“You are a fraudster. You want to take away my property . You son of a bi*..”, Ramesh Bhai was interrupted by a hand covering his mouth from behind. Ramesh Bhai’s brother Rahul pulled him back and using great force brought him inside the house.

This was the third time in last two months that Ramesh Bhai had gone on a tirade of abuses against the neighbours particularly Mansoor bhai who had once curiously enquired with Rahul Bhai who was studying for CA finals about the price the houses in their society could fetch. Mansoor Bhai was planning to shift to a new city for his textile business. Rameshbhai had overheard this conversation from his bedroom and came to believe that Mansoor Bhai wanted to take away their home. In the following days this suspicion kept growing in Rameshbhai’s mind so much that he decided to take this matter head on and started hurling abuses at Mansoor Bhai in front of everyone creating a big ruckus.

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A couple of years back, Rameshbhai had lost his job as a supervisor in a diamond polishing firm after having a heated argument with some of his colleagues at workplace whom he had accused of harassing him but the allegations were found to be baseless. Since then he would do some odd jobs but most of the time he would either stay at home or keep wandering outside aimlessly or sometimes he would be seen smiling inappropriately while smoking cigarettes on the terrace of his single storeyed house.

Rameshbhai who had studied B.Com was now 30 years old and stayed at home with his mother Kantaben and younger brother Rahul who was preparing for his CA finals. He was married 5 years back but a few months after the marriage, his wife left him for another man. This had left Rameshbhai very depressed. Since then his family members had started observing that he would become angry on small matters and had started smoking cigarettes and would occasionally consume alcohol. He would stay by himself and not interact much with anyone in the home or their neighbourhood. One day when he was walking on the road to his workplace he overheard someone laughing on the street. Rameshbhai turned around, became very angry and started abusing that man as he believed he was mocking at him as his wife had left him for another man.

Since the last few months his behavior had started to become even more alarming as he was acting out on his suspicions. Rahul was afraid that if somehow Rameshbhai managed to escape from home that night, he might attack Mansoor Bhai. With the help of his friends in the neighbourhood, he managed to restrain Rameshbhai with a long rope to the bed on which he was sleeping. Rameshbhai became very agitated and started pulling violently at the ropes but they were tied a bit too tightly even for him to escape. As he started shouting loudly, people started gathering around their home and Rahul felt very embarrