Once a diplomat, one for life!

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V3 – The terrible threesome! – Being Chairman requires all the diplomatic skills and experience of M.A. Vellodi – the one man peace keeping force of The Banyan!

My first confrontation with the word ‘Social’ was in the context of the United Nations. The first Indian Chairman of the United Nations Economic and Social Council was Sir Arcot Ramaswamy Mudaliar and I had the honorofic title of “Adviser” which in that context gave me the task of distributing speeches and documents of the Indian Delegation to the rest.  
 
Mudaliar was a fine man. He never wore his habitual turban abroad and always sat upright on his chair and never moved his head except when speaking. He was an excellent speaker but always read from written text. Always written with Kohinoor lead pencil. If on going over it before delivery he found one word not quite appropriate, he would erase it with the bottom of his pencil and rewrite a more fitting word.The next time I saw Mudaliar was in the company of the one and only Mary Clubwala Jadhav. It was at a reception in her magnificent home at the corner of Sterling Road. Why I was asked to the party I never knew. I am sure it was a mistake as I was only a senior student in Loyola College at the time.  
 
The next time I saw Mrs. Clubwalla was in very sad circumstances. She had been very ill and her legs had been amputated. She was in a Bombay hospital where I went to pay my last respects. I was due to retire from Government in a few years.. She asked me what I intended to do after retirement. When this question was met by silence, she, in a low but clear voice, suggested to me that I consider helping the Guild of Service in whatever way I could. And today I am the Vice President of the Guild.  
 
It was in the Guild one afternoon that Vandana and Vaishnavi came to see me. They had been directed to me by Mr. K. N. George who felt that I might be able to advise them on how to proceed with their project which was nothing less than starting a home for destitute mentally ill women. Vandana said it as if the project was a tea shop on Casa Major Road. I was dumbstruck for a moment, Vandana noticed it and told me that they had been told all the negative aspects of their proposal and would I, for a change, mention a few positive elements. What struck me was the very plain fact they appeared totally committed but had very little knowledge of what their project involved in personnel, money and sheer relentless toil. They had their answers ready, da capo, ” We want to do this and we shall do this”. After such an opening there was nothing to do except to wish them well and give them a small donation on the occasion of their first anniversary which was due in the following week.  
 
I have watched Vandana and Vaishnavi at work and at play for over thirteen years. And I have got to know them as well as anyone can. Let not Vandana’s fine figure and Vaishnavi’s disarming smile, mislead you. They are tough and they know what they want. They are different – Vandana is ebullient, dedicated and passionate, loves dancing and adores her canine friends. Vaishnavi is private Though equally impassioned and committed, she does not like to reveal or share her thoughts and loves reading books and is a workaholic. They both have strong views but are complementary and are one on issues of substance.  
 
Perhaps the most significant innovation one finds in the offices of the Banyan is the very important role played by the staff in management. Not for them the formal agenda of long and heavy Committee meetings except in order to lay down the general framework within which one can play.  
 
Decisions are taken without hesitation as long as they are for the good of The Banyan. The incredible growth of The Banyan in networking , outreach, community health and even an academy for generating leadership in mental health have been possible only through the novel and untraditional working methods.  
 
Let me stop with the amazing story of three senior staff members, without any prior consultation and approval of their seniors are on the verge of entering into an agreement with the Kanchipuram District authorities for the total handling of all mental health problems and programmes in the district, a project which in the normal course would have involved referrals, second opinions and scores of meetings – and I am sure they will do a splendid job of it. Good Going, Banyan !

  

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Growing with The Banyan

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S. Bhavna

Class 7, Vidya Mandir

 

The Banyan according to me is really like a huge banyan tree which shelters hundreds of mentally ill women. It was first a small sapling which, has over the years grown into the huge and successful tree that it now is.

When I first came to The Banyan I was very scared of the people there. But then they came to me, shook hands with me and tied a friendship band around my hand as it was Friendship Day…that was the first and last time I was ever scared of them. Now at every festival and occasion I love dancing for them, entertaining them and also playing with them. I must say that most of them are extremely talented and can dance and sing very well!!!

When I was younger, I used to feel pity for the women who were at The Banyan because of their illness. But later I realized that they were in the best of hands because the people working and volunteering  there took such good care of them and still do.

Now many of them are cured and have gone back to their homes to live a normal life and it is all because of The Banyan…

I am proud to be part of The Banyan through volunteering there and love visiting whenever possible. I think it’s sad that these mentally ill women are out of their homes but at least they have a home away from home  here.

I hope you all will help and support The Banyan. If you guys out there haven’t visited yet, don’t worry cause its never too late and maybe I will be able to meet some of you there!!!

But most important of all don’t forget – The Banyan rox!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

An Evolution of Thought

 Mohan Ramamoorthy

 mohan.ramamoorthy@thebanyan.org

As a college student in the late 1970s, I stumbled upon psychology’s big daddy Freud. A city pal misled me saying that lotsa Hyderabad college girls – many of them very pretty – were studying something called BA (Pscyh). That’s it. Given my thirst for knowledge, I had to figure out what it was all about. I did find a book on Frued in the town library and some pages in an encyclopedia. Sadly, in those days I never got an opportunity to show off my superficial knowledge of Freud’s interpretation of dreams, Oedipus complex and what not. But that’s another story.

I moved on but the psychology bug remained dormant somewhere in my psyche. It surfaced in the early Eighties. A rebellious streak in me developed a huge appetite for “revolutionary” ideas. That’s it. I had to know what was revolutionary in the world of psychology/psychiatry. And, I discovered R D Laing and Cooper and the anti-psychiatry movement in a Hyderabad libary. And, radical psychiatry in Delhi. Fancy stuff, indeed. My favourite one-liner was (reportedly from a hollywood movie in which a hard-nosed cop says contemptuously to a psychiatrist): “Doc, I know what you guys do – you make healthy people adjust to a sick world..” (something on those lines…)

Come Nineties, I saw from close quarters the suffering undergone by some near and dear ones due to schizophrenia. There was so much agony, uncertainty, stigma, and of course care-giver’s stress and burden. Around that time, RK, my friend (now ex-colleague) introduced me to The Banyan and I became an occasional visitor. There were a few crisis situations involving the near and dear ones and RK was always there to use his charm and good offices with The Banyan, Dr. Nambi of IMH, and Dr. Anbudurai…

Soon, I began to shed a lot of my past baggage and started looking at the mental health from a practical perspective – grounded in Indian reality. Bits of past knowledge – like rights-based concepts of deinstitutionalization – continue to be quite relevant even now.

Cut to 2007. Once again, RK and I were at the TBC -The Banyan Centre (soon that and other abbreviations were to invade my vocabulary and the in-boxes of my e-mail and cellphone…). The Banyan Academy idea excited me. And, here I am once again trying to figure out some earthy and exciting concepts like alternative therapies, faith-healing, etc. intervention programmes like DMHP, CMHP, VT, OT, DA (more abbrevs there), and new-fangled stuff like social enterprise…

Another new journey begins…