Now I can proudly say I am ‘Sujatha’

A donor, after he gifted Sujatha (extreme left) a sewing machine

Being the youngest daughter of the family, Sujatha is a much-pampered girl. Raparthi Bapanna, her father, a hard-working mason who earns around Rs 200 (2.90 USD approximately) daily, saved enough to marry off his two elder daughters. Sujatha, the youngest, stayed with him in their rented house in Mallipudi village in Vizianagaram district in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Sujatha could study only up to 7th standard as the only school in her village does not provide an opportunity for further education. While she was studying, Sujatha found blisters on her feet and had no clue as to what it was. It remained like that for around four years.  Once, she accidentally hit her foot against a stone while walking and the blister ruptured. But the wound did not heal for a long time. When she was 15, Sujatha was diagnosed with leprosy and was put on multidrug therapy (MDT).  As the years passed, Sujatha developed claw hands and that made her life even more difficult. Apart from the helplessness of her condition, Sujatha had to bear the stigma of the disease. Because of the deformity on her fingers, she could not carry water or do any household work.  She even found it difficult to eat. Her neighbours kept away from her because of her leprosy. Much agitated, she even contemplated committing suicide.

TLM Salur Hospital, in Andhra Pradesh, came to know about Sujatha’s condition. The hospital staff visited her and counselled her. They brought her to the hospital and performed reconstructive surgery to correct the deformities on her hands.

The hospital wanted Sujatha to stand on her feet, and so, taught her sewing and, through a sponsor, gave her a sewing machine. She started earning a good income; she even saved money to support her parents.

Sujatha is now a transformed girl. Her parents are happy that she has become the old Sujatha who always had a smile on her face. Her neighbours’ attitude towards her has dramatically changed. Her friends who left her because of leprosy and disability now considers her as one among them.

While talking about the turnaround in her life, Sujatha cheerfully says, “Now I can proudly say I am Sujatha” (in Telugu, her mother tongue, ‘sujatha’ means beautiful).