The Barefoot Surgeon is a biography written by Ali Gripper about Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation co-founder Dr Sanduk Ruit. It tells the story of a boy who grew up in a tiny, remote village in the Himalayas — a village with no school — who became one of the most respected ophthalmologists in the world and a giant of Asia.
Born into the lowest tiers of a rigid caste system, Sanduk Ruit had absolutely nothing to his name: no money, and no connections. …
35 year old Anita Yadav was living a content life with her husband, her two sons, and her in-laws in western Nepal. With a third child on the way, Anita and her husband were happy with whatever little they had. However, Anita’s life was soon about to change…
Around three months into her pregnancy, Anita began to experience visual impairment in both of her eyes. Her vision became blurry, and continued to deteriorate with each passing day — causing her and her family to worry.
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation believes that good eyesight is a universal right and that people from all sections of society should have the opportunity to access treatments that enable them to see clearly.
With no access to eye care facilities, visually impaired inmates at the district prison in Banke, Nepal, couldn’t do much except make repeated requests to the authorities to offer them treatment. With a high number of visually impaired amongst the prison population, the prison authorities were very welcoming when the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation offered to help.
14-year-old Bipani Rai was born with congenital cataracts that were slowly robbing her of her vision. Her school in the remote hills of Nepal did not have any special provision for the visually impaired and Bipani was having a hard time concentrating and couldn’t do her homework. Despite often being excluded from playtime and social occasions, Bipani was cheerful and didn’t lose hope that blindness would not end her educational journey.
When 48-year-old Mai Khanal’s kidneys failed six years ago, doctors said that she would need to undergo regular dialysis. At that time, kidney failure patients in Nepal still had to pay for their dialysis treatment. For Mai, the monthly cost of US $250 was more than what her family would make in a month. Mai’s husband sold their only plot of land to cover the treatment expense.
In 2016 the government of Nepal started providing free dialysis treatments to patients suffering from kidney failure. Mai’s family was relieved. Unfortunately, by then the family had already exhausted all of their financial…
Bidur is a 52-year-old daily wage earner working in the shadow economy of Nepal’s informal construction sector. As a part of his job, he is expected to do a lot of manual and hazardous work such as carrying heavy loads, digging trenches and breaking boulders. Frequent lockdowns due to Covid-19 mean that in recent months Bidur has had to take any work that was available. Unbelievably, Bidur is also blind.
Growing up, Soorya Mani Rai did not have access to education — there wasn’t a local school in her area, and her parents could not afford to send her away to study. But as it is in the hills of Nepal, there is plenty to do — even for a growing child. She would spend her days grazing the goats, taking care of small household chores, or simply running around her village in a carefree manner.
After getting married, Soorya arrived in Pelmang, and raised a beautiful family. She was living with her son and daughter-in-law, and her daughters would…
63 year old Chandrawati Harijan lives in Mahilwar, Lumbini — 15 minutes west of Maya Devi Temple, the exact place where Lord Buddha was born more than 2500 years ago. Her home is a three room poorly-constructed concrete building which she shares with her husband, son, daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren. Her cattle, one buffalo and a calf share the same space — and one can notice the blurriness in boundaries which force one to ask to what divides her home from the cattle shed.
The community where Chandrawati lives is comprised mostly of Harijans. Harijans belong to the Dalit caste…
When Murathi Parsi of the Kapilavastu District of Nepal went blind, surgery was out of reach. Despite living only one hour away from an eye hospital, the family simply did not have the USD $70 needed for her surgery. Her husband and her son, both daily wage earners, had to make do with odd jobs in construction. With almost seven mouths to feed along with some household debt, saving up the amount needed for Murathi’s operation seemed like an insurmountable task.
For Shri Mani Rai, her earliest memory is of flowers, beautiful and colourful flowers at her childhood home in Solukhumbu in the foothills of Mount Everest. At the age of sixteen, she was married, and the couple moved to Pelmang Rural Municipality. There, they started a family.
Life wasn’t without struggles, but the family made do with what little resources they had. However, tragedy struck threefold. In less than a decade Shri Mani first lost her son, then her husband, and then her eyesight.