I’ve had the immense privilege over the last nine months to visit my colleagues and friends at The Leprosy Mission’s Purulia Hospital three times, this time on a trip to make a fundraising film.
It takes over twenty hours to travel from Heathrow, flying into Delhi, then onto the little town of Ranchi, followed by a five or six hour journey by road. The journey by road is as eye opening as it is bone shaking! Bright coloured sari’s, hooting rickshaws, buses full beyond capacity with another twenty people travelling on the roof… cows lazing in the midst of this oblivious to drivers avoiding them at all costs. There is nothing like seeing the life and soul of India passing by as you travel.
The rural location of Purulia Hospital adds to it’s intense magic. Driving out of Purulia town and turning right into a long drive way, turning about half a kilometre down into our guesthouse, you begin to relax, to hear birds instead of traffic, to sense the stillness.
It’s about a kilometre walk along the road into the hospital from the guest house. Passing farmer in their paddy fields using buffalo to manage their rice crops. Sheep being maneuvered around cyclists, women and children and electric rickshaws gliding silently past with their cargo of outpatients.
The outpatients department is bustling, patients waiting patiently inline, or milling around with family, keeping children entertained in the heat. Monkeys drop out of the trees in the grounds, looking for food.
The corridors can seem dark, the heat is almost oppressive, and then you see the magic at work. Nurses in crisp white uniforms, heads bent over a patient. Doctors on ward rounds – raised voices as another patient affected by leprosy has not taken care of their wounds. Patiently removing dead skin, applying healing, cleansing antibacterial ointment. They bandage them up, or operate, sometimes ten or more eye operations a day. Babies are delivered here to leprosy affected mothers, who aren’t welcome at other hospitals. Brim full of unexpected love. Touch. Acceptance.
Giving them every chance, every hope, every opportunity for life to the full.
How do you even begin to illustrate this? I just had to paint this hospital.
I’ve tried to capture the Indian life that is so rich in this place, the motorbikes piled outside, the rickshaw dropping off and picking up patients who may have travelled many miles. The bright orange pillars, the blue sky. I’m really enjoying painting in this sketchy loose style, and I hope I’ve done it justice.
The balloons for me represent the hope that this hospital gives so many. Hope, in the midst of the darkest times for many of these patients.
“He has come that we may have life – and have it to the full”
Purulia outpatients sees 40,000+ patients a year. There are only five Doctors.
The painting is now for sale in my Etsy shop