Spotting a vagrant on the streets of Pune begging for alms is almost a daily affair and yet, besides the odd coin that is given to them, there is rarely any help offered…
While some suffer illness and disease in silence, the others grapple with crippling handicaps and yet live on hoping for a good Samaritan to ease their pain.
And this is exactly what this doctor couple in Pune have devoted their lives to; Eradicating illness and empowering the less privileged with a means to earn their own living respectably.
Dr Abhijit and Dr Manisha Sonawane are Pune’s “Doctor For Beggars” who live to provide free health care services to the neglected and deprived population of elderly beggars in the city.
Not only do they thrive to cure the less privileged of their illness, they work tirelessly to make this community self-sufficient and independent.
Dr. Abhijit Sonawane is today a well-known Samaritan among the impoverished for his selfless contribution, but little do they know that he himself was like one of them, decades ago…
Sonawane, at one point of time also begged for alms, seated in a corner of a temple..
“After completing my medical studies (BAMS) from Pune in 1999, I went door to door providing services to people in a village around Pune, as I didn’t have any funds to setup even a small clinic. But people were intimidated with the fact that how can a doctor move like a nomad treating patients, hence they never took me seriously.
I wasn’t well-dressed or groomed enough to pass off as a doctor.
“Some even thought I was a fake doctor robbing them and giving them spurious medicines. My fee was only five rupees, but no one ever gave it to me. I used to check and provide medicines to 10-12 people in the family just to earn that five rupees,” shares Sonawane.
“Then there came a time when I was tired with life. I hence stopped taking insults by visiting the patients at their home and started sitting in a temple with a couple who were abandoned by their kids. We developed a bond sitting there and talking about the ups and downs in life.
“I used to tell him that I need to earn money to survive, by hook or by crook. Baba somewhere judged that I was very desperate to earn money and I might get into unfair means of earning a stable income. The elderly couple used to share whatever they got as donations, sitting at the temple, from food to clothing to money.
In those two years of my life, they brainwashed me into leading a respectable life and being present for people in their tough times and this has remained with me since.”
“In 2001, I worked with Bill Gates Foundation and later in other organizations, and everything then changed. I could afford whatever I desired, but, somewhere I wasn’t satisfied.
“Back in 1999 he had told me to do something for people like him, if I wanted to repay him. Those teachings of Baba remained fresh in my mind. In 2015, I felt into a mode of regret and guilt and this is when I decided to resign my job and ever since, I have been working my best to help the beggars on the streets. I decided to repay by giving my skills and services free of cost.
I today roam around the city with all my equipment, visiting every temple, church or mosque, looking for beggars in need and exactly the way I started.”
Dr. Abhijit Sonawane can be found treating his patients on the streets or at shrines and religious places depending on the day of worship every day from 10 am to 5 pm.
He also has a clinic which is looked after by his wife, Dr. Manisha Sonawane, the major portion of which goes in providing healthcare services, surgeries and operations for the specially able and underprivileged- free of cost. This couple also envisions making every beggar in the city self-reliant.
Through their initiative, “Beggars to Entrepreneurs”, they have inspired and helped around 43 beggars to give up begging and begin earning a sustained income in a small manner.
He urges the citizens not to encourage beggars by giving them some money, but rather help them earn a livelihood by providing them an opportunity to work or helping them setup a basic business.
If you wish to contribute towards this cause, visit www.sohamtrust.com (Soham Trust, a government registered organisation) and help the less privileged become self reliant.
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