- Vijay Bahadur Sahani
In August 2008, Kajol was first identified by Iswar Sankalpa social workers wandering around the Sealdah Railway station premises. It took over 4 months of arduous rapport building to finally assess her through a psychiatric check up, diagnose her as having schizophrenia, and begin her medication. In December 2009, Kajol began to visit and be a regular client at the Iswar Sankalpa Drop-in-Centre in the premises of Hastings PS. It was here, one day, while engaging in a session of art therapy that she first revealed her name as being Kajol and mentioned her hometown to be in Ranchi. By the time Sarbari opened its doors, Kajol gave her consent to stay there, and soon after became a fully participating resident, specialising in the cooking and vocational art work. On 6th December 2011, Kajol was able to provide her home address and details, and expressed her eagerness to return home and visit her in-laws house.
Kajol’s story began 16 years ago, when she had left her in-laws house with her youngest of three sons in an unstable mental state. Her son was soon after snatched away by a group of hijras, and thereafter Kajol spent her days roaming around the land, until one day she reached Sealdah Station and ‘settled’ there.
On 19th April 2012, Kajol began her journey back home along with a Iswar Sankalpa social worker to Mandar, Ranchi, Jharkhand. With the aid of Mandar Police Station officials and the local Pankachayat Mukhiya, Kajol was reunited with her brothers Mongol and Charoa, a farmer and police constable, respectively. While contact with her in-laws could not be made immediately, Mongol reassured the team that he would take full responsibility of reuniting Kajol with her in-law’s family.
Linkages with local hospitals were also created with Mandar Referral Hospital and Christian Hospital. Dr. Bijoy Kumar Gupta, Superintendent and Rita Bakhla, Staff Nurse, assured us that they will provide medicine for any physical ailements free of cost from Mandar Referral Hospital and will initiate the process of getting psychiatric drugs from Rinpus Mental Hospital, Ranchi.
While exploring opportunities to ensure the productive engagement of Kajol, the local Panchayat themselves suggested that she could avail of employment opportunities in projects run by INDIRA ABAAS YOJNA as a daily labourer, or with PRERNA, a project involved in women’s empowerment. The community’s understanding of Kajol’s need for financial independence so as not to be a burden on her family members, was highly encouraging and supportive, and ultimately enables her to live with dignity.
In April 2010, the Iswar Sankalpa Naya Daur outreach team identified a gentleman near the Rajabazar vicinity of Kolkata. He was named Rakesh. Under the purview of the outreach programme, after a period of receiving long term treatment and therapy, approximately 2 years later, Rakesh was finally able to recall his home location - Panchpauli.
The Iswar Sankalpa resettlement and restoration team immediately contacted the Panchpauli Police Station, and in turn, they eventually traced out his home address. Rakesh is from Panchpauli, Nagpur, Maharastra.
On 13th August 2012, Rakesh’s brother and uncle came all the way to Kolkata, to Iswar Sankalpa and met with Rakesh.
It turned out that Rakesh’s story began 21 years ago, when he had unfortunately managed to lose his family. Rakesh’s real name is Bhupesh. Bhupesh had wanted to study science, but could not manage to secure science, and so completed his schooling in the commerce stream. According to his family members, that is when his problems first began. Post school, apparently he had been trying to go to Mumbai to find work in the film industry but instead somehow he took the wrong train and ended up in Kolkata. Bhupesh managed to get, and stay, lost for over 2 decades.
A month after the family’s decades-long reunion which took place at Iswar Sankalpa in August 2012, and over 2 years since our first interaction with him, our team was overjoyed to finally see Bhupesh returned home to Panchpauli accompanied by his father and brother, on 17th September 2012.
