Unforgotten Truth


 Karina Pandya


Pocketed away in the Thiruporur Block a section of society exists, ostracized by many and looked after by few.

These are the people who so simply lead their lives with no complaints, but so desperately need our attention and help.

A small village exists in the Thiruporur Block, called Kovalam where many villagers face problems most of us are unaware of.

In the heart of this village is a Mosque, i.e. a Muslim temple where men and women- of any religion or race; be it a Hindu or a Christian or a Parsee turn to god to pray.

This place is not only just a place to pray but also where forgiveness is sought. Some of the Muslim saints are buried within this structure. 

Another phenomenon which occurs in this Dargha is the presence of people who have literally lost all faith and hope in themselves and everything around them believe that by visiting this Dargha they will be relived of their pain. Many of these people believe that they have been possessed by an evil spirit.

Such people are the people who are facing; if not chronic but milder versions of mental illnesses.

Many of them wander inside the Dargha talking to themselves impromptu to the peculiar hallucinations and delusions that they hold.

For them escaping the voices and images in their head is a battle but they don’t know how to escape it.

Not only are these people found wandering within the Dargha but also healers who are believed to be people who possess the right knowledge to heal them of this ailment.

They thus are the cure to these strange mannerisms and are also found wandering within The Dargha.

There have been various techniques the healers have used to drive the evil spirit out of the body or liberate the soul.  Many a time beating the patient till the evil spirit is believed to be released from the body, or hammering a nail in their forehead or even pulling out the hair of the patient are done. However these are not so common anymore. Exorcism rituals are practiced in many other manners to liberate the soul.

But, the real problem is not the villagers but the lack of facilities and amenities they are getting. Education is lacking in terms of the right type of awareness and knowledge in the village.

Most of the villagers face severe poverty and thus cannot afford to send their children to schools. Thus a web is created where the choice is “To Survive” or “Not to Survive.”

Earning wages are not so high and the chief source of income comes through the livelihood of the fishermen of the Block. To realize this and start spreading education in places where it is needed the most can prevent this backward standard of living. To cater to the health issues faced by the local villagers in Kovalam a health unit has been established close to The Dargha. This health-unit caters not only to the needs of mentally ill destitute women but also to that of mentally ill men as well. Thus there is a link between the Village Panchayat and the Health Center. Issues such as Primary Sanitation, Cleanliness, etc are dealt with between the Health Center and the Village panchayat. During the daytime both men and women who visit the Health Center engage in vocational training and activities.  A doctor is available to offer his service to the Patients who visit throughout the day. Community Mental Health Program is a core aspect of the work of The Health Center. Here, actual home-visits are made to the patient’s house to fully understand where the patient is coming from, his background, lifestyles, etc. Thus investigations are made to understand the development of the mental disorder and how the right help can be received. 

Having made a home visit I landed upon Patient X’s home in Kovalam. On interacting with his wife I was briefed about his case history and development of the illness he suffered from- Major Depression.

He had been suffering from this since the past five years. Having a family of 2 sons,1 daughter, his wife and himself Patient X lead a normal life before onset of illness. Not having enough money to send his sons to school they were sent off to a government hostile for schooling. Only his daughter remained with them, enrolled in an English medium government school. Working at a general store close to their home Patient X found his way to earn a livelihood.  His daily routine was to work from early morning to night. His wife would pick him up from work daily at the same time of nine pm. Things changed gradually as Patient X began showing a change in behavior patterns. More withdrawal signs coupled with unhappiness; a phenomenon that occurred five years ago; when Patient X was only thirty years old. Little was spoken about this to his wife but all that was confirmed was a turnover in business with heavy losses. Having faced severe forms of depression from suicidal thoughts to prolonged states of sadness major depression was no easy thing to get through. However, on receiving the right kind of medication of right kind of help from The Health Center Patient X has overcome this


walk the walk, talk the talk


 Karina Pandya


Tripped on reality – this year’s Mumbai marathon holds a special meaning to all of us.  

Not only are people from all over the world showing up at Mumbai but people facing various physical and mental issues will also join in!  

The Mumbai marathon being part of the top four internationally recognized marathons intends to be different from its other years. This year’s race or “marathon” is promoting peace, unity, and non-discrimination between different groups of our society.  

Suffering from a mental illness should not be a hurdle in one’s life and to demonstrate this some of The Banyan’s residents will be participating in this marathon with zeal and enthusiasm. 

The Banyan, a Chennai based NGO recognized this lack of awareness in the sphere of mental health. A certain section of our society suffers from mental illnesses and do not receive the right kind of help that they deserve. 

Having been in existence for 14 years, The Banyan has reached out to more than 2000 homeless women suffering from mental illness and re-united families across the country through its various projects   

The residents from The Banyan join hands to show the strength they exhibit and that they too deserve an equal opportunity to be part of the society. 

The Mumbai Marathon signifies a win-win situation and no one holds chance to stand place as a loser. 

