4 yrs ago Mamta was found on the streets in Wardha. She was confused and in a poor state of neglect. She’d been living roughly for a year, so her mental illness, (later diagnosed as schizophrenia) was chronic, and this made it initially difficult to treat. Mamta also suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after being sexually abused on the streets.
Gradually over time, with psychiatric treatment and lots of love and patience shown by WIN’s staff at the charity’s shelter, Mamta transformed from an uncommunicative, traumatised individual, to a woman who found joy in living.
It took over 2 years to treat her psychiatric symptoms, by which time she was able to earn a small income picking cotton and other seasonal crops on Dattapur’s land. She told us she had experience in farming and enjoyed the work; it was a bonus for her to be able to save money in her own account.
The homeless mentally ill women we find are often unwilling to divulge information about themselves; either because they’re afraid of being sent back to an abusive husband, or because their psychiatric condition makes them paranoid and suspicious. Sometimes they simply can’t remember. We probe carefully, hoping to coax out information without causing distress. Often just snippets, or how a person speaks or behaves can help us to determine where they’re from and what caused them to become so hopelessly lost. Our goal is to treat the illness, resolve family issues and to restore a woman’s confidence and dignity.
For 4 years Mamata could only remember that her husband had taken her on a long train journey to another city and “lost” her there. Her accent suggested she was from Madhya Pradesh, which is north of Maharashtra. She told us that she had two sons, that her parents were probably still be alive, and that her marriage had been unhappy and abusive.
One day, quite unexpectedly, Mamta remembered the name of her parent’s village; this was the breakthrough we needed!
With extensive searches on Google maps and numerous phone calls to various police departments in Madhya Pradesh, we found her family. Her father and brother immediately made the 24 hr train journey to our shelter to see the daughter and sister they thought was dead.
Mamta's husband told everyone that she had left home and abandoned her young sons. They had no idea it was he who left her in an unknown city alone and vulnerable. Thankfully Mamta’s father gained custody of his grandchildren when their alcoholic and abusive father eventually left them too. This was great news, as so many women returning home are forced to fight an arduous legal battle in order to gain access to their children.
Mamta left us and the other women she’d befriended, supported, and in turn had been supported by, with great sadness, but with the promise that she’d keep returning to visit “her second family”.
Arriving home she called to say that everyone in the village were shocked and thrilled to see her alive and well, and that her eldest son, now 18 yrs old, had pledged never to let his mother out of his sights again!
We see a lot of misery and suffering in our work, so these are the moments we relish.