PLIGHT OF THE INSANE
What is happening to the young women who are begging for food?
There was an insane woman who was about 38 years old. I don’t know whether she came from U.P. or Punjab. She also had a child with her. She was picked up from a street behind Gurudwara Baba Atal in Amritsar and brought to me by three or four men. In those days Pingalwara main branch as well as office were located in a Cinema building near Hussain Pura. This being the main building my lodging was also there. I don’t know whether the men who brought her told me the same day or after three or four days that she was being kept by an old man who was not married to her. If the man was to approach me for the custody of the woman, she was not to be handed over to him. After about ten days a Sikh old man came to Pingalwara. I am not sure about his name but perhaps it was Ram Singh. He had tied a white turban like a mendicant. He was also wearing a white cotton coat and tight fitting pyjama. The old man used to recite Gurbani at the Dera of Baba Sham Singh and was about 70 years old. He used to live alone in a house behind Baba Attal. From the Dera, the caretakers used to go for collecting food from the town. The surplus food was distributed among the caretakers, Ram Singh used to collect 20 chappaties from the Dera everyday in the evening. These were much more than his own requirement. This woman used to be sitting along with other beggars in front of Baba Attal. Ram Singh used to take this woman inside his house on the pretext of giving her food and over a period of time kept her permanently in his house. This was narrated to me by the persons who had brought this woman to me. While staying with Ram Singh, this woman gave birth to a child also.
When Ram Singh came to me he was highly agitated. Immediately on his arrival he told me that he had come to know that his wife has been brought here and he has come to take her back. I bluntly told him that he was not married to the woman and if he had taken her to his house to give her food, how could he become her legal husband ? He had forcibly confined her to his home and this was illegal. He had taken undue advantage of the helplessness of an insane woman. I further told him that in India if a woman is insane and cannot earn her livelihood, she does not have to live with a man and produce children just for the sake of food. Can there be no one with compassion in his heart who can provide basic amenities for her living.
The old man was not ready to listen to me. Whatever he spoke was with the aim of creating trouble. After talking to me in anger he went away. After that he started sending many people from his locality. These people included leaders, rich and renowned persons. The old man used to go to the house of a Superintendent of Police to recite Gurbani or look after Guru Granth Sahib. I do not clearly remember, if some police official or someone else came to advise me to handover the woman to him. I gave him a firm reply without hesitation that the woman will not be handed over to Ram Singh as his demand was immoral. I used to tell everyone that we were getting her treated from the Mental Hospital and the old man was not even interested in getting her treated. From our place, the Mental Hospital was at a distance of three miles. Mental Patient had to undergo treatment for a minimum period of one year. From the impatience of the old man I was surprised that he was only interested in taking the woman home and not getting her treated. I distinctly remember that he sent few people to trouble me and make my life miserable. If I was not educated and clear in my mind about this matter perhaps I would not have been able to face the old man.
The people who had brought the woman to me also told me that the woman also had a daughter aged about 9-10 years. She was being kept by a policeman to look after his children. Policeman’s house was in a street behind Baba Atal. I don’t know whether the Policeman came to me on his own or on being called by me. He told me that the girl was with him and she had become very fond of his children. He requested me to let the girl stay in his house where she was learning the household work also. He promised me that he will return the girl whenever I wanted. He also said that the girl would be with him as entrusted for safe custody on behalf of Pingalwara and whenever she was to be married off it would be with the consent of Pingalwara.
Bhagat Puran Singh Pen – & quotes