If you can cure one leper, why not cure them all?

My first vivid recollection of lepers is in the movie Ben Hur. Thanks to Will Knott I am visiting it again!!

The lepers village scene from Ben Hur

His mother Miriam and sister Tirzah contract leprosy in prison, and are expelled from the city. After many adventures Ben Hur returns and meets his sweetheart Esther who is unmarried. Esther has been told by  Miriam and Tirzah to conceal their condition from Ben-Hur and so she tells him that the two women are dead. He has a chariot race with ‘Messala’ his rival. Messala is mortally injured, while Ben-Hur wins the race. Before dying, Messala tells Ben-Hur that “the race is not over” and that he can find his family “in the Valley of the Lepers, if you can recognize them.” Ben-Hur visits the nearby leper colony, where (hidden from their view) he sees his mother and sister. That scene was so well taken that it sent chills up our spines—we were schoolgirls taken by the good Sisters to see the film.

Another movie where leprosy featured was in a Tamizh one, “Ratha Kanneer” (tears of blood) where the evil villain, MR Radha contracts leprosy—true justice for all his villainy and sins accumulated in his lifetime.

M R Radha in ‘Ratha Kanneer’

We see a repentant Radha (this is usually a girl’s name!!) at the end. Strangely enough M R Radha transferred his reel life villainy to real life and shot his arch rival, politically speaking as it were—film star, Robin Hood, Politician and the darling of the masses M G Ramachandran.  The latter didn’t die but was left with a speech impediment which MGR used positively for the rest of his life in real and reel lives to remind his fans about the incident.

A leper is a common sight in Indian cities where they are used as beggars. A leper was also a pariah, somebody who was excommunicated from society as s/he was a source of infection. It is only in recent times that science has discovered that leprosy can be cured and that it is not infectious. To eyes used to plastic beauties and air brushed models of charm and grace, of picture postcard colours and grandeur, the unseemly sight of a leper can be off putting I suppose.

Curing a leper–metaphorically speaking–is not easy. Any person habituated to something–even as innocuous as Free Cell or Spider Solitaire–must have their daily quota….I do! However, I always ask my smoking, drinking relatives and friends this question. There are so many women out there who have gone to hell and come back–do they take to these habits? I am talking in the Indian social milieu. Yes we too have women who drink, smoke, chew tobacco. Generally speaking, women know that the money spent on these indulgences can be put to better use. How many mothers worldwide have garnered their resources to bring up and educate kids? There are so many stories out there, right?

As far as curing goes…you can only take the horse to the water. You can’t make it drink it!!

I have seen familiar guys, afflicted with this disease asking for alms. Sometimes, beggars wrap their fingers in bandages pretending to be lepers as well to play the sympathy card.

The word lazar says the dictionary is a leper, sick person, diseased or terminally ill patient. Lazarus was raised from his tomb by Jesus, a miraculous act. Did he too have leprosy? I can’t find anything about Lazarus’ illness…maybe my friends like Delirious can enlighten me.

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Anu, Ashok, Conrad, DeliriousGaelikaa,  GrannymarMagpie11,  Paul, Maria the Silver Fox, Rummuser , Will Knott, and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get seventeen different flavours of the same topic.

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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3 Responses to If you can cure one leper, why not cure them all?

  1. grannymar says:

    The longer I live, the more I am inclined to put the Lazarus story on the same level as the Moving statues found in Ireland: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moving_statues


  2. rummuser says:

    Kutram purindavan vaazhkaiyil nimmadi peruvanenbadu yedu? What a song! What memories that film brings back.

    Ben Hur with Charlton Heston is another remarkable old story that I have now made a note to see again on DVD.


  3. blackwatertown says:

    Ben Hur – what an epic. We had slightly conflicted loyalties given that Messala – Stephen Boyd – was from County Antrim. Shame he turned out so bad. Er, his character that is. I’m getting confused between fact and fiction again.


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