In October 2016, Bimala Jangre was found loitering on a Sealdah platform, by members of AVIEW (A Village for Independent and Enterprising Women) which is an NGO. Hailing from a village In Chattisgarh, Bimala was only identifiable by her name tattooed on her arm.
Bimala was immediately taken to the NGO’s ashram in South 24-Parganas, which a district in West Bengal, headquartered in Alipore. The ashram is an initiative to give a dignified life to the mentally ill, without locking them up.
At the ashram, psychiatric social workers could not figure out where Bimala was from, and unfortunately, Bimala also had trouble communicating with them.
Then, Suprakash Chakraborty, a psychiatric social worker working with AVIEW, had a brilliant idea. Inspired by a film-scene, he tried using a stethoscope to speak to Bimala. He plugged the stethoscope into Bimala’s ears, and spoke into the disc-shaped resonator at the other end. It worked, and she could clearly understand what was being said.
Still, there were obstacles to overcome. Apart from knowing and often repeating her village name, Bimala had no idea where it was located. One day, she mentioned Bilaspur, where she and her father had worked at a brick factory. Psychiatrists kept searching online, and digging for clues.
Then one day, Bimala mentioned the Dongargarh Police Station. This helped authorities connect the dots. It took a call to the police station to confirm that a 20-something woman was missing for over a year and sending a photograph over WhatsApp confirmed her identity.
Kaushal Kumar Chandravanshi, who owns a grocery store and a photography shop, had a crucial role to play in establishing contact with Bimala’s family.
Bimala’s parents and other family members reached Kolkata on Thursday, after successfully borrowing money to pay for train tickets. Her father, a daily wage earner, said to the Times of India, “I’m so glad that my daughter is back.”