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Manju: A story with a happy ending !!!

Wearing a dirty half pant and a red T-shirt with a plastic bag in her hand, a young lady was standing near the traffic signal point, signaling all the vehicles passing by the busy Traffic point. There was a massive traffic jam, as she stood in the middle of the road and continued her gimmicks. The traffic policeman was having a tough time controlling the traffic and keeping the lady away from the speeding vehicles. By sheer coincidence we arrived at the place just then. I was quite amused at the sight of the lady, mimicking the traffic police. We stopped near the scene and coaxed her to get into our vehicle. After much persuasion, she got inside the car and sat at the rear seat. Then suddenly she started singing a popular Hindi Song in a loud voice. She kept singing until we arrived in Navachetana. We asked her to get down from the vehicle. She did so. We asked her, “What is your name? Where are you from?”

“My name is Manju! And I am from Sibsagar.” She replied smartly.

We asked her again, “How did you come to Guwahati? and with whom have you travelled?”

This time she started talking gibberish. We looked at the packet she was carrying. It contained ten Bank passbooks of unknown persons, an empty packet of cigarette, a broken doll, an empty bottle and a few rubbish items. I was just confused as how she got hold of the passbooks. The health workers took her inside and gave her a bath, gave her new clothes to wear and offered food. I was talking with my colleagues in the verandah outside. Suddenly she came running to us and with a salute and shouted loudly “Jai Hind”!

Then she asked me,

“Madam, this hostel where I will stay now, is it for free?”?

Before I replied, she started to sing a Bihu song. We were quite amused at her behavior. The workers present there had gone berserk laughing at her mockery. Seeing everybody laughing, she also started laughing putting her hands on her tummy. The whole environment became enlightened with laughter in the air. The arrival of Manju created an environment of fun and frolic in the center. Due to her jolly and vibrant nature, soon she became very affable at the centre.

After her psychiatric treatment ensued Manju started recovering and her Counselling session begun. We came to know that she was married at a very young age. She had left behind her two daughters at her home- One was five years and the younger was three years old. Her husband was a petty businessman and took good care of them. Manju came into contact with a woman at her village who enrolled her into the AMWAY Business. One day she asked Manju to accompany her to Guwahati for business purposes. Taking due permission from her husband, Manju came with the woman to Guwahati. All was fine until the bus reached Nowgaon. At Nowgaon Bus stand, the woman offered her a soft drink. After taking the drink Manju became unconscious. When she regained her consciousness, she found herself in an unfamiliar place. She was frantically looking for the lady with whom she had come, but all in vain. She does not remember what followed thereafter, how many days she has been away from her home; she was not aware where she was during all these days. She just had some hazy images of cooking and washing dishes at the house of a truck driver somewhere near the Highway at a place called Sonapur.

I could presume from her statements that she happened to be another victim of human trafficking. Taking advantage of her simplicity, that woman might have sold her off to somebody.

With the address provided by her, we traced her family and contacted them. Her parents were overwhelmed to hear that their daughter is still alive. They told us that she was missing from her home at Sibsagar for the last four years. They reported to the police, publish her case in missing person’s column in the local daily’s. When no information was found for four long years, they took her to be dead. They informed us that they would come to take Manju back within a short time. Her story was really a surprise for me, as she mentioned the name of the place as Sonapur where she had been residing all this time, hardly 300 km from Sibsagar. How was it possible that within such a short distance, she was never traceable?

After a week, Manju’s parents along with a few family members arrived at Navchetana. Seeing Manju after such a long time, they became emotional. We spoke with her parents and told them how and in what condition we found her. We explained to them about her mental conditions and how to take care of her illness. We handed them her medicines and gave the instructions how to administer the medicines in time. We also told them to get Manju checked up with the local Psychiatrist periodically. Her parents have never imagined that they would find Manju back again. They told us that her husband was astounded to hear that his wife was alive. He loved Manju immensely. He had even lodged an FIR with the police against the woman with whom Manju came to Guwahati. The woman was arrested on the basis of the complaint and was in jail for charges of human trafficking. Thinking that Manju was no more and his daughters had to be taken care of, Manju’s husband married again. After knowing that Manju is alive, he had requested Manju’s parents to keep her with them for the time being. He assured that Manju would have the necessary dignity she deserved in addition to financial help. The parents told us that the news that Manju was alive was taken with real pleasure by the entire village. They are all waiting to welcome her back.” I felt really happy at the news. [AG1] Yes, humanity still exists in the society.

The Sun was about to set. Manju and her family were ready to depart. They would be travelling by the night bus. All the residents and workers gathered around Manju to bid her adieu. As she was leaving, darkness gradually was engulfing her smiling bright face. Her beautiful voice humming Bihu songs still rang in my ears. In my thoughts, I tried to visualize the faces of her husband and her children who were waiting for her since last four years.


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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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