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Published: October 22nd 2008
I thought it would be nice if I told you a bit about the hospital and what I am doing there.
To start off with, Antara is a mental hospital. However although a lot of the patients are a bit cuckoo (I will apologise now for all the non-PC comments I will make on this and future blogs, starting off with calling the patients mentals, pronounced best without the -t-) there are no personal safety issues, and I am really starting to love the patients here.
There are about 10 wards, each with around 30 beds, apart from 16 in the children's ward (probably because they are a bit of a handful.) The other wards are a male and female acute, subacute, and group home for live-in patients and a male chemical dependancy ward.
There is an incredible variety of patients, and I just wish my Bengali was better (it is truly awful, the kids were teaching me the basics today) as then I could talk to all the patients, rather than being limited to those that are predominantly middle-class, and have learnt English.
Even still, there are some right characters. When you get the bars open to be let into the ward, within seconds you are surrounded by the residents shaking your hand, blessing you, examining every little bracelet and watch you have on and grinning widely. I may make some off the cuff gag and smile, which would result in massive grins in return. But before I congratulate myself for being a comic genius, I soon realise none of them speak English, and they are all in fact in the mania stage of bipolar. Oh dear. But there are times where I feel that my presence is beneficial and appreciated, which is when you really feel that volunteering is worthwhile. Just being their to listen to them, no matter how deluded their thoughts may be, really makes a diufference. It seems that just being in India at Antara, rather than raving it up in Goa or getting all spiritual at Varanasi is enough for them.
Anyway, sorry about that actual insight and reflection, I am hoping just to copy and paste this blog into word when I have to submit my "3000 word report" for my travel bursary. Something more light hearted-
A longterm resident of Antara is the current Prime Minister of India AND President of Pakistan, when I asked him about why he could not resolve the current political situation in Kashmir, he quickly changed the subject to Sarah Palin. Apparently he thinks she should be vice-president of the United States as she is "gorgeous." It was at this statment that I realised he was actually a bit mental.
Lastly, Amanda saw a monkey milk a cow. That is incredible.
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