A Tea Shop is Rekindling the Hopes of the Mentally Challenged Inmates of a Hospital


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The attempt by Pavlov Mental Hospital at Kolkata to employ mental inmates to take a step towards their citizenship is incredible and revives hope.

Our world has grown. People are supposedly more open-minded. But what tires and saddens us still is the stigma attached to mental illness. Most of the time, people are not treated as if they are just patients of a disease but unworthy of any attention and capability whatsoever. However, an initiative by Kolkata-based Pavlov Mental Health Hospital brings us hope, hope that the state of mental health will take a turn for better.

Cha Ghar is a tiny brick structure in the premises of the hospital and is painted red and white with a small patch of garden in the front and sells a small list of items at very low rates. But that is not why it caught our attention.

The shop is incredible because it is being run by the inmates of the hospital. Six women inmates, including two girls in their nifty white caps, were seen serving the people visiting the shop.

cha ghar

Photo for representational purpose only. Source: www.everestuncensored.org

Shashi Panja, minister in charge of Women and Child Welfare and also the Social Welfare Department, inaugurated the place on May 20th, 2015. Ratnaboli Ray of Anjali, the mental health rights organization in the city that has set up Cha Ghar with the Department of Health and Family Welfare, was struck with this genius idea about a month ago. Entrepreneur Malavika Banerjee also helped with ideas and funds. Architect Kamal Saha landscaped the garden around the canteen, pro bono. This is in fact, a very unconventional way for rehabilitation of the inmates. However, it is very appreciable because mostly the step into citizenship post rehabilitation is very hard for most mental health patients. Apart from being stigmatized, they find it difficult to adjust to the conventional ‘normal’.

They even did it thorough procedure, inviting applications and then shortlisting the inmates for employment. Out of the 12 candidates, six were selected. As for the space, an old store room which was filled with junk and unused materials from the hospital was cleaned out and converted into the place where a few inmates could find normalcy again. They have been trained to work in the shop for a few months and have been given five sets of basic rules to maintain hygiene, and they are being paid.

It could very well turn into a successful business venture considering that they are expected to cater to the entire OPD and the hospital receives a lot of visitors daily.

Roima Sardar Khatun, one of the helpers, told The Telegraph, “I have been working very hard since morning. But I am feeling very good. Very good.”

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