Indra Kala first had signs of leprosy when she was a child, and by the age of 12 could feel tingling in her hands and feet and was losing the sense of feeling in them. The family did not consult a doctor even though her father was leprosy affected before he died some years before.
By the age of 17, both Indra Kala’s hands were clawed, and ulcers and eye complications had set in along with drop-foot. These visible deformities spurred the family into action but traditional healers, and even a brush with some leprosy medicine, made no improvement. The local community and family and friends began to stay away from her and were scared if she came near. Indra kala continued to deteriorate and could soon only walk with a stick. Both feet were now anaesthetic and ulcerated and she had lost her confidence and avoided going out at all.
Her family made her a separate place to live, sealed off from their house and with only a hole in one outside wall for Indra Kala to go in and out of. She had a cup, a plate, a sleeping mat, and a mosquito net, and these were her only possessions for the next 12 years. Her mother gave her food, and Indra Kala only came out at night into an enclosed yard area and so had no human contact apart from her mother, for all that time. In Nepal, where life revolves around community, Indra Kala was effectively like a dead person, her “life” circumscribed by the four walls of her cell. Without any further medical help her body continued to deteriorate and her eyes, hands, and feet became badly damaged. Her life was totally miserable, and she herself felt that she had no reason to be alive.
Last year – in June 2010 – the Community Department at Lalgadh heard a rumour from a Self Help Group not far
from Indra Kala’s village, about a woman with leprosy who was kept hidden away. They set out to find her and after a two and a half hour journey by landrover, located her. It took some time to coax her out of her cell and she was very afraid, but in the end she made her first journey for many years, away from her “home” and to a new world at Lalgadh where there were other people with leprosy who understood her problems, and where she was at last able to receive some proper medical treatment for her poor hands, feet and eyes. Caring human contact started to make an impact on her and after a few weeks she was able to smile and enjoy the sensation of being in a group again, and of being valued as a human being.
Indra Kala has since had surgery on her right foot, which was so badly damaged that she could not walk
on it. A “Symes” amputation and a special boot has enabled her to walk again, and surgery has improved the
foot-drop in her left foot. Indrakala’s physical and mental restoration has taken some years and it was a long time before she was confident enough to be more independent. However, her physical condition will never be strong and she needs ongoing care, so 10 years on she now lives in the Care Haven near Lalgadh Church where several other vulnerable people affected by leprosy and other disabilities also live. It is not a perfect situation, but for Indrakala it offers friendship, acceptance, safety, and a measure of comfort. She often spends time in the hospital compound, chatting with friends she has made amongst the other patients and the staff, and for her that seems to be enough to give new meaning and fabric to her life – she certainly seems happy.
This is all part of NLT’s work, which has seen many people like Indrakala over the years, and has helped many of them to rediscover dignity, friendship, and independence.