Since I moved back home to Vivekanandapuram in the Sainikpuri area of Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh in 2007 from Dubai, I have been seeing a frail woman in her fifties with unkempt hair and shabby clothes walking the streets within the vicinity. Every time I saw her, I had a very strong urge to stop by and talk to her but I was warned against it because people said she was mad. A close look at her ascertained that she belonged to a good family. She had very prominent features, fair complexion and anyone could say that she must have been very pretty-looking in her younger days.

Upon enquiring, it was brought to my attention that the woman was surely from a good family. Her relatives resided in the same vicinity but were forced to provide her a separate accommodation nearby because she was into the habit of using foul language and subject the relatives to verbal abuse since her husband’s death a few years ago. Soon after her husband died, her only son left home and never returned. I keep wondering if there was more to it than what I was told. Upon losing near and dear ones, there is obviously a period of grief that transpires but not necessarily to the extent of going crazy.

When ever I passed by this woman on the street, I found her mumbling to herself or standing beneath a tree and talk to the tree but I never found her to be violent. I regret so much for not having gathered enough nerve to stop by and speak to her. And now, I will never be able to talk to her There is no way I would be able to talk to her now even if I wanted to because she is no more. She was found dead on the 14th of January 2011 by the police who on receiving complaints from her neighbors which include her immediate relatives of foul smell, broke into her house to find her lying dead. No one knows how long ago she died but considering the fact that her body had bloated up to an extent that the clothes seceded, she must have died at least two or three days before the police found her.

I was very upset when I heard of the incident and silently said a prayer for her soul to rest in peace. In a way, I was glad she was gone. Thank God! She won’t have to wander the streets anymore. She will not be talking to the trees or walls and most importantly there will no verbal abuse her relatives would be subjected to. The relatives must have had good reason to shun her away from the family but seeing a woman ramble the street when she has relatives around is a shameful thing. I wish there was a way this could have been prevented. In the absence of husband and son, a woman’s support is her extended family but this woman was not lucky enough to avail this assistance.

We live in a civilized society and yet behave in such uncivilized manner that sometimes it becomes difficult to socialize with one’s own family. It is believed that this crazy woman was very well educated. She did her Masters in Art and also did her PhD. The reason for her strained relationship with the family goes back to the time when her husband who worked in Pune, Maharashtra State, met with an accident while on duty and was confined to wheel chair due to severe back injury. Because of his medical condition, he could not attend duty and therefore had to return home until he recovered completely.  Medical aid and the support from the family were of great magnitude at this moment. It is believed that at this critical time, this crazy woman did not co-operate with her husband. Instead, her mother-in-law who was old enough to be looked after landed up looking after the son. As luck would have it, the mother died in an accident. Deprived of the mother’s assistance and help, the son’s health deteriorated and soon his life also came to an end.

Every member of the family sympathized with the crazy woman’s husband because of his injury in the accident. They also sympathized with her mother-in-law for striving in her old age but no one ever thought that the crazy woman may have had some problem as well. May be seeing her husband with severe injury she was mentally disturbed resulting in a temporary state of mental instability. The reason for her insensitive and uncaring behavior towards her husband could have been the cause for this mental instability. It is quite possible that her condition was not noticed by the family members and worsened as time passed by. She must have got a severe shock when her husband passed away and the son leaving home may have been a final blow that contributed to her acquired condition of being identified as crazy.

A woman who turned crazy, by all means needed medical attention but in the absence of husband and son, this help was probably not provided. Some members of the society in the vicinity said that she was sent to an asylum but she eloped from there and returned home. All asylums are believed to be very strict with their patients. Whether they provide other amenities or not are secondary but one thing surely provided is strict security. Eloping from an asylum for a woman is absolutely not possible unless and until the asylum security measures are completely poor. A sister-in-law of the crazy woman when asked what measure were taken to tackle her crazy behavior, asserted that they put her in a room and locked from outside but the crazy woman managed to break the door open and came out and started her verbal abuse even more vigorously.

While most people acquainted with the crazy woman believe that she herself was responsible for all the misfortunes in her life, I very strongly believe that this destitute woman was not cared for; no heed was paid to her problem by the people she depended on. Her death may not have been as agonizing as the pain she lived with. Norman Cousins, an American political journalist, author, professor and world peace advocate once said “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live”.


10 responses »

  1. gc1963 says:

    Life comes full circle. Sad and poignant read. Also a learning lesson for so called sane minds.

  2. Mira Pawar says:

    Thanks Om Prakash! I am overwhelmed with your response. I hope and wish that people understand what problems can do a person. It can turn an absolute sane person to a mere insane individual. We must always try to put ourselves in other’s shoes to analyse a situation. I discovered more on this story recently but decided to refrain from writing as the rest of the story is too ghastly to even think.

  3. A very pertinent topic, and the true story is happening everywhere in the world (not just here) -only the degree varies – And even though we are well aware of the existence of such problems, we normally don’t like to look at the problem.
    I too, would have behaved much the same way as Mira Pawar, and I too, would have felt guilty later. But this happens only because, in civil society, most of us become judgemental and conclude on the character of a person from outside appearance – as rightly pointed out by the writer, it is quite possible that with the accident of her husband, some old fear/wound in her mind just opened up, or some fear just enveloped her or something happened in the mental canvas of her mind that she was totally incapable of handling – but perhaps even as she was struggling with her own confusion, society had already condemned her – which is why even relatives avoided her – unless the mind is so troubled, we will not find the person mumbling or shouting to herself. Perhaps she was never given time to address the confusion in her own mind. She was perhaps trapped in her own mind, crying out for help, which is why she never helped others – we will never know.
    Mira Pawar should be commended for writing on this topic – on civil society’s responsibility. This obviously cannot be done by a single individual. One cannot wait endlessly for a good samaritan to appear. Society must have a solution within itself to reach out to such persons.

  4. Beyniaz says:

    Nice blog but a sad commentary of our times if we can’t look after the elderly.

  5. Eva Bell says:

    This is the story of many old women who walk the streets not knowing where they can rest their tired feet. Some call them mad, others brand them witches. They are hounded by the police, stoned by urchins and scolded by most people, until they curl up and die somewhere. Wish there were more shelters for people like them where at least their basic needs can be met.

  6. Mira Pawar says:

    Thanks Smita for appreciating!!

  7. Smita Luthra says:

    Mira, this true story haunted me for a long time yesterday. You have raised some very good questions. There are always various facets to a situation and we, in our limited capacities, fail to recognize that things are not black or white. It is indeed a very sad account and I could understand your feelings of curiosity towards the woman. She looks very striking in the picture and perhaps I would also have been stuck in a dilemna like yours. The last line pretty much sums up everything – “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live”.

  8. Mira Pawar says:

    Thanks Vimala for appreciating. @Shernaz I quite agree with you which is why i said that the relative must have had a good reason to shun her away. I personally believe she should have been confined to an asylum where she would have been looked after.

  9. Shernaz says:

    Mira, there are countless such people perhaps, walking our streets, for lack of empathy and proper care. Having said that, I will also add that it isn’t at all easy living with someone abusive and deranged for whatever reason. I don’t mean they should be left to fend for themselves, just trying to look at the other side too.

  10. vimala ramu says:

    A shocking episode, Mira. I agree entirely with your last paragraph. The trauma after the husband’s accident might have deranged her. She might not have intentionally neglected her husband.

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