Oct 13, 2010
Reality at Home
The well-heeled might have put on their linen night suits, switched on their air conditioners and snuggled into their warm blankets; for the rest of us it is very much the same routine minus the linen night suits and the split ACs. This is a scene at night in the average Mangalorean household. It is also a time when a whole new scene unfolds in the streets outside our homes; a scene which all of us seem unaware of and sometimes even ignorant to. The real life characters in this unfolding scene are innocent women and children who have neither a roof on their head nor clothes to cover themselves, let alone a blanket to give warmth.
Reality on the Street
There are no statistics to reveal the number of women and children on the streets of Mangalore. Even the law seems to treat these individuals as second class citizens not worthy of protection just because they have no identity or a standing in society.
One look at the White Doves home at Mannagudda and the numbers seem to tell a sorry tale. A tale of hapless women picked up from every corner of Mangalore. The tales of women who were abandoned by their dear ones because of reasons as varied as ill mental health or lack of finances; of women who had nowhere to go and ended up boarding a train to Mangalore from places as far as Mumbai, Bhopal and Kolkata; of women who were forced to beg for whatsoever reason or of women who are in their final stages of life due to lack of medical care. The plight of these women would melt the strongest of men.
Most of the rehabilitated women at the centre have been brutally tortured on the very streets of Mangalore we commute on day in and day out. In a country where even the financially stable and educated women become victims of unspeakable crimes one can only imagine the fate of the woman on the street! The hope for justice is a moon dream for the women on the street because without any kind of intervention from the police or even the public, the crimes these women suffer go unnoticed. Thanks to organisations like the White Doves at least some of the women on our streets can hope for basic necessities like a roof overhead, decent food, clothing and most important of all, people who care. Of all the heart-rending cases of exploitation and affliction of women at the White Doves home two cases are worth public attention for the nature of their existence and the timing of this article.
The woman in the picture was picked up last week from Hampankatta near Ideal ice cream parlour. She was found lying without clothes on a footpath for a few days until somebody offered her a sari to cover. The White Doves team came across her during their daily trips around the city when they feed the needy on the streets. The White Doves team immediately picked up the woman and moved her to the safe precincts of the White Doves home. What’s interesting about this lady is that she had covered herself in an inexplicable mesh of wires, watches, blades etc weighing a few kilograms probably to protect her modesty. On close medical examination it was found that the woman had signs of torture on her body.
Though the woman is in a trance-like state she spoke in chaste Kannada and said that her name is Jyothi and that she hails from Davanagere. What’s even more fascinating is the ability of this woman to sketch bizarre patterns and designs on pieces of paper indicative of her creative bent of mind! The woman was found with a shaven scalp generally found among inmates in government-run rehab centres. Due to the efforts of NGOs such as White Doves this woman can now have a new lease of life but there are many more who are not so lucky and continue to suffer on our streets.
Another interesting case worth mentioning is the remarkable story of a young girl. Two years ago a man rang up the White Doves home at night informing them about a girl at the front gate. Without divulging further the man dropped the phone. At the front gate the White Doves team found a totally emaciated young girl who could barely stand as evident from her picture. The girl was immediately taken inside the house and fed. She seemed to have a low IQ and could barely speak. On further questioning she revealed her name as Prasanna. Prasanna seemed to have been starved for whatsoever reason.
When her story appeared in the Daijiworld portal last year one of her neighbours now residing in the States immediately recognised her from the picture and communicated some vital details pertaining to her location. On further enquiry it was found that Prasanna was from a Konkana family and a resident of Bondel. After the demise of her mother, her father remarried thus beginning her sad ordeal. She was made to starve to an extent that she fed on her own excreta to satisfy her hunger; something which is beyond our imagination.
Today Prasanna is a bundle of joy at the white Doves home and a far cry from her emaciated days. Her family members do not want her back nor does she want to return. The story of young Prasanna is not a one off case but just a glaring example of how humans tend to abandon their loved ones to satisfy their own selfish ends. Thanks to White Doves and humanists like Corine Rasquinha, there is a glimmer of hope for the abandoned in Mangalore.
The White Doves
It hurts to think that India, a country where women hold divine positions, where every river has a feminine name and where women have been revered as the givers of life and bringers of prosperity is also the very place where women have been left on the streets to fend for themselves, where women are forced to sell themselves and where women are tortured to the point that they kill themselves.
At a time when the government is talking about having a unique identity number for every citizen of the country it is disturbing to think that it is doing nothing to protect the identity of so many. As citizens of this city we are indeed fortunate that organisations like the White Doves are striving hard to protect the dignity and identity of the ‘so many’ on the streets of Mangalore.
What was started by Corine Rasquinha about 16 years ago to feed the needy and the sick on the streets of Mangalore has today grown into a full-fledged NGO with two homes housing more than 70 men and women at any given time rescued from various corners of the city. Over the years it has also managed to reunite many of its inmates with their loved ones. Some of its inmates have even gone on to study further and are now leading decent lives.
The NGO runs on contributions from the public and the remuneration earned from its White Doves choir. The work and service rendered by people like Corine Rasquinha and her White Doves team is in part comparable to the work done by another great legend of India, the Blessed Mother Teresa. The motto of White Doves is sharing and caring. Now as responsible citizens of Mangalore it is time we ask ourselves, are we sharing and caring with our lesser privileged men and women or treating them as citizens of the streets? The answer may lie in our collective conscience.
For more details about White Doves, its work and for contributions visit their website www.whitedoves.org.in.
You can also contact them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com