Every day and without fail, she walks up to the high iron gate of Himachal Hospital of Mental Health and Rehabilitation (HHMHR). She looks at the security guard and the locked gate in utter disappointment. Then, tears rolling down her eyes, she goes back hurriedly, crying out aloud. Nurses looking after her step in to console her by softly holding her hand and giving a hug. But there is no verbal communication between them. She speaks only Kannada, which none understands here.
The woman, Padma Samptha from Mysore, has now spent two years at Shimla’s HHMHR, where a total of 62 patients, both male and female, are currently lodged. For the past six months, after hospital authorities started efforts to establish contact with her family, Padma’s frustrations have only grown. She takes repeated rounds towards the hospital’s main entrance every day and keep talking to herself.
Hailing from village Vaddar Hatti Bhoonali Channyara Pattan under Hassan police station, she was sent to HHMHR in Shimla from Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College Hospital at Tanda (Kangra) in June 2016. Since then, she has been under treatment. Doctors say she is fully cured now. “We can say she is not dysfunctional. Some signs of it include her getting up in time in the morning and doing things by herself. How she landed up in Kangra, where the police spotted her and got admitted to the hospital, still remains a mystery,” HHMHR Senior Medical Superintendent Dr Sanjay Pathak says.
However, Dr Suneela Sharma, a college teacher and social activist who had reached out to her to know her background, says hers is not actually a case of mental ailment. “The poor woman had a language barrier and could not tell her real plight. But at least now, she should be reunited with the family,” she says.
“It’s sure her family is not willing to take her back. None of her close ones ever made any effort to reach out her during the last two years after she strayed to Himachal Pradesh,” Dr Pathak says. As per Dr Pathak, contacts have been established with Karnataka government’s health authorities, which have written to district mental healthcare programme officer in Mysore to work out modalities for her relocation to a local rehabilitation centre.
As per Suneela Sharma, who took help from a Hyderdabad-based TV journalist Swati, “She was deserted by her husband who remarried. She was packed off in a train to Delhi or Chandigarh from where he somehow reached Himachal Pradesh. That’s what she told Swati, who spoke to her in Kannada.”
Thereafter, Sharma approached CM Jai Ram Thakur and requested his intervention to make arrangements for her safe return to her family. “We are making arrangements and soon modalities will be worked out for her return under proper police protection,” Thakur said.