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A heart of compassion



Untiring endeavour

FOR HIM service to the needy remains a passion. Gerhard Fischer just "carries on" his mission as wished by his wife Ann, to nurse the leprosy patients and more importantly, rehabilitate them.

Eighty summers seem to have sat lightly on his broad shoulders. The German, who felt the pain of these patients like Mahatma Gandhi did has almost devoted his life for them. The former German ambassador and a POW in the Second World War has been carrying on the message of love also to the polio victims, since 1985.

Despite his age, he astutely pursues his wife last words, "carry on" the noble task of helping the hapless and destitute. His yeomen service in Rajasthan, Uttaranjal and Tamil Nadu, all alone, has endeared him to the Indian masses. "We can do it alone and of course better," is his manthra, which he and Ann during her lifetime have steadfastly followed. The Fischers through their unstinted dedication have carved out a niche for themselves in sharing the sufferings.

Fischer was drawn towards the sufferings of the leprosy patients when he underwent a medical course at a Beijing university in China where his father once served. The World War however did not permit him to pursue his studies. The peculiarity of the life, which he often accepts as it occurs, placed him in the German Foreign Service. An aspiring medical student, he became a law graduate and later assumed a few prestigious posts with the post-war German Government.

His passion to serve leprosy patients crystallised when he served in India as Germany's Consul General. He showed little reluctance to resign the job and dedicated himself to serve the poor, particularly the leprosy patients and polio victims.

Instead of confining their activities to treatment, the Fischers laid stress on rehabilitation, an area which was not contemplated of at that time. "The real service is in their rehabilitation. They should be placed back in the society with pride." He constructed rehabilitation centres for them. The Fischers raised funds for their projects by working in their fields at Bavaria in Germany for six months. After six months in our country they would go back to their farm again.

The country recognised his services in 1997. He was awarded the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize. His dream projects at Taramangalam and Chettipatti in Salem district have started showing results. The rehabilitated patients and children are brought into the mainstream of the society. Fischer's touch of love continues to sooth the wounds and erase the pain of the victims.

By R. Ilangovan in Salem

Photo: P. Goutham

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