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Fighting Leprosy in India  The Work of Dichpali

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Fighting Leprosy in India The Work of Dichpali

The work of southern India’s remarkable lepers' home, founded by Dr Isabel Kerr

Documentary 1945 15 mins


Scottish doctor and missionary Dr Isabel Kerr (1875-1932) pioneered treatment for leprosy in India, opening a home for lepers at Dichpali, north of Hyderabad. It is estimated that of the 2,800 patients Dr Kerr treated, up to half saw the disease arrested. Leprosy patients came to Dichpali from all over India. We see two groups of patients: the first are confident people, without any deformities. In the second, patients are scratching their bodies, and a nun is treating them with medicine.

You are inevitably reminded of the leper's pit in The Tiger of Eschnapur/The Indian Tomb (1921), directed by Joe May and remade by Fritz Lang in 1959. It is a place of revulsion and terror, from which the leper-prisoners try to escape. But Dichpali was a sunny place where lepers from all over India came to be cured. Dichpali's maxim is faith, oil and work. So, all patients do three hours' manual labour daily, including gardening and weaving their own clothes. They get medical treatment including oils. Sports are also encouraged; the girls confidently wear a blouse and knee-high shorts for sports - remarkably bold. The film ends with a visit to the Isabel Kerr Memorial Church. Meenakshi Shedde