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Friday, 12 December 2014
Parachure Shastri's leprosy and Gandhi
... On a winter evening in 1939, Gandhi was taking his customary walk when the sight of a visitor brought sorrow to his face. It was Parachure Shastri, a well known Sanskrit scholar and poet who had spent time in prison with Gandhi in the Yerawada jail in 1922. In the ensuing years, Parachure had contacted a virulent form of leprosy. Embarrassed and ashamed of his illness, he wanted to disappear for good, but before doing so wanted to have a last darshan of the Mahatma. Not having replied to Parachure’s letter asking to visit him in the ashram, Gandhi was not only surprised but found it extremely difficult to absorb his pathetic appearance. The visit was so sudden and unexpected that Gandhi had no time to discuss Parachure’s visit to the ashram with other inmates.
Having sensed Gandhi’s dilemma, Parachure offered to leave the ashram after delivering the yarn he had specially spun for Gandhi. But Gandhi asked his inmates to get food and made him sleep in a hut located at a distance. Neither of them slept that night. In the morning after having explained the risk, Gandhi obtained the consent of other inmates. He argued that it would be his life’s challenge to nurse Parachure to health and by refusing refuge he would compromise with his conscience and therefore, God. The next day Parachure was moved to a hut right next to Gandhi’s. In the midst of visits by top political leaders and the difficult political environment that Gandhi was in, he found time to personally clean his wounds at least three times a day. Though it took years, with a combination of love, affection, diet and compassion, Gandhi nursed Parachure to acceptable health. Parachure became an intrinsic part of the ashram. If this sounds like mythology, I have no doubt that whatever the definition of mythology in centuries to come, Gandhi will symbolize it."