Success Stories

Story of Mr Gajanand who now works more than his brother

This is the story of a man who was chained with a tree near his house for more than 6 years due to mental illness started in his late teenage. The simple home based treatment started by Nishkam Foundation changed his life and now he works at the family farm land ‘more than his brother’ and family is planning to marry him now.

Mr GJ was a brilliant school student about 13 years ago. His father, a poor agricultural laborer had dreamt that GJ would be the first in the family to get enough educational qualification to join a government job and would change the fate of the family that included 6 younger siblings of GJ, besides others. However before this could happen, something strange happened to GJ. He started remaining quiet, neglected his studies, neglected his self-care and started smiling to himself. He would also get angry when asked to do something. Then he stopped going to school. As recently, one of his classmate and friend had died, family thought it might be related to some supernatural spirits or a shock to GJ. They took him to a faith healer in the area. All the rituals and offerings brought no change in the behavior of GJ. Instead he continued deteriorating. The father was although illiterate but did have some common sense. He took GJ to a psychiatrist in a medical school about 250 Km from Sangaria. GJ improved with medicines but deteriorated again- father could not remember if it was due to discontinuation of medicines (every trip to medical college costed him 15 days of his wages), or it happened despite continuation of medicines. GJ developed a tendency to run away or getting agitated if stopped from going away. Subsequently GJ was taken to other psychiatrists in the area. However GJ never became well though his father exhausted all his resources in the process. Finally in the year 2005, his father after consultation with his family members (wife and mother) took a decision to do something which is not done to even pets or domestic animals in rural India...

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He decided to tie GJ in lock and chain around a tree in their house in an agricultural farm. Since then GJ’s world was a circular area with a radius of 15 feet (length of the chain locked to his leg) and centre at the tree to which the chain was tied. At times GJ would enter into a small room near the tree which family kept open deliberately. The family would serve food to him-sometime he would eat, other times he won’t. Nobody would come near him due to fear of retaliation. Initially the family used to offer him a bed and quilt, which he would often tear/break, so lately family did not give him that also. He would defecate wherever he desires/felt convenient to. Neither family nor GJ ever bothered about bathing, cleaning, shaving etc. All along the years, the lock was never opened!!
In November 2011, some media people got to know about him and brought his story on a television channel. After initial interest and promises, many organizations and public officials could not initiate any remedial action. In December 2011, a local religio-spiritual leader (Mahant Shri Madhodas Udasin) narrated the plight of GJ to Dr Dhanesh Gupta and the local coordinator of Community Mental Health Campaign. Spiritual leader took Dr Gupta and some other volunteers to GJ’s house and they obtained all the details of GJ’s behavior. They observed GJ talking to himself, smiling without reason, grossly untidy-nearly smelling and irritable when tried to be approached. Dr Gupta explained to father about the psychiatric condition (Chronic Schizophrenia) that GJ was suffering from and told him about possibility of GJ becoming better with regular use of medicines. We also told him that if he desired we could send GJ to the state psychiatric hospital for treatment or refer him to a psychiatrist in the area. However he expressed his unwillingness to take GJ to any place and requested to start medicines. Medicines were prescribed for GJ. As his father showed inability to purchase medicines, a community leader in Sangaria was approached who gladly agreed to bear all the expenses of medicines for GJ. Fortunately, GJ did not refuse to take medicines. With regular medication, by March 2012 his family reported that he had improved a lot. In April 2012, Dr Gupta and volunteers visited GJ and observed the improvement in his condition. Instructions were given to the family members to try opening chain of GJ for 2-3 hours twice a day and to interact with him more frequently. Perhaps the family was still scared. The key to lock also did not work- the lock levers had rusted. After month, the team visited GJ’s home again. Noticing further improvement, the lock was cut open. GJ was delighted to see that. Everyone had a cup of tea with GJ- perhaps for the first time in many years GJ was sitting in the company of people. Instructions were given to the family for periodic opening of chains and taking GJ to the farm. He started going with father to the farm. His interaction with family also improved. In June 2012, GJ was brought by his father to the patient consultation camp in Sangaria. GJ did not have any psychotic symptoms and his behavior has improved significantly. However his cognitive functions such as attention, memory, comprehension of complex interaction have deficiencies. Some simple to do interventions for improving his cognitive functions have been suggested to the religio-spiritual leader and GJ’s father. By the end of year 2012 GJ started working in the field. When asked, his younger brother said ‘GJ works more than other family members. By now, he is more interactive and works in the field, looks after family cattles and plays with his younger siblings. Many times he also visits monthly camp and works as a volunteer, serving water to doctors, volunteers and other patients.