Some might say that a race is not a race if there is no winner but at The Banyan every lady, every participant is a winner.

What’s in a name?



M. A. Vellodi



About fifty years ago,  I was at the United Nations on a longish assignment.  I was a member of a small group of United Nations diplomats who met very often to discuss  everythimg from  Pol Pot to the Post Adjustment for Ulan Bator that determined the salary of a United Nations official  posted   in Mongolia.


One of our favourite pastimes was at lunch in the United Nations Dining room overlooking the East River, which was at least four time a week. On any given day,  there were at lunch more than seventy-five  Ambassadors and the same  number of  Senior U.N. Staff members and junior diplomats from the Permanent Missions to the U.N. Each one of our little group – we were around six or eight – had to choose any ten diners at tables within hearing distance and guess their nationalities.  Guesses on persons with special garbs like the Sari and some of the Africans and  Arabs fetched lower marks.  Points were allotted during the dessert. The winner and  the runner-up had to foot the bill for all of us.  No one could win or be runnerup more than five times a month. The U.N. staff members and delegates,  who came more in contact with the delegates in the Committee rooms, had their points reduced by 29 %


After I left the UN and the  Indian diplomatic Service this game all but vanished for want of suitable arenas for playing the game. After I got associated with the NGOs and especially after I became a part of The Banyan in 1994, I revived this game but as a  solitaire.  Everytime I met a new staff member or a frequent visitor to The Banyan    those were the happy days when I visited The Banyan thrice a week – I would get to talk to that person and in a space of the self-stipulated ten minutes, would guess her or his State in India. For my State of Kerala   which next to Tamil Nadu probably has the largest representation among the Banyan staff, Trustees and Friends of the Banyan,   I try to  make the guess even at the District level  because the Malayalam accent is very distinct in different Districts,  Trissur being the broadest and Valluvanad (naturally mine ) being the best. I wanted to play this game with the residents but felt that they may not be very comfortable with my Tamil  it being the Chenthamizh of Chilapathikaram vintage.


Recently I made a bloomer.  I told Ranjitha,  our very competent and equally charming newsbreaker, a la Professor Higgins,  that  her family was of Sri Lankan origin. This was way wide off the pitch and as embarrassing as the Aussies’ very unsporting high scores againt us  in recent games.   But this is not stopping my little game  as the Aussies’  scores are  not  worrying our men in Blue. So, watch out when I approach you seemingly  for a document or some data  but in reality  for one of my phonetic exercises.

Status Message: Asking for Trouble

Mohan Ramamoorthy


At Banyan, the IT that rattles everyone is not the income tax variety. It is the Information Technology kind that people keep grumbling about… (at one point, Syed was the most sought after male in TBC…)

Suddenly, Microsoft was thrown out, and with it went the outlook mail… (mails in many accounts were never rehabilitated…!) and in came google apps and the professional initiation by none other than the irrepressible Vaishnavi…

Lotsa things happened – many of them embarassing unmentionables which cannot be recorded for posterity in this blog…

But never-say-die in-house IT guru sent this mail (with some great insights into human behaviour – see point 4)…

Please follow these practices henceforth

1. Always remain signed into chat

2. Whether free (green) or busy (red), pls indicate in status message which centre you are in and whether you are in a meeting etc – this helps avoid unnecessary queries / phone calls as to where a person is etc

3. ….

4. If a file is not of use to all and is just for one-time reading pls embed copy into email instead of sending attachments – people postpone opening things – human tendency

5. Label your mails – they are more dynamic than folders and Inbox becomes more organised – work is easier to follow up on

6. Indicate your schedule in advance on your Calendar – scheduling a meeting is taking too much time otherwise and too many phonecalls”

(Her mail incidentally has this disclaimer

“This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and
intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they
are addressed….”
etc. But this time I hope she will waive it in the public


Also, she is the only one in The Banyan I know who will dutifully activate the out of office autoreply – rarely even when you can spot her at TBC)

I dont know about the other diktats, but Banyanites took the first suggestion seriously and suddenly, despite a character restriction, some great poetic, philosophical, confessional, existential, inane, cryptic status messages began to appear…

Here’s my pick:

B’day girl on Sept 12: older but not wiser

Another one from Vaishnavi with (Bob) Dylanesque flavor: blown’inwind
Damsel in distress Vanitha Venkat: Dont know where I’m

Creative communicator Ranjitha: In transit

(which reportedly got Vaishnavi’s Wow)

Forever on the move Ashok Sir: On ECR

CMHP big boss Porkodi: In Psych OP

Another gem, though cant remember the identity: “Poori’s old cabin”

Mine, the inane one.. “At Home” (with bosses asking Why??)

(Pssst… Some always have the busy sign on – making poor me very envious of them…)

Please send your favourites to Ranjitha or if tech savvy post it directly on this blog….

How about giving a prize for the best one…? Please vote…