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Times of India
17 May 2008
Pune, India

“Let the white spots be, accept them as they are. Don’t blame your fate, for they are meant to give you a new lease of life”.

This is one of the assertive declarations in a street play that make one interpret vitiligo in a positive manner. Leukoderma, as this skin condition is commonly known, is the focus of a series of events being organised by Shweta Association as part of the World Vitiligo Day on May 19.

A support group for vitiligo patients, Shweta Association, founded by Maya Tulpule eight years ago, works towards fighting the stigma attached to the ailment. A mini marathon and a cycle rally on May 18 is the part of this aim, organised by Shweta Association, with supports from Indian Association of Dermatologists, Pune Cycle Pratisthan, SETU Association of Self-help Groups and Indian Medical association, Pune chapter.

“It is one ailment which is highly stigmatised. It’s because it is very visible”, informs Tulpule, a doctor, who was affected by vitiligo ten years ago. Today, she counsels other patients and their families.

While counselling patients in consultation with dermatologists, she cites examples of people living awkwardly because of the white patches. “People will go to any lengths to cover these patches”. Patients suffering from depression, suicidal tendencies or excommunication cannot be ruled out either. Hence, there’s need for counselling. ‘Parental and family counselling is equally important. We even conduct sessions in schools to tell teachers and children how to deal with students who have vitiligo”, informs Tulpule, also a member of Vitiligo Foundation, USA and UK.

Shweta Association has a network of 1,000 members and works from Sahwad hospital in Karvenagar. Apart from counselling, it also runs a marriage bureau for vitiligo patients. “People from various parts of India have attended our matrimonial sessions”, says Tulpule, who produced Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar’s critically acclaimed film ’Nital’, a story of a doctor who marries a woman infected by vitiligo.

“I always encourage patients to be open to people. Accepting the white patches as a part of life is very important”, says Tulpule. Also, society needs to set aside its prejudices and understand that vitiligo is not contagious. Most importantly, there’s a need to understand the real definition of beauty, which is definitely not skin-deep.

Hence, an essay writing competition on the topic, ‘What is important, looks or life?’ as a line-up to May 19 event. “We’ve received enthusiastic responses so far. Winners will be announced on May 18”, Tulpule said.

Dr. Maya Tulpule Dr. Maya Tulpule
World Vitiligo Day celebrations
May 18:
Mini marathon: At 5.45 a.m., from Good Luck chowk on F.C. road to Shaniwarwada. n Cycle rally: At 6:30 a.m.: From Good Luck chowk n Concluding programme at S.M. Joshi auditorium in Navi Peth, from 5 to 8 p.m., to be attended by actor Jackie Shroff, dermatologist Vidyasagar Ghate and Anil Awachat. A street play on vitiligo will be performed on the occasion.

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