Professor V.S. Upadhyay, who died in July, was a good friend to people affected by leprosy, and to those who worked on their behalf, writes Dr. P.K. Gopal.
I first met Professor Upadhyay in 1988 when it was suggested that I do a PhD based on my work rehabilitating leprosy-affected persons, and that he supervise my studies. I registered at Ranchi University, where he was a professor of anthropology, and gained my social science degree in 1992. Without his guidance, I would not have been able to complete my studies. He was especially happy to see a person affected by leprosy get a PhD.
We kept in touch, and when IDEA India was started in 1997, he became involved. He thought that IDEA India would be useful to help leprosy-affected persons in Ranchi. In fact, he proposed many projects for the welfare of leprosy-affected persons living in colonies.
He told me that his friends from the university discouraged his association with leprosy-affected persons, but he did not listen to them. In time, he became the IDEA India representative for the eastern part of the country. After he retired, his involvement expanded and he opened an office in his house.
I started to invite him to many workshops and conferences in various parts of India, as I appreciated the way he encouraged people to speak out and the contribution he made. He participated in the nationwide survey of leprosy colonies, and was very helpful in the formation of the National Forum, becoming an important member of the core committee.
He used to share with me the experiences he had gained as an anthropologist. His father had taught anthropology before him, and together they had visited many famous temples and historic places. He was extremely knowledgeable about Indian culture, and a master of many subjects. Time spent in his company was invariably fascinating.
Professor Upadhyay always had a smile on his face, and I never recall him getting angry. At my request, he took part in a Government of India workshop in June 2008 on Disability Prevention and Medical Rehabilitation. He was liked by all the participants and his suggestions warmed him to the government officials.
He died of a heart attack on July 15. Doing our work in a better way for the people he loved most will be the best way to respect and remember him.