Chennai: After spending 18 years at a home for mentally challenged women in Chennai, a schizophrenic woman from Gujarat was reunited with her brother. Sadly for Chandrika Ben, who hails from the small village of Marohi, which is 6 km outside Surat, her husband who abandoned her all those years ago still wants nothing to do with her. According to a volunteer at Udhavum Karangal, the NGO that took Chandrika in back in 1995, “Chandrika somehow escaped from her brother’s house after her husband left her and she was wandering in the tea estates near Coonoor. She was found by a woman called Vadivu Mahindran, who has worked with special children at a school in Panachangani,” she said. As her schizophrenia drove her to violent outbursts, she was left in the care of S Vidyaakar, the man behind the NGO.
“She was given medication for her disease and gradually by 2002 she began to tell us the name of her village and that she had a brother called Babu,” said the volunteer. Vidyaakar managed to trace the brother’s phone number through the local police and made a call to them, but was shocked when the brother’s wife said that he had undergone heart surgery and that they would come and collect her “soon”. A while after, Vidyaakar found that the number was not in use and there was no other way to reach them.
As the years rolled on, Chandrika’s schizophrenia needed as many as 11 tablets everyday and she became reclusive and subdued. “She never learnt Tamil or mixed with the other women much. We had abandoned all hope of restoring her with her family,” she added. Finally, two months ago, Chandrika began to recall flashes of her old life and was able to give volunteers her old address. Using that and her family surname, they managed to find the brother’s address and visited him. They convinced him to take his sister back as she was doing well with her medication.
“They finally arrived here on Friday, but the sister-in-law was a little apprehensive about taking her in. She had married Babu only after Chandrika went missing,” said Sundaresan, the restoration specialist who finds and visits families of mentally ill women at the NGO. There was little expression of joy as the siblings saw each other after 18 years - just a few stray tears of emotion. As they departed to their village in Gujarat, Chandrika kept asking them was what happened to her husband and two children. “They haven’t answered her yet,” said the volunteer.