In the first week of May 2012, Ram Kishore, one of our clients of the Rajabazar area, went missing. Approximately 4 months later, when the Iswar Sankalpa team visited the vagrants home, Ram Kishore was found residing there. He was in very poor health and hygiene conditions. Then began the lengthy proceedings of releasing him from the vagrancy home. In the meanwhile, we were able to locate and contact Ram Kishore’s family. The Controller of Vagrancy required the family members come in person to ensure their identity, upon which Ram Kishore’s father and elder brother came, met the Controller and after verification of their identities the release order was given. Finally, after --- months of beginning the release procedure, Ramkishore was not only discharged from the vagrancy home, but after ----months/years reunited with his family.
On 3rd December 2013, Purnima Saha, a 30 year old woman, first came to the ward health unit at Ekbalpur, in ward 78. She registered as a client with the clinic on that day and was the UMHP program’s 94th registered client.
On first presentation, Purnima complained primarily of not being able to tolerate loud noises and her head constantly felt like it would burst. Married with two children for the past 10 years, she constantly felt rebuked by her mother-in-law, and unsupported by her husband. She has a history of fainting post any stressful event in the house, and had previously tried to commit suicide over a year back, after which she had been admitted in the hospital for about a month.
The UMHP clinic psychiatrist diagnosed Purnima as having adjustment disorder and dissociative attacks, for which she was prescribed medicines since her first visit. Having first visited the clinic with her father and neighbour, she was asked to come for consecutive follow-ups with her husband.
Since her first visit Purnima has been a regular client at the clinic, and has had 7 follow ups in total. She was also taught relaxation exercises to practice twice daily every morning, and night before bed along with doing the exercises at any point of time she felt extremely nervous and/or anxious. She was also asked to maintain a daily record of her negative thoughts and what was her belief about the consequences of such thoughts. These thoughts were discussed in sessions and efforts were made to explore other alternate thoughts and consequences.
Her husband was also counselled about understanding her needs and providing support to her. Both Purnima and her husband were counselled together and separately with regard to their issues with each other. Both of them started trying to take some time out for each other, show gestures of support and communicate openly.
Slowly, her headaches stopped as did her fainting spells. She felt more motivated to work in the house and also discussed ideas of possibly engaging herself in some supportive engagement as well. Purnima was encouraged to take time out for activities which brought her pleasure and happiness and continue maintaining her diary.
Her husband also shared that Purnima was doing much better and both of them were making efforts with each other. She now continues to bring her husband along for every visit of hers. She has also referred another client to the clinic.
Jolly was identified by another NGO and brought to Sarbari, the IS shelter on 13th September, 2011 with her son. Jolly had been suffering from mental illness for a long time; and her family members were unable to give proper information regarding her illness. Jolly’s family is dealing with property related problems with the local promoter and hence they have no place to live in. Her family stays at Jolly’s maternal uncle’s house. There is no earning member in the family.
Due to the above mentioned situation, the IS team arranged for the Jolly’s son to be educated at another NGO. Jolly’s son stays there. Jolly was then enrolled under aayah training at a local hospital now works there. She uses the IS shelter as her residence and uses the money she earns to help her family. With this money she can support her family.
She continues to remain under her care and her progress acts as an encouraging factor to all the other women in the shelter too.
Vijay had been missing from home from the last 8 years; his father informed IS tearfully when our social workers contacted him. He would come to bring him home soon.
Vijay was the eldest of his seven brothers and sisters and is a native of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. He got married at the age of 18 years to Rajkumari, as arranged by their families and has three children – two daughters and one son. He soon started working in Ludhiana in a sweater weaving factory. Everything was going well, when almost 10 years post his marriage, he started showing symptoms of schizophrenia – self muttering, being unable to identify family members, missing from home for hours frequently.
During this time, he quit his job and moved back to his parent’s house where he started psychiatric treatment at a big hospital 16 kms away from their house. When he was still under this treatment, his wife became insistent that he go back to work and provide for the family. It was soon after that, which he went missing.
On 7th March, 2012, Vijay Bahadur Sahani, or Chuni as we at IS had lovingly named him went back home with his father. One month’s medicines were provided and his father was made to understand the care and support he would need from the family to get better. It was advised that they continue follow up at the nearest hospital from their house.
