My name is Jarinder. I live in India. I am 35 years old but feel more like an old man of 85. It is because I am permanently disabled.
I was a normal human being until I was 20. I got sick with a disease known as leprosy. It started off simply with skin lesions, eye problems, dry scalp, runny nose, and weakness in my muscles. I didn't think too much about it, but then my symptoms got worse, so my worried parents drove me to hospital.
I live in Bombay, one of the bigger cities in my country, where help is available. I was admitted and had tests run.
Eventually the doctors diagnosed the problem as leprosy, but in my case, it may have been too late: I had waited too long and because of it, I have diminished feeling in my limbs and ended up losing a leg because infection set in and they could not control it.
There was no choice but to amputate.
When my family found out I had leprosy, they spat on me and disowned me. I was considered dead to them. They didn't want anything to do with me.
I now live in a leper colony, with other lepers. If we go outside, people shout insults and run away, as if leprosy is catching. Or they throw stones and other objects at us until we are forced to go for cover.
Leprosy. Unclean. Outcast.
I am reminded of it every day by my scars, my eye problems, and especially my missing leg. I walk with a pair of second-hand arm crutches that some charity gave to me last December. That is how I get around. I could get a prosthetic leg but I cannot afford it; I am very poor and live in the leper colony.
A prosthetic leg could be dangerous, as well. How, you ask? With diminished feeling in my stump. If the prosthesis rubs too much, it could cause a wound and subsequent infection.
I wouldn't know it.
My fellow outcasts and I may not have much, but at least we have each other. We understand what the other is going through. We've become a family of sorts and some of them are my closest companions.
Leprosy is a very, very old disease. It has been around for thousands of years and, in most cases, it does not cause people to lose limbs and such. That is, if it is caught early.
Now that scientists know more about it, they can successfully treat people with mulit-drug therapy; as a result, the number of cases are beginning to drop, although cases still flare up in places like Africa, here in India, and other third world nations.
I am sharing my story so people can (hopefully) understand my plight and that we didn't ask to have leprosy. It was just an unfortunate event. I don't want pity; I only want acceptance and to be given a chance to succeed in life. That is all I have been hoping for ever since my journey with this terrible disease began 15 years ago.
~To be continued.~