Two Indian Girls on a Mission

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

I heard about the inspiring story I am about to share with you, about two college girls mission to help mentally ill women, on the podcast “All in the Mind,” and was deeply moved by how these girls have chosen to do their part to make a difference in their community.

In 1993, two Indian college friends, only twenty-two at the time, came across a naked and psychotic women crying for attention. No one was paying her any attention, and it was obvious no one was going to step in and help. They decided, right then and there, that they were going to find a new life for women like this, women who are abused, mentally ill, and homeless. Mental health support is almost inexistent in India, especially for women. As an Indian women who now works for their organization describes, “If a women feels stressed and throws a tantrum, she is immediately branded as mental. Whereas a man, whatever stress he has, it is accepted for him to smoke to ease out his stress, for him to drink to ease out his stress, for him to have sex extramarital or marital, whereas a women is expected to keep quiet, which is a very unfortunate thing.”

These two girls found a house to rent for this women, and pretty soon, they were treating and housing over forty mentally ill women. These are women who are, “battered, bruised, brutally abused, both physically and sexually, ignored by everybody, eating out of garbage bins and with no place to call home.” This was the start of The Bayan. After a while they got their own land, and now over 1500 women live, or have lived, in this establishment. Their main goal is to rehabilitate these women and reconnect them with their families. Often times these women have been wandering the streets for years, even decades, and the search is sometimes fruitless because in many cases the women don’t even know their own name or where they came from. Other times though, they are able to find the women’s family and give her her life back.

One touching story they shared was about a women who came in years ago. She kept telling them she had a five year old daughter, and a seven year old son, and that she wanted to go home. She didn’t know where home was, so her and the two women who run the organization went on a road trip. They arrived in her old village on the day of her daughters wedding (she had been lost for twenty yeas, her five year old was now twenty-five). It was the biggest wedding gift her daughter could have received, to have her mother back after all these years.

These two gals have given women on the streets a home, support, and a new beginning. These are women who had no chance of survival if this home didn’t exist, and now, over 850 of them have been successfully rehabilitated (if their family is not traceable or doesn’t want them back, they are put in a long term care house and given resources to find a job and regain their independence). They have dedicated their lives to this project, and there is never a dull moment when you are living with hundreds of mentally ill women. One of the girls describes how there is no office, so sometimes, while she is trying to write important emails for more medication, there will be five women behind her, fighting, asking her for more tea, or just trying to get her attention. She says that she probably won’t finish the email that night, since the women need something for her and they are impossible to ignore since the reason she is doing all this is for them. When asked to describe how it feels for her to live there, she said, “It’s a home. We have fights. We have our fair-share of fun. It is even better than a home because we celebrate every festival and every holiday.” Here are two women who saw a problem, and though they were only twenty-two at the time, set out to fix it.

To check out more, visit their website at: http://www.thebanyan.org/.

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