Vijay is well today, and is engaged in productive work once again. His brothers and sisters in Maharashtra have extended financial support to him for his treatment and his wife and children live with him.
Kalyani was in her early 40s when she came under IS intervention during August 2010 at the Kidderpore Medical Camp.
She was diagnosed as suffering from Schizophrenia. She had hallucinations and muttered to her self constantly, and her self-care was extremely poor.
Post building a relationship with her, Kalyani was convinced to move into the IS shelter. Slowly, under care, she started becoming better and her symptoms decreased. She became engaged in all the work in the shelter and especially loved gardening and singing.
When she managed to share snippets of the details of her home, we managed to contact her family who lived in Kalyani Simanta. Her brother informed us that she was married but her husband and in-laws did not care for her. She had been missing for a while and he was very glad to hear that we had her with us for the past two years.
On 14th August, 2012, her brother came to take her back home. She promised to come back to IS if she faced any problem regarding her family and their adjustment with her.
Her family members are very cooperative and she continues to live with her brother, sister-in law and parents. She does her follow up visits at Jawaharlal Nehru hospital and lends a hand at home.
Manoranjan was identified as a client on 12th September, 2010, in Kalighat area and was taken to Chetla Medical camp at Swadesh Smriti Sangha at Rakhal Das Auddy Road. There, he was diagnosed as suffering from Schizophrenia.
He came under the intervention of IS and was provided food, clothes, hygiene care and medicines regularly. The counsellor regularly visited him and an effort was made to build a meaningful relationship with him. Slowly, as his psychological status improved and he was able to tell us about his home address and other details we needed to locate his family.
On 19th December, 2010 he left with his family to go back home to Jalpaiguri.
He currently works for a cosmetics wholesaler in Jalpaiguri and is loved by his family and community. He is presently under follow up by Iswar Sankalpa. He now wishes to move to Kolkata to look for better job opportunities so that he will be better able to provide for his family.
Moini was found near Sealdah Station in November 2008.
When we first saw her, she was sitting alone and self muttering was also present. When we approached her, she was willing to talk and immediately asked us for some food. Her appearance was very dishevelled and her hygiene condition was very poor. The IS team negotiated with her to also have a bath along with having some food. She soon agreed to do so, provided she was given a dress and some clothes. Through this interaction, we discovered that Moini did not speak in Hindi or Bengali, and that is was difficult to communicate with her properly given the language barrier.
Through our interactions, we came to know her little by little. She was not angry by nature but would get annoyed if anyone touched her belongings. She was sent to a home in Amtala for rehabilitation, but she soon ran away from that place back to where we had first found her. Among all the people who lived in and around Sealdah station area, she preferred to share her time with Jugnu, a youth who was also a homeless person with mental illness.
One day she left Sealdah with Jugnu in a wish to go to Bihar. On the way there, all her belongings were stolen and some days later they both came back to Sealdah. Post her return, she accused the social worker for the theft and demanded money from her.
Following these incidents, we tried with renewed efforts to help her get better. There was regular interaction with her, and constant check whether she was taking her medication or not. Her self-care improved a little and she started attending the Drop-in Centre at Hastings Police Station for rehabilitation purpose on a regular basis. She showed slow improvement, but nonetheless, she was getting better.
Gradually she was able to talk about her home and gave an address to the social workers. Her husband was contacted using that address and he, confirmed that she is a resident of Dariyapur, Patna. On 2nd September, 2010, Iswar Sankalpa staff took Moini to her home, where her husband was elated to see her after almost 8 years. Her husband, Bhahmadev Paswan stated that he had searched a lot for her and had given up any home of seeing her again. He had consequently remarried but was willing to take her back.
Currently, Moini continues to live in Patna. Her husband moves between living with her and his second wife. She is completely under the care of the community who have adapted her as family and ensure her regular check-ups and well-being.