Note: Mukti programme was started after Gangajal was released from the chains and his story led to a chain of thoughts and discussions which ultimately culminated into development of programme Mukti. We can certainly say that Gangajal was the inspiration behind programme Mukti.

Kamla Devi rehabilitated back to her family after living chained under a tree for 10 years

Story of a 40 year old lady villagers who was tied to a tree on a vacant plot of land in a village in district Churu of Rajasthan for 10 years. Surprisingly, she survived the sweltering sun and blinding dust storms of the summers, freezing nights of the winters, and not the least- the drunkards and other random anti-social elements, with absolutely no support from anyone, except the village children who would throw food towards her. Nishkam Foundation after noticing this, liaise with government officials and she was treated at the state mental hospital. Now followed up by Nishkam Mukti Team, she is looking after her children and husband in her village.

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The life story of 40 year old Kamala Devi is no less than a horror story, except that there is a happy ending. Born and grown up in a poor farmer’s family in village Bulasar in district Churu, she was married to a farmer’s son in nearby village Dilbasar. For a few years, she had a contented life- a loving husband and two children with basic needs fulfilled through farming. Then all the hell broke down on her. She developed a severe mental illness which changed everything in her life. Family initially tried to get her treated at state psychiatric hospital in Jaipur but could not continue treatment due to the costly medicines and cost incurred in travelling. Also, the response to treatment was not optimal. They took her to faith healers in nearby villages but her condition continued to deteriorate. She started neglecting her food, hygiene and would become aggressive on slightest provocation. Finally, the family took her to her parents’ village and requested her brothers to take care of her. However, her brothers refused as they did not know how to help her and got scared that she may run away or become aggressive. Feeling helpless, her husband took a very inhumane and barbaric step- tied her to a tree on a vacant plot and left her there. She remained tied to the tree for 10 years- hungry, thirsty, unprotected, under the sweltering sun, facing the dust storms and vulnerable to all kinds of abuses by the antisocial elements. She came to the notice of volunteers of Mukti programme. Mukti team went to the village and found her in a pathetic condition. Fearing further abuse and potential mishap, the Mukti team immediately wrote a letter to the administration with a request to send her to psychiatric hospital immediately for her safety and treatment. Administration took a swift action, she was sent to psychiatric centre Jaipur. She improved with treatment and within 6 months she became just like any other normal person. Her family, specially husband was very happy, villagers considered it a miracle. Her husband finally brought her to his house and currently she is living a normal life, doing household work and enjoying the company of her children.

Note: Name of patient and her villages are changed to maintain confidentiality of patient. Photos are not placed on web as we have not obtained consent of patient for the same.)

Tale of a farmer who now wants to quit smoking

This is story of a 50 year old farmer who was kept in a room at home with all his four limbs tied with chains to the walls and floor of the room for 12 years. Upon release from chains after initiation of home based treatment under Programme Mukti of Nishkam Foundation, now he is living a socially productive life and also is set to work as volunteer in Mukti programme by sharing his success story with families of other chained patients. Click here to read his story.

Mr Kalu Ram was an intelligent school student who after completing his higher secondary education started helping his father in family’s 20-acre farmland in village Rupakhda, 30 kilometers from the district twon Sri Ganganangar in Northern Rajasthan. Soon he proved his capabilities as a successful farmer and was married with a girl from a matching socio-economic background. Time passed on; the couple started enjoying parenthood with a daughter and a son. Kalu Ram continued the farming with full responsibility and sincerity after his father passed away. His mother, wife and relatives- everyone felt proud of him. The villagers respected him not only for his success as a farmer and household but also his wisdom in the common and social matters in the village. However, it could not last long. A severe mental illness struck on him around the age of 35 years. He started hearing voices of various known and unknown people. He started believing unfounded and untrue things. Among the voices that he heard was a voice of his son also due to which he started believing that he got a second son who was made captive and was tortured by his wife and mother. He also started believing that his family members are involved in trading of illicit drugs in connivance with relatives. He became deluded that his family members, relatives and some of the villagers would annihilate him as he was opposed to all their illegal activities. With the help of relatives and villagers he was taken a private psychiatric hospital in the nearby district town. Investigations followed, medication given and even ECT administered, he would improve partially and temporarily, only to relapse in a worse condition. He was taken to various other hospitals in neighbouring districts and even state mental hospital. But his condition did not change. Now he also started getting violent against his wife and mother (though never touched son or daughter) and tried to run out of home to chase and beat people whom he believed to be meddling in his family matters...

