Skip to main content

Home Again at Kollappaly: Cooking, cleaning, gardening, taking care of mental illness

By Rosamma Thomas* 

Mareeshwari, Mariamma, Daisy, Jaya and Lilykutty are middle-aged women who share a home in Chaitanya Residency, Kottappaly, Kerala. Living with them is a much younger Shebil, who holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from a local institute. The women have all been former residents of Maria Sadanam in Pala, about 8 km from their current home.
Maria Sadanam, home to about 400 women and men, is a refuge for those suffering mental illness. Among the inmates are also elderly people who either have no children or children unwilling or unable to care for them. Founded in 1998, the home grew organically after its founder Santosh Joseph, who studied only up to Class 12, decided to take in a mentally unwell man called Thomas who was found roaming in the town of Pala. A few other homeless and sick people were also taken in, and initially lived in Santosh’s house, and later at a refurbished cowshed. 
Local people aided the work with donations, local builders chipped in with some free construction, and what stands today is an institution that people seek out even from neighbouring Tamil Nadu. Over 2,700 people have so far been through Maria Sadanam, with many returning to their families after improving in health at the centre.
There are several residents of Maria Sadanam who are quite cured of mental illness and can take care of themselves; for such inmates, a constant search for houses where they could live with neighbours, and engage in regular home-like activities, is on. One Maria Sadanam staff member also lives in the four such homes currently operating in Kottayam district. Shebil, who serves that role in the Kollppaly house, says she has three colleagues and they work in shifts of about three months each, at the different homes.
Mareeshwari’s home is in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district. She lived at Maria Sadanam for 23 years, arriving with her mother who needed treatment and then staying on after her mother passed, having no home of her own to return to – her brothers are married and with families of their own, and Maria Sadanam had become Mareeshwari’s home. About a year ago, Maria Sadanam began, in collaboration with The Banyan, the Home Again project where recovered patients are encouraged to re-integrate into mainstream society.
Author (extreme right) at Maria Sadanam
At the Home Again house in Kollappally, Mariamma showed off the vegetable patch outside the house – bitter gourd and other gourds hung from the vines, and there were brinjals ripening. “We have quite a good harvest these days, enough to supply other homes under the Home Again project nearby. And also give some away to our neighbours here,” says Mariamma. “The neighbours too share with us some of the produce from their land.”
A pen is being readied to raise chickens, and a pond is planned for fish. The women all pitch in with what work needs to be done. Lilykutty and some of the women are still a little stiff, not quite relaxed in conversation, and one can sense that the mental anxiety has not lifted entirely. Yet, they are happy to welcome the occasional visitor, and speak with pride of the times when they have together cooked meals for their guests.
Many of them receive members of their own family as guests, and Jaya, for instance, speaks of her daughter, now 21 and living in the home of her husband. Mareeshwari returns occasionally to visit her brothers and their families, but she is happy in the home and does not seek to move anywhere else. The house itself is sparkling clean, the women clean it themselves – in fact, all the work in this house is done by the residents. They have no need to hire help in the kitchen or the garden.
Meanwhile, at Maria Sadanam, Santosh Joseph remains on the lookout for houses he could rent to house the healed members of his extended Maria Sadanam family. In Kerala, where the problem of ghost houses is rife, you might think that was easy. Quite the contrary – the richer folk do not like to let their houses out to the mentally ill or the homeless. They’d rather the houses stay empty.
*Freelance journalist



Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Mark Lee: A spiritual leader who thought conventional religions are barrier to liberation

  By Harsh Thakor*  The Krishnamurti Foundation of America (KFA) lost Roger Edwin Mark Lee, who was a devoted disciple of Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of the greatest and most self realised spiritual philosophers of our time. Mark passed away due to pneumonia complications on April 6, 2024, at he Ventura Community Memorial Hospital in California. His exit was an irreparable loss to the spiritual world.

Fossil fuel projects: NGOs ask investors to cut TotalEnergies’ main sources of finance

By Antoine Bouhey, Lara Cuvelier, Helen Burley*  Reclaim Finance has joined 58 NGOs from around the world, including Banktrack, in signing an open letter calling on banks and investors to stop participating in bonds (loans granted by investors and facilitated by banks) issued by TotalEnergies. The 58 NGO signatories include , Amazon Watch, BankTrack, Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR, Papua New Guinea), Justiça Ambiental (Mozambique) and Friday for Future (Uganda), Oil Change International and Urgewald (Germany).