The day was slow and lazy. It was another lethargic Saturday. I was having my first tea of the day while reading the newspaper when the phone buzzed. My first reaction was who the hell is calling me on a Saturday morning, it was 9am nevertheless. It was Neha asking me to accompany her for a Rotaract event at 10am. My first reaction was like “Please not today, it’s Saturday”, but then she told me the details of the event and ultimately convinced me.
The venue was Thane mental hospital and their club had organized some event over there. I didn’t really understand the concept but it seemed interesting. I agreed to accompany her primarily because I had never seen a mental hospital and secondly to understand the concept put forward by the club.
We reached the Hospital gates by 10.30am. They let us in as they knew about the Rotaract event. I was puzzled as they easily let us in. She sensed my astonishment and explained that on normal days one had to undergo many security checks, but since they knew we were from Rotaract so they let us in. It was unlike other hospitals. It had a campus sprawling across acres of land, lush greenery, well-maintained lawns and small British era buildings (mostly ground plus one) for the inmates. One could feel the freshness in the air. I was spellbound by the atmosphere and the freshness in the air, thanks so the countless trees.
We enquired the watchman about the hall’s location. He guided us with the directions. We drove inside slowly; perhaps I drove slowly on purpose to get a better view of the surroundings. We reached a big steel gate. Neha told me beyond this gate all female inmates reside. Our hall was adjacent to the big door.
We entered the hall; my eyes glazed the various inmates sitting in sections. Female and male inmates sat in separate blocks (although obvious). The audience sat in another section exactly in front of the stage. There was a built-in stage and ramp like they have in the fashion shows. To my surprise, there were even lighting, DJ system and smoke machines to create a proper environment for the show. I was awestruck when I heard the inmates were going to walk the ramp.I was under the impression that the show had already started, but it was only after an hour or so did the dignitaries arrive and the show finally started around 11.30am.
The fashion show was female inmates only event. All came out dressed in various outfits and with all the glamorous makeups. Anyone would have hardly recognized that these were inmates. The show was about to start when the Hospital chief, one of the dignitaries told the Rotaractors (members of the Rotaract club) that we cannot start the show till their prayer is done (They sing it before all the functions). The Rotaractors panicked, it was already late and the guy was adamant to let go. Finally after 15-20mins of chaos they had their prayers sung by 2 inmates who could and the show started.
The show started with two elderly females dressed as fairies. One of the fairies gave a flying kiss and the audience applauded. Others followed in pairs. There were around 10 pairs. The audience, mostly youth with some elderly Rotarians; showed great enthusiasm. Shouts, woohs, once more and what not; the inmates were totally spellbound. One could see enormous pride and joy in their wet eyes, a happiness like none others.
The chief guests gave speeches which enlightened the audience as to how such programs help the inmates. They also announced that this was first of its kind program and they are happy with the results. They further shed light on the various programs, the government is conducting for people across India and so on. The hospital chief who was adamant for the prayer earlier, gave us an explanation as to why he acted so cynical. He told us that it’s this stress, panic and things not going as planned situations which when not controlled properly leads to mental states; he advised that one should try to adjust and manage such situations to have a good mental health and well-being. I was quite impressed by his explanation and speech. He also thanked Rotaract team who spent a month training the inmates to ramp walk and making it a successful event.
The models later thanked us all. Gave decorative articles made by them to the key members who made their ordinary lives, extraordinary.
A lazy Saturday morning returned into one of life’s most eventful and memorable day. I learned a lot about the inmates and about facilities provided. My interest initially was just to see the facility which is presumably one of the best in India, but it turned out to be a lifetime memory. I just can’t comprehend the range of emotions that I felt when the event ended. Thanks a lot to Neha for convincing and compelling me to attend the event.