Imran was found in the Sealdah Station area in 2010.
His hygienic condition was good but he seemed in a very euphoric state and kept throwing up his hands and shouting a lot. Due to his display of such behaviour, the Tangra police informed Iswar Sankalpa about him.
He was able to share his father’s phone number with our social worker who then contacted his father. His father told us that they are from Karnataka and that he would reach as soon as possible to meet his son. In the meanwhile, Imran was admitted to Amrapali nursing home.
When his father came to Kolkata, he told us that Imran was in the army. He had been in love with a girl and both the families had fixed on a marriage date. Everything was going well for him, when inadvertently, things fell apart. The girl’s father suddenly passed away following which her brother refused to let her marry Imran. No amount of talking to him would budge him. Seeing no other option, and not wanting to marry anyone else, the girl committed suicide. Imran received this news as a big shock and was found trying to remove the soil from the girl’s grave in order to see her again. A lot of people had to help calm him down, and he became unconscious for a few hours. Post that incident in his life, his symptoms started developing and soon he left the house one day, and incidentally reached Kolkata.
Given this background, our Social worker, Imran’s father and the Tangra police S.I. went to the command hospital and spoke to the doctors about providing Imran’s treatment there, given his army service background. Imran was then moved to Command Hospital on 28th May’, 2010.
He is doing well and has gone back to resuming his job and is currently posted out of Jabalpur.
Shantilata, aged around 28 years was taken from her home by force the Gariahat police on 22nd April, 2010.
Her husband had called the Police as she was throwing utensils all over the house and was breaking things in her room. When the Police arrived, she started throwing utensils at them too. With much difficulty, with a lady constable, the Police had her taken to the Police Station from where they informed Iswar Sankalpa.
She was then brought to the IS shelter for a check-up and prescribed medicines. The husband was also given psycho-education and regular follow-up was advised in her case before she went back home.
She would come for follow-ups to IS in the beginning but since a few months has started doing a regular follow-up at Ranchi. She continues to be in touch with the IS team.
Vedabrata was found near the Panchanantala temple in Kidderpore on 15th of June, 2007. When the IS team first him, he told them that there are two people residing in his body – ‘Vedabrata’ was the person who everyone could see on the outside – who was good looking, rich, well-dressed and sober and ‘Debashis’, was the person on the inside who no one could see – who was not good-looking, not very smart, sad, lonely and poor.
He told the social workers that both of these ‘selves’ communicated with each other and it was observed that when he was speaking as Debashis, his voice would change – his lips would widen and voice was more throaty – as if he were trying to generate speech from the gullet (inner spaces) of his body.
His appearance was unkempt, but his behaviour was always cooperative and he would indulge in continuous self-muttering.
He was diagnosed with suffering from disorganized schizophrenia and was admitted into the psychiatry department of S.S.K.M where he stayed for a month and started showing signs of remission.
He stated that he was from Guwahati, Assam and that his father was responsible for the death of his mother and that his elder brother also had a mental health condition.
Given the unclear but nonetheless troubled circumstances back home, the IS team contacted his family with the help of the Police and in the meanwhile he was admitted into a long stay home here in Bengal – ‘Antardarshan’.
Vedabrata’s father responded to our news of having found him and came to Kolkata to see him on 11th September, 2007. However, explaining his inability to look after him, he has arranged for Vedabrata to be looked after and cared for at Antardarshan and pays for his expenses.
Vedabrata is doing well there, and has made it his second home, with friends who are like a family now.
Nibasi was about 30 years of age when was referred to Iswar Sankalpa by the Narkeldanga Police station on 18th of March, 2008. The police admitted her at Antara that very night. She was quite violent and needed to be under regular observation so as to prevent any harm to her own self or others. She was diagnosed as having acute psychosis with mood disorders.
Slowly, the interventions through medicines and counselling helped and her mental health condition become more stable. She was also able to provide information about her origins to the IS team.
She is a resident of Sarberia in Canning. Her father, Mr. Fakir Chand Sardar is very poor and married Nibasi off because he was unable to provide for his family suitably. Nibasi’s husband and her in-laws were not very cooperative with her and there was always a pressure on her to do things a certain way, and be a certain way. She would often leave her in-laws home following stressful events in the house.
On contacting her maternal family, her father expressed a lot of happiness on her having been found as well as regret for not looking after her better. Despite being from a poor financial background, he wanted to get her back home.
Thus on the 7th of April, 2008, Nibasi was restored back home.
She is currently living with her husband and in-laws
The metamorphosis of Saraswati, from a deranged, terrified woman on the streets of Kolkata, dressed in rags to a smiling, sindoor adorned lady (Seen in the picture below outside her home) is a heart-warming story of a homeless, lost person being reunited with her family.
She was 35 years old when our social workers first found her behaving extremely violently on Gariahat Road. She was running all over and ferociously hitting the nearby shops along the road.
She was surprised at being approached by our social workers who calmed her down and spoke to her about coming along with them to our Medical Camp at 66 Pall, but nevertheless agreed. We named her Manasi.
Soon, she was examined by our psychiatrists and was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. She also had an ulcer on her right leg and was given injections to treat the same. She was admitted to Baul Mon nursing home and soon moved to Antara Psychiatric Centre, a private psychiatric facility in Kolkata.
During her stay at Antara, she slowly started becoming better. She started caring for her appearance, smiled a lot, and could not remember the time when she was violent! The team regularly followed-up with her and she started remembering details like her husband’s name and home address.
The IS team located her husband, who works as a labourer and told him about Manasi. He told us that her name is Saraswati and he had given up all hopes of ever seeing her again. He was also provided with psycho-education regarding Manasi’s mental health condition and was made to understand the importance of regular medication and follow-ups for her to not suffer a relapse.
After two months in Antara, Manasi was overwhelmed to be going back home. Both she and her husband visited IS for regular follow-ups. She has shown remarkable recovery, and is currently under no medication, and continues to live with her husband.
Our team made regular attempts to engage with him. He slowly started responding and smiled back. He never displayed any violent behaviour. He also agreed to be examined by the Psychiatrist and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Through our work in the area, other people started noticing him and asking the team about why we were there and the work we did. These conversations about mental health generated some awareness amongst the community members, and a local food stall owner, Niranjan agreed to provide Babai with regular meals along with his daily dose of medicines.
During this time, Babai started suffering from Scabies and had to be treated at M.R. Bangur Hospital. Babai also slowly started showing a sharp cessation in his earlier symptoms and started talking about his life. It was through these conversations that our team found out that he was from Shyamnagar area in Kolkata. Further enquiry revealed the name of his parents.
The IS team located his family and found out that Babai was in Gujarat working as a goldsmith when he developed his symptoms and landed up in Mumbai. His family was from a poor financial background but were very happy to have found their son again. Together, with inputs from Babai and his family, we discovered that another organization found him in Mumbai and started an intervention with him but somehow, he lost his way again and landed up near Tollygunj Club where we found him.
On 1st January, 2008 Babai was reunited with his family, and bid goodbye to all the friends he had made over the last 2 months near Tollygunj Club, especially the kind and empathetic Niranjan, who looked over him every day.
Babai continues to go for follow-ups to a private psychiatrist and is lending a hand to his father at work.
Post the psychiatric consultation; she was provisionally diagnosed with moderate depression and somatic symptoms with a differential diagnosis of adjustment disorder.
The team started her on medicines, along with regular counselling services working on a supportive technique – allowing venting out to facilitate catharsis and also to help build a sense of self esteem and counter fear. Efforts were also made to counsel her husband. Slowly, she started sharing her skills by helping some other women in the programme learn the basics of stitching. These women have now moved to a 6 month course offered by an external organisation. Noorangez has now started working with a second group of women.
She is now focusing on her well-being and financial stability as she wants a good future for her daughter.