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In the confines of blankness

Archana Phull | Basantpur (Shimla) |

“Please get me chicken and chocolate from my pension money,”Damitri, 60, a mentally sick foreign national told the attendant at Old Age Home at Basantpur near here in frail voice as she sits lonely in the lawns of the Home, staring in blankness.

With her fate now confined to the four walls of this state run Home, the social security pension of Rs 650 a month, given to all the inmates by Himachal government, brings a glimmer of happiness for Damitri to fulfil her desire of having choicest food from the village market.

The foreign national had revealed her identity as Damitri (from Italy) when she was held alone in Kasol in Kullu valley, allegedly without passport, visa or any other document, in a mentally sick condition around ten years ago.

The Police later sent her to Himachal Hospital of Mental Health and Rehabilitation in Shimla for few years for treatment and was then lodged in state run Nari Sewa Sadan in Mashobra near here. Sometime back, she was shifted to the Old Age Home Basantpur as her whereabouts could not be traced.

“It’s very boring,” murmured Damitri, when asked about her routine.

According to the staff at the Home, Damitri is still on medication, but she behaves normal in day to day life.

She has no friends to mingle with in the Home, which houses 38 inmates, including 15 women, due to language barrier as she speaks only English, which local inmates don’t understand.

Damitri, as she incoherently explained, had come to India from United States for travelling and trekking to Ladakh and Manali. She said she was from Italy and worked at a farm in Norway.

Official sources said the Himachal Police could not trace her background as she has no document or authentic information to support her identity.

Damitri is confused about her future course. “I don’t want to go home. I want to travel and trek. I want to go to Nepal, Tibet, Mangolia, Arunanchal and Garhwal. Please give me my passport,” she communicated more with the self, with no hope in her eyes.

A disability rights activist, Ajai Srivastava, who has helped many elderly and abandoned persons find shelter in the Old Age Home and get pension irrespective o nationality (by taking the matter to the Court), puts it differently.

“The state Police should take the pro-active approach in tracing roots of persons, who are found abandoned and are lodged in the Old Age Home or Nari Sewa Sadan or the Children Homes. The cops do the routine enquiry and leave the inmates to their fate, which is not justified.”

He said in case of Damitri, the state government should have taken it up with the European embassy in Delhi and followed it up in continuity, flashing her photograph and details on internet.