A Therapeutic Event

A Therapeutic Event

Like happiness, sanity is a state of mind. What else explains the phenomenon of people labelled as insane acting perfectly sane at times? Last week, when the inmates of Thane Mental Hospital (TMH) performed on stage at the annual celebrations of the institution, their performances were so good that it was difficult to believe they were under treatment for any sort of mental illness.

On February 23, 2005, at 7 pm, the inmates of TMH stunned the audience, including the chief guest Sharada Raut, by performing like pros. The programme started with Omkar Swaroopa (welcome number) performed by three inmates and was followed by dance numbers presented by the inmates and staff members. Mentally challenged students from a Mulund School, who had been invited to participate, sang Adnan Sani’s Lift Kara De, while an inmate from TMH called Anand left the spectators in awe with this voice. He displayed tremendous stage confidence which was evident when he resumed singing the popular Hindi number "Jadu Teri Nazar", after being interrupted by power failure. Although the sudden, unexpected break did not faze him, it did leave the audience wondering. Later, several people unofficially declared him the "star of the evening".

While the audience gasped in surprise at the performances, one peek behind the scenes, and we realise that the programme and the performances were the result of extensive hard work involving hospital and the 1500-odd inmates. "The task was not an easy one but the inmates were enthusiastic and cooperative and therefore we could manage it well," said Dr Sheetal Kasat from TMH.

The next day, on 24 February, TMH organised a prize distribution ceremony for winners of the two-week-long sports event that took place in the previous month. This time the chief guest was Mayor Rajan Vichare. Film personality Ajinkya Ramesh Deo was the guest of honour. Other guests included film artist Junior Mehmood and Dr Subhas Chandra Jain, Deputy Director of Health at TMC Thane. The programme once again began with a welcome song, which was followed by a dance performance by the inmates. The guests were then taken around and shown craft items, sketches, paintings, greeting cards and other items created made by the inmates. So impressed was Ajinkya Deo with the performances and creativity aptitude of the inmates that he called them his "heroes". Both he and Junior Mehmood were moved by the respect, admiration and love that the inmates showered on them.

During the prize-distribution ceremony, when a bouquet made by inmates was presented to him, the mayor was visibly touched. He said, "As a mayor, this is my first public appearance for an event of this kind, and I will never forget these moments. TMH can always expect my support in their initiatives".

40 winners from different wards were given away prizes. 10 performers from the previous day’s cultural programme were also felicitated. 10 inmates were special recognised for the active assistance they offer to OT section and wards of TMH during their stay there. According to a hospital staff, the annual function and other programmes that TMH organises, including Ganesh Chathurti, Navratri and, Christmas celebrations, have been noticed and appreciated by the Human Rights Commission of India.

The 104-year old TMH has been celebrating the annual day for more than two decades now, a part of its therapeutic initiative, where the inmates are treated like normal people. And judging by the performances, the therapy seems effective.

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