The women were both admitted with mental conditions and could barely recall their names; it took constant counselling and follow-up to learn about their families and track them down
Yesterday, Thane Mental Hospital was witness to the heart-warming reunion of two women with their families after years, thanks to tireless efforts put in by social workers and doctors there. Both the women were inmates at the hospital, barely able to remember their own names, let alone the details of their family members, but this did not deter the hospital workers.
The first case is a particularly distressing one of a woman who went through intense mental trauma after she was abandoned by her husband and then gang-raped two years ago.
The 40-year-old woman will finally go home to Uttar Pradesh with her brother after spending two years at the hospital, as social workers attempted to trace her family. Pics/Sameer Markande
The 40-year-old woman hails from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, where she lived with her husband. But towards the end of 2013, she suspected that her husband had a second wife hidden in Mumbai, so she travelled here to check on him. When she learnt that he had indeed married another woman, he abandoned her. Heartbroken and alone in a strange city, the woman went through a second trauma when she was gang-raped. The Dharavi police registered the case and she was admitted in the Thane Mental hospital on January 2, 2014, for treatment for the resulting psychosis.
“Two years ago, the victim came to know that her husband had married a Bengali woman in Mumbai, so she came to Mumbai, where she was gang-raped. This led to mental trauma and she was admitted here,” said Surekha Wathore, psychiatrist and social worker at Thane mental hospital.
Back in UP, the survivor’s five kids and her brother had no idea where she was. Social workers in the hospital didn’t have much luck while trying to figure out her identity either. Language problems and her condition got in the way. “After approaching her several times, we finally gained her trust and slowly started getting a few details like the fact that she hails from Rampur. We then contacted the Rampur police and enquired about missing cases. Two months ago, we finally traced her family and even spoke to her brother,” Wathore added.
However, her brother couldn’t make it to Mumbai because of financial constraints, which is when other NGOs stepped in to help, such as the Environmental Medical Association, which provided funds so that the brother could come to the city and be reunited with his sister.
“We tried to search for my sister many times, but couldn’t find her. I had visited Mumbai earlier, but had to return when I couldn’t find any leads. We filed a missing complaint with the local police station but lost all hope until the hospital staff traced us. I am happy that we can finally take her home after two years,” said the brother.
The second woman spent a much longer period in the hospital — nearly eight years. Shobha Giri (43) was admitted on July 1, 2008, by the Kashimira police station and was found to be suffering from a manic disorder.
After eight years of searching for Shobha Giri, her husband Vasant (right) was finally reunited with her yesterday
“The police found her roaming around in their jurisdiction and sent her here. We tried counselling her several times, but she was not even aware of her own name, and kept saying different names like Meena, Seema and others. But we kept talking to her and slowly began to learn more about her,” Wathore recalled.
It was finally in August that the hospital made a breakthrough, when Shobha finally revealed to one of the social workers that she was from Gujarat, where her husband and sister reside.
“We took her details and started looking it up online. We forwarded the information to the Kashimira police station and asked them to trace her family in Udhna in Surat. The cops found her husband, who had reported her missing in 2008,” Wathore added.
Shobha’s husband, Vasant, said, “We never thought she would go all the way to Mumbai. We kept searching for her in local areas in Surat. For months, I would ride my bicycle through every by-lane, looking for her. We are grateful to the hospital staff for reuniting us.”
It was later learnt that Shobha had taken a train to Mumbai unbeknownst to her family. When her husband was informed that she was in Mumbai, he wanted to take her home immediately, but once again, financial restraints stopped him: he didn’t have the money to pay Shobha’s treatment fees. Here too, the Environmental Medical Association came to their aid and shared the cost with the family, after which husband and wife came together after nearly eight years on Monday. Hospital superintendent, Dr Rajendra Shirsat said, “It took real effort from our social workers, who traced the families and continuously followed up. Our aim is to reunite as many such victims as we can.”