Photo by John Vetterli

*Sushanti Marandi was born blind in a remote village of Dumka ( Jharkhand). To make things even more difficult, her father died when she was still a small child. Now her mother had to go on daily wage work to meet subsistence needs and the blind child grew up alone in a small lonesome house in the most difficult situation imaginable.

As the girl was growing up her mother worried increasingly about her future.

Then one day some social activists came inquiring about whether any disability affected person needed help. They were informed about Sushanti by villagers and were eager to help her.

First she was helped to get a disability certification and then this was followed by disability pension. When the first pension came, Sushanti and her mother felt some hope for the first time.

Then a counselor started coming home to their home. Sushanti was taught some basic arithmetic and also helped to identify various coins and currency notes. Then she was taught how to identify various food and grocery items of daily use, including their packing. Sushanti was surprisingly quick in learning and surprised her teacher and mother in unexpected ways.

Now the teacher said that a help of Rs. 5000 is available to start a grocery shop outside home. By now Sushanti could handle money and grocery. But bringing goods for sale from Dumka to sell in village shop was a problem. Initially a social worker accompanied her and also introduced her to some shopkeepers. The shopkeepers were keen to help. Villagers were also keen to buy from her shop. Gaining confidence from helpful people and her increasing ability,  Sushanti took matters in her own hands and told the social worker that she can now manage on her own.

After this she could manage the shop successfully.

*AK is a woman of Hazaribagh district ( full name/identity withheld ). A few years back she was suddenly evicted from her home by her husband along with her two daughters. She could not withstand the shock and lost balance of mind. She would hurl abuses and even throw stones. While her situation was a very difficult one, one can imagine that this became even more difficult—and most embarrassing—for her growing up daughters. As  many local people saw their plight, it was  a situation devoid of almost any hope.

Then a number of things happened one after another. Some social workers were conducting a survey of mental health patients and when they came to know about A.K. they visited the family and neighbors. They told them that a voluntary organization well-known to them was organizing a well-equipped mental health camp very close to their village in which very experienced doctors will be coming. This organization also had a base in the village in the form of self-help groups of women. These women also came to the help of A.K. but the most forward-looking role was played by the daughters who saw some hope for their mother for the first time.

They took their mother regularly to the camp as per the directives of doctors and ensured that A.K. took her medicines regularly. It was an extended treatment requiring a lot of patience and time, but finally things worked out and A.K. recovered. She became an enthusiastic member of a self-help group and received livelihood  help. With this she started a small enterprise of selling very beautiful bangles. Leaving behind the times of darkness, she now saw her future in very colorful bangles!

*  P.R. is a poor person of Nalanda district ( Bihar) who became an alcoholic at a young age. After some time he also lost his balance of mind. This triple whammy of poverty, alcoholism and mental disease was too much for the young wife who quietly left for her maternal home with her two children. Now a mentally imbalanced, alcohol addicted Pawan with hardly any resources to fall back upon was left alone with his aged mother. People in the village looked upon this family as one placed in an entirely hopeless situation.

When a mental health activist Vijay came to know about this he came to speak to neighbors and the mother of P.R. to take him to a mental health camp in Biharsharif.

Somehow arrangements were made to take him there and much to the surprise of villagers he responded very well to the treatment. As recovery started a voluntary organization provided him a cart as livelihood support. Now P.R. actually saw a glimmer of hope and started working very hard like never before in his life. Soon he was earning reasonably well. Now the same social workers contacted his wife in her maternal home and she agreed to return in the changed circumstances.

Having got a new lease of life, P.R. started insisting that he wants to help other mental health patients. Social workers who had helped him now involved him in  several ways in helping patients in neighboring villages and soon Pawan became known at the local level for this!

These are just three examples of persons and households moving from near hopeless situation to an entirely new situation of confidence and dignity once efforts are made to take at least a glimmer of hope to their dark and neglected lives. I came across several such examples recently when I looked up the records of a voluntary organization Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra ( NBJK) and spoke to several of its activists about their experiences. I heard and read many such stories from Jharkhand and Bihar of help extended to those who had almost lost hope, and while not all of them were as heartwarming and ended on such a happy note, on the whole these add up to a very inspiring experience indeed.

The NBJK was started on a shoe-string budget by two engineering graduates Girija and Satish who gave up lucrative careers and , inspired by their mentor Jaya Prakash Narayan (JP), set out to “change the world”. But before they could change even the few huts where they had found shelter, Satish was arrested due to his involvement in the JP movement. However the two survived their witch-hunt during the emergency days to set in motion a series of struggles for justice followed by even more extensive and diverse welfare activities. The three examples given above are all of persons who benefited from many of the constructive efforts initiated by the NBJK in close collaboration with many smaller organizations of Jharkhand and Bihar. Such examples give the message—never say no, it is always possible to bring hope  even in situations which appear to be devoid of all  hope.

The writer is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements.

 


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One Comment

  1. Lovely article, full of hope.