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ANITA - One Step at a Time: Part 2

A small cozy house was the infrastructure to facilitate the rehabilitation of the women with mental health problems wandering on the streets of Guwahati. ‘Navachetana’ was designed to be a transit facility, where a team of Mental health professionals paved the way for the reintegration of the resident with the family.

It was the 18th of March 2005, the day that Anita stepped into Navachetana, thus becoming its first resident and the first character of my stories. “Her lady luck must be smiling at her today”- was the first thought that came to my mind at that moment. I knew that from that day on, her life was going to be changed. She would earn the respect and dignity which she deserved. From then on, we started our journey to give Anita a new life, to help her to recover from the mental illness and achieve normalcy.

Anita’s psychiatric treatment was going on under the tutelage of Dr. Thakuria, the psychiatrist, who diagnosed that she was suffering from chronic Schizophrenia. As she spent so many days or months or years on the streets, she had forgotten the basic norms of functioning in the regular world. Her habits of spitting, urinating and excreting anywhere, irregular food habits, and way of dressing, needed quite a bit of time to be remedied. The health care and other staff continuously tried to regain her lost skills. As the days progressed, there were noticeable changes in Anita. She learned to greet others with a smile and respond. She also learned to maintain her personal hygiene, toilet habits, and other social norms.

As days passed by, Anita started recovering. She got involved in the chores of the center, helping the staff and managing her fellow inmates. She learned to take the medicines herself. But she was not able to recollect her home address.

One day while chatting with her in the courtyard I asked her casually, “Anita, do you remember now where your home is?”

“Didi, Rourkela,” Anita replied.

I was appalled! During all the earlier counseling sessions she never uttered a single word about this place!

“Is it the Rourkela of Orissa?” she shook her head in agreement.

I persuaded her, “Anita, please try to remember. In Rourkela, what is the name of the place where you resided? Are there any landmarks like temples, schools, or hospitals nearby? At your home, did you have any rickshaw, cycle, or car?”

She muttered slowly, “My house is at Sector No 19. My father is a rickshaw puller and my mother works as a maid.”

Anything more?


No, she did not remember anything more. I felt like opening Pandora's box! All these years we had been putting all our efforts to find out her home address and now we are almost a little way behind in discovering it! It was enough information for us to start our search to locate her home. We started to enquire about the places that Anita had mentioned. After we became sure about the place, we decided to take her back to her family. Then came the moment when we had to bid adieu to Anita. Being the first member of Navchetana, we developed a strong bond with her. With a heavy heart, we prepared ourselves to give her farewell. Accompanied by two of our Ashadeep workers Joseph and Pranita, Anita was ready to leave. Everybody’s eyes were filled with tears as she was leaving us. She carried two bags filled with gifts from all of us at Navchetana. She waved at us with tears in her eyes. After two days of journey, they reached Rourkela and headed to the destined address, Sector No 19.

A smiling Anita at Navachetana

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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