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Feeling helpless and hopeless, and finding no way out of the problem, the family took a very serious decision after consulting their relatives and elderly wise men in the village. They tied him with rope in a room. Clever Kalu Ram freed himself after a few weeks by breaking the rope by rubbing it against the brick floor of the room. Family felt even more scared that now he would retaliate against them. In no time, he was tied again- this time with iron chains (saankal) and not one, but four- all his limbs were tied with different chains to the four walls/floor of the room!! For 10 years, he remained tied like this in a 10*14 feet room with hardly allowed to move his limbs more than 1-2 feet- worse than any animal on the earth. His cattle in the same house enjoyed more freedom. Albeit, the family was still caring for him at heart and partially in their actions as well- they serve him food, tea, water etc., they clean him once a month or so and they did provide him bidis to smoke which he was habitual of.
Information about his condition reached to the volunteers of Nishkam Foundation in Sangaria. Nishkam Team with its doctors went to his house. The First thing he asked was ‘mujhe aur mere bete to meri stree ke changul se chhudao’ (Free me and my son from the captivity of my wife). He expected us to communicate his request to the appropriate government authorities. However, immediately he could guess that we are not from government, he got angry with us, scolded us and refused to talk further. We had to return. However, as we do in every such condition, we continued to make efforts and finally after few months he agreed to our assurances that he could be released from chains if he took medicines. Medicines (just 2 tablets a day) were started, his agitation and anger came down and gradually he was more willing to share his feelings and was more amenable to our advice. He complained to us that the ‘some unknown enemies’ caused electric current to flow to his body via earth and chains he was tied with. He shared his pain and agony caused by the screaming and appeals of his son (result of his mental experiences not corresponding to an outside reality). As he did feel some relief in his stress, he continued to take medicines. With time, his chains were opened one by one and after about a year he was totally free from chains. He started taking care of his hygiene, food and also interacted better with family- got angry less often- though he was still hearing voices of his ‘son’. Our doctors and volunteers continued to visit him at his home. In one winter afternoon when our team was talking to him, he requested ‘doctor sahib baki to kaaphi theek ho gaya hoon, ab ek bidi bachi ha ise aur chhuda do’ (I am much better now in many ways, but smoking habit is persisting, help me to quit it). Such a level of insight and motivation! We all were delighted to listen him and felt ourselves more motivated to guide him to help himself. Today after three years of the above incident, he is a free man, goes to meet villagers, visit his fields sometime, socialize with visitors, takes his medicines regularly and smokes only a few bidis a day. He still hears his ‘son’ but is able to understand that it is his illness and no more react to it with violence or agitation against anyone. He has now volunteered to be part of Nishkam Foundation’s Mukti Programme team to newly identified chained patients to narrate his story to their families so that they are motivated to start treatment for their patients. He has also featured in our short video on Mukti programme

Note: The name of the village and patient has been changed to maintain partial confidentiality of the patient. Photographs published with permission of the patient.

She now manages the whole family and home

Story of Sunayana, an intelligent and proficient lady who was locked in a room for 8 years after she developed mental illness. After treatment under Mukti Programme, she is now able to manage her parental household and also participates in socio-religious activities in the village helping people in their pursuit of religion and spirituality. Click here to read more about her.

Sunayana was a beautiful and intelligent college student, younger of two daughters in a well to do respectable family in village Lamasar of district Sirsa in Haryana. Her father, an officer rank government servant, dreamed about her as a highly educated lady who would earn him and family a lot of name and fame. She was sent to a women’s college for higher studies in a nearby town. The family had a lot of hopes from her. However, things took an ugly turn. At the age of 20 years, she started having symptoms of mental illness which later doctor diagnosed as Schizophrenia. Family was prompt to start her on appropriate treatment and she recovered. After she completed her graduation, family considered it not appropriate to let her continue studies as it would cause her stress. She was married and sent to a family with matching repute and background. She was living happily with her new family and also gave birth to a son. Things took a shocking turn again- her mental illness relapsed – this time even more severely. She stopped caring for the family or doing housework; did not look after herself or even her son who was just 2 years old. She was sent back to her parents’ home. There she even got worse- became agitated frequently without any obvious reason, tried to run away from home. Family tried their best to do whatever they could- many rounds of treatment from various psychiatrists in the region, a number of faith healers and a lot of religious rituals. Needless to say, the family was severely exploited financially as well as emotionally during these treatments and procedures. But nothing worked this time. Finally, the parents took the harshest decision of their life to prevent her from running away from house which would otherwise have ‘blemished family’s image and reputation’, they locked her in a small room within house. She was confined to this room of 8*10 feet for 8 years; Food was served to her through a 10 inches wide window in the wall; she was bathed and cleaned only once in few weeks.

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A family friend informed Nishkam Mukti Team about the patient and requested to make a visit at patient’s house. When the team with doctor went to her house, the family refused to engage with the team. They did not even open the door of house initially and told the team that they had tried all sorts of treatment and nothing had worked for her. Therefore, they could now trust nobody. Doctor in the team said that the team would not charge even one Rupee and requested the family to try medicine just for one month. They were assured of option of discontinuing medicines if there was no improvement. The family reluctantly agreed to it, allowed the team a brief examination of the Sunayana. She was severely emaciated, shrunken on a bed, almost half dead. Seeing the prescription written by our doctor, the mother taunted that she did not respond to dozens of tablets, how would just one tablet will help her. However, she said they they will give medicines to Sunayana, more for proving to the doctor how wrong he was! Luckily, the medicine worked for her very well. The family could see a perceptible change in a month. Next month, the family allowed the team to sit in the house and discussed with the team the overall process of treatment under Programme Mukti. The interaction helped to built-up their trust and confidence in the team and they agreed to follow further advice regarding Sunayana’s treatment. Within few months of treatment, she improved significantly- started interacting with family, took care of her personal hygiene, did not show any signs of agitation or trying to run away. After 6 months, her chains were broken open and she was released from the chains. Family was delighted with the change but Sunayana had still to change a lot. Under the team’s guidance and advice, gradually she started helping her mother in the housework, started talking to the relatives and visitors in the family, and willingly took her medication regularly. As the time passed, she also started visiting temple in the village, would contribute to preparations for daily prayers and offerings at temple, would read religious scriptures at home and temple and increased her share of responsibility in the housework. She also became more aware of her responsibility towards her son who is now 17 years old and is in a boarding school. At the time of writing this story, she could do all housework and could prove this when recently her mother went to stay with her elder daughter for few weeks to help in her delivery.

Note: The name of the village and patient has been changed to maintain partial confidentiality of the patient. Photographs published with permission of the patient.

Scientific dispensing of psychiatric medicines to Nishkam Foundation patients in Sangaria

This is an account of Nishkam Foundation’s initiative to improve drug dispensing practices in Sangaria, a small town of Northern Rajasthan. When patients seen in the monthly community outreach mental health consultation camp go to buy the medicines to any chemist/pharmacy shop in Sangaria, they are dispensed medicines in a scientific manner.

Mr Ram Dayal, an illiterate farmer from a village near Sangaria came to see doctor for his asthma and high blood pressure. The doctor gave him a prescription- with 4 medicines written in barely legible handwriting. He buys medicine from a chemist in Sangaria. The chemist put the medicines in one polythene bag and tells him to take medicines as advised by his doctor. Back home, Ram Dayal mixes up everything as he could not remember correctly when and how many times to take each medicine. Research data reveal that 30-50% patients make errors in taking their medicines, just like Ram Dayal. The main reason- Poor Dispensing Practices prevalent not only at chemist shops in towns like Sangaria but at renowned pharmacies in large cities and dispensaries in big hospitals. Dr Dhanesh Gupta, the President of Nishkam Foundation and his team were careful to pick up this early during the community mental health campaign and started remedial action in 2012. They trained the chemists and pharmacists of Sangaria in Good Dispensing Practices, specially of medicines prescribed for mental illnesses. It led to a gradual transformation, thanks to the cooperation of the chemists and pharmacists of Sangaria and the awareness of patients and their relatives. Now, when a patient seen at Nishkam Free Mental Health Consultation Camp buys medicines from a chemist in Sangaria, each medicine is packed separately in a printed envelop on which the chemist writes the frequency, dosage and method (e.g after meals, before sleep etc.) to take medicines. He also writes his phone number for emergency contact. Lastly but not the least, he gives a proper bill for every purchased medicine.