• Ruth Towell

Diving into the Archive: Parbati's Story.

I have recently been sorting through my photography archives, it has been an absolute pleasure to be reminded of all the wonderful people and places I have photographed. This rediscovery has lead me to start a new mini-series on this blog, 'Diving into the Archive'. A series which highlights a photo which was buried in my archives and shares the story behind it.

Today's photograph is particularly close to my heart. It was taken on both my first overseas assignment with an INGO, and my first trip outside of Europe.

In April 2014, just a day after my 21st birthday, I found myself on a plane headed for Nepal filled with nervous excitement for what this trip may have in store for me. Within my first few hours in Nepal I was in love; driving through the chaotic Kathmandu roads, swerving past cows, monkeys and tuk tuks. As the car left the city's chaos it headed into the beautifully green Himilayan foothills towards Anandaban Hospital - my base for the trip. While I haven't yet returned to Nepal (I would love to return soon), my love affair for Asia has grown with each chaotic and colourful country I have visited since.

Anandaban Hospital was where I met the Parbati, the girl in this photograph. Anandaban is a dedicated leprosy hospital, with individuals travelling from all over the country (and some even from beyond Nepal's borders), to receive treatment away from the stigma and rejection they may face from their communities back home.

Parbati's story was similar to many others who come to the hospital; she developed leprosy when she was just 13 years old. Her family did not know what to do and kept her away from other people until a health worker visited her village and diagnosed her with leprosy. Sadly, by that point, Parbati had developed disabilities which meant she could no longer use her hands and feet.

Despite the hard situation Parbati found herself in, when I met her she was smiling and full of joy - something which came across so well in this photograph. At Anandaban she was able to receive the cure to leprosy and access treatment to alleviate her disabilities. She shared how she was hoping to receive prosthetics so that she could walk again. And when I asked her about what her hopes for the future were, she said she had plans to start a cosmetics business, where she could make soaps and creams to help others feel beautiful.

I am forever inspired by people like Parbati, their ability to live in joy despite adversity and how they dream and have a strong hope for the future. I don't know where her story is now, its rare for me to ever find out the continuation of people's stories after I photograph them, but as with everyone I meet - I sincerely hope that she is continuing to find joy and is living out the dreams she had.

If you would like to find out more about The Leprosy Mission, you can visit their website: leprosymission.org.uk/

Currently, every donation given towards The Leprosy Mission's 'Heal Nepal' campaign is doubled by the UK government - which is amazing as it will help so many other people at Anandaban Hospital like Parbati.


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© 2020 Ruth Towell