's disabled children who, as Krishna says, need the high quality fruits and vegetables, grown with so much love and integrity, to heal and thrive.

Krishna now lives in Patan with a family of his own, but he still visits most weekends. His parents' house is like a refuge for him, and he loves to come and work in an upstairs room that overlooks the garden, resting his laptop on a small desk that he kept from his early childhood school days at the leprosarium.

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