You would never recognise the Mariam of the past should you speak to her now. Aggressive and deliberately mute before treatment, Mariam’s childhood as part of a broken family eventually took its toll on her mental health.
In third grade, Mariam’s father decided that he did not want his daughter to be educated, and so she was taken out of school to stay in the house and perform basic duties such as cooking, washing and cleaning. Determined not to be raised as a housewife, Mariam secretly taught herself to read English through reading story books, allowing me to interview her without any language barrier.
She suffered a difficult childhood, her parents were separated and it is this that still prevents her from wanting to go home today. Her overbearing father would keep her in the house all day, performing menial household chores, depriving her of any friends.
At 25, Mariam was married and two years later she became pregnant. However, the stress of being wholly responsible for another vulnerable life proved too much, and her mental health soon deteriorated after the birth of her child.
Mariam remembers being “very angry and frustrated. I wouldn’t talk to anyone”. And as a result was hospitalised in Kolkata for ten years. Following this, she was transferred to an organisation similar to The Banyan in Kolkata, but eventually found herself at The Banyan, Adaikalam.
Since coming here, she has found solace in work, praising The Banyan for ‘helping me to be independent.’ Eager to learn more skills and become more efficient, Mariam has immersed herself in her work; she is a renowned tailor at The Banyan’s Transit Care Facility. Creating beautiful pieces such as pouches and purses but specialising in jute bags, Mariam makes a comfortable sum of money for herself and is currently saving for housing. She says that by allowing her to be responsible for her own savings, The Banyan ‘has taught me to stand in my own shoes.’ But she also aids others in finding their feet too, working as an assistant at the Vocational Training Department. Mariam is always on hand whilst she creates her wares to help others stitch a successful life to be proud of, just like she has done for herself.
Working in the Vocational Training Department at The Banyan, the jute bags, and other items made by Mariam are sold in The Banyan campus and also at other events outside. The Occupational Training teacher is Mrs Marysasikala who is able to give explanations and help to Mariam if necessary.
After one and a half years at The Banyan, Mariam is calm, happy and very talkative- a far cry from her state when she arrived here. A long stay resident, she now lives in Group Housing with other long stay residents who have a large degree of control over their mental condition.
Mariam believes that Group Housing allows its residents to “feel confident’” through being self- sufficient. They cook, clean and wash for themselves, living in groups of seven in one house. As a Group Housing resident for 5 months, Mariam enjoys being able to do “what I want for myself’” whilst also enjoying the sisterhood and companionship of her other housemates.
Mariam has learned a lot about The Banyan and has become happy and confident and able to use her skills to help others. What an achievement!!
Mariam was interviewed by a young volunteer, Lewis Coombs, during his 3 week volunteering stint at The Banyan.
If you would like to help The Banyan to help more women like Mariam, please follow the links below:
Contact Sethu for more info: +91-9677059090. firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Archanaa for more info: +91-9840523235. email@example.com