A single mother incurs debt to treat mentally unsound daughter

It was in 2014 when a class X student of Damphu Central School, Srijana, began talking to herself, laughing, crying and walking at night.

Her friends in the hostel often found her asleep in the bathroom the next morning.

When Srijana’s mental health worsened and out of the school’s control, she was handed over to her mother.

Four years on, her behaviour remains the same.

Her mother, Bishnu Maya Subba, says she becomes violent one day but sober the next day.

She says she has spent last four years visiting hospitals and all known matas and shamans in the country and outside.

Nothing helped. “Every mata and shaman I meet tells me she is possessed by spirits of ancestors whose souls are wandering without peace,” she said.

Besides regular visits to the psychiatrist, the mother also makes religious offerings and conduct rituals frequently. She has built a small room above the house in Dangrayboo, Doonglagang gewog as an altar.

Srijana was admitted and treated at Gelephu hospital for two and half months in 2014. It calmed her for few months but she relapsed.

Bishnu Maya said that when her daughter turns violent, it would require at least five strong men to control her. “If she starts eating she would eat at least 5kgs of rice in a day,” the mother said. “She would also bathe for several hours in the open tap outside the house irrespective of the weather. Several times she would run around naked.”

The single mother lives in constant fear because her daughter has attacked her several times in the past. Bishnu Maya says her husband left her about 18 years ago.

She said her daughter hit two cousins, who visited them. “She held me by my neck several times. When she is sick and if I’m alone at home, I sleep under the bed in a different room.”

For the safety of the mother, villagers took turns to guard the girl at night for almost two years, local leaders of Dunglagang said.

It was the village tshogpa, Tek Bahadur Subba, who helped the mother several times.

He said that while the girl remains ill and out of sense most of the time, the mother suffers. “We’ve been helping the mother whenever she is in need.”

Bishnu Maya said she has spent about Nu 200,000 she saved by selling oranges and vegetables to construct a decent house.

She said she borrowed more than Nu 500,000 from her cousins and siblings. “It is beyond my means to repay them,” she said. She could earn a little by working for others in the village but she can’t leave her daughter unattended.

Her only hope of repaying is when her son, Srijana’s brother completes his studies and gets a job. He is a class X student in Mendrelgang Central School.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang

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