“They used to call me crazy.”
And indeed she looked the part, when Man Kumari first arrived at Tansen Hospital in Nepal five years ago. As Manumit, the hospital‘s Director of Social Services describes it, her hair was matted and the sari she was wearing was filthy. Man Kumari refused to speak to anyone and her face was gaunt and thin from not eating. Even more worrisome was the fact that she was not permitting her one and a half year old son,, Santosh, to eat. Snatching food out of his hands, she would throw it out of his reach telling him that it was “poison”. Man Kumari was severely depressed and not without reason.
She was the wife of a “Sarke” (or cobbler), a caste despised in Hindu society because of its work with cow hide. As her husband’s income was not adequate to support his family, he went to India in search of work. While he was in India, Man Kumari became pregnant by another man. When her husband returned and found out, he threw her out of his home. The village of Pokhara Thok added its scorn and rejection to his barring her from the village. Man Kumari had little option but to beg for food wherever she could find it. And her life became even more difficult to her when Santosh wasborn.
The scenes of Man Kumari’s first few injections for her depression are vividly recalled by Manumit. Permission from the Chief District Officer had to be obtained to administer her medication, as she would not willingly receive it. She screamed and struggled with hospital staff for more than half an hour before finally submitting. At the time of the next injetion there was another fifteen minute disturbance. Hospital staff were ready and waiting for her on the third occasion, but Man Kumari surprised them all by willingly baring her arm for her injection.
Man Kumari’s treatment has been long-term and her steady recovery an encouragement to all of the staff who deal with her. “Ican do it,” she says, as she works to prepare gauze pads in the Central Supply of the hospital. “They used to call me crazy.” Her smile and her words reveal the confidence she has regained.
“She is a good worker and helpful,” her supervisor says, with an obvious appreciation fo rher work. He goes on to share that Man Kumari has been pressing him for two more hours of work per day, which would enable her to cover the cost of food for her and Santosh, as well as contributing towards his school fees. “She is quite happy.” The words her supervisor uses to describe Man Kumari, point to the inner healing and restoration that has taken place because of the care and compassion shown to her at Tansen Hospital. Treatment of the mentally ill is an integral part of the services of Tansen Hospital.