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ANITA - An Introduction: Part 1

In the corner of the street, there sits a lady and it's with her that I begin my stories. Her age seems to be around forty. She was clad in a worn out nightgown – the exact color of the cloth is beyond definition. She was enjoying her mid-day meal from a plastic bag, definitely sourced from a dustbin located nearby. People were passing by on the footpath but nobody seemed to pay much attention to her. A few street dogs were around her pulling at the bag with the intention of snatching it from her. She was gulping the food unaware of her surroundings. An in-appropriate smile, constant muttering and her overall attitude indicated a mental disorder.

The story continued … as I, along with my companions Uttam, Rinti, Sita, and our driver Sanju got onto the van of ASHADEEP and started for our destination to rescue that lady. We found her in the corner of the street – Grabbing food from the plastic bag. We went and stood near her and asked, “Hello! What is your name?” She did not answer. We asked her again, this time a bit loudly-“Where do you stay?” “Will you come with us?” She raised her head, looked at us with a grin on her face and continued to eat. . It was a busy area full of people on the street. Seeing us talking with a mad woman, people began to gather around us with curiosity. We called at her eagerly, “Come! Come with us! You can stay with us; you will get good food, good clothes and a good place to sleep. We will take care of you. You don’t have to eat such dirty food again. Come with Us!” She stopped eating and looked at us. She muttered something with a shriek which sounded like abuse. I told Sita,” Take her to the Car”. Sita held her hand. Surprisingly she showed no resistance. She got up and followed Sita to the Car. The crowd which had gathered began to be more curious- What were these well-dressed people doing with this Crazy woman? Didn’t these people have anything else to do? Yes, that day we didn’t have any other things to do – except accomplish our mission – to start our first rescue of a human soul.

Meanwhile remarks and comments were flowing at us. After we all got into the car, I told Sanju urgently, “Let’s Go!" In fact we wanted to escape from the running commentaries of the crowd. Someone was saying “Where are they taking this mad woman?”. Another one replied “You know, nowadays the racket of organ trafficking is very much going on”. After settling ourselves inside the car, Sanju started driving at my behest. Seated in the corner of the car, the woman’s face was resting on her palm and she was staring outside the window with a blank expression. A foul smell emanated from her body. We could not help but cover our noses. We tried to communicate with her by asking questions like “What is your name? Where are you from? Where is your home?” She turned her face towards us and smiled in a mysterious manner. She did not utter a single word. We were a bit uncertain thinking how she might behave, but fortunately she did not create any ruckus during the journey.

As we reached “Navchetana”, we saw the health care staff at the Centre anxiously waiting for us. As soon as the woman stepped out of the vehicle, there prevailed an air of uncertainty. Everyone present there became a bit apprehensive. Will she attack? Will she run away? But she didn’t do any such acts. She sat down on the ground with some faint mutterings. She was offered a cup of tea with biscuits. She munched the biscuits in one go and gulped the tea in seconds. Sita and Renu, the health care staff, caught hold of her hand gently and led her to the backyard. She followed them without any resistance. Then started the process of her “External Cleansing”! Her uncared hair was filled with millions of lice and therefore it had to be cut short. She was given a thorough bath with soap and Dettol. The entire process took about 30 minutes. From her expression it seemed that she was enjoying the bath which probably she is having after a long time. In the front room outside the verandah, along with my husband Mukul and my other companions, we were discussing the situation that we faced a few minutes ago. We were still filled with excitement by recollecting the moments of rescuing her from the street. Picking a mentally ill woman from the street and bringing her along with us inside the same car was a first time experience for us. Everything happened within such a short time that I myself was amazed to think – have we really done it?

I heard Sita at the top of her voice, “Look at her, Madam! Do you recognize her?” “That woman” whom we picked up in that dilapidated condition from the road a little while ago, was standing in front of us. In a clean dress, her hair cut short ,she was standing in front of us with a new look. I asked her “what is your name”? She replied “Anita”. Seeing her , a fresh confidence evolved in my mind. “Yes – We can do it! We will do it! The task that we have endeavored to take, we will succeed in that! We will surely succeed” – I murmured.

Thus a new chapter has been added in Ashadeep’s mission. Ashadeep has opened its door to embrace the homeless mentally ill women from the street with the objective of giving them a life of dignity, providing shelter, food and psychiatric treatment .

To be continued…



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Dr. Anjana Goswami, the founder-director of Ashadeep has extensively covered various aspects of Mental Health in her publications. She has authored two Assamese books on the first-hand experience of working with homeless individuals with mental illness and their transformational stories. Dr. Goswami’s association with Special Olympics Bharat also gives her an insight into the importance of sports for individuals with disabilities, which is often reflected in her writings.

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