24 July, 2021

Helping Handigodu Battle Its Unique Malady

Helping Handigodu Battle Its Unique Malady
DIMINUTIVE H.M. Chandrashekhar is a man with a purpose. As dawn breaks over Karnataka's Handigodu village, he sets out to visit 20 families before boarding the first bus to neighbouring town Sagar, where he has to tend to a dozen patients at the government hospital. That done, he proceeds to haunt government offices where he pursues his missives from desk to desk.

He's no vaidya, nor is he a health worker. Chandrashekhar's merely a matriculate who's come up with his own anodyne to alleviate the agony of a people afflicted by a puzzling disease that has claimed at least 1,000 lives in the last two decades, and reduced many young men and women to mere zombies awaiting death. Most of the victims are scheduled caste labourers living on the fringes of the Western Ghats. It's known as the 'Handigodu syndrome' because Chandrashekhar noticed it first in this village in 1974; now it's a malady found in some 42 villages of Shimoga and Chikmagalur districts.

The sexagenarian is a walking encyclopaedia on this syndrome with distinct attributes: dwarfism from birth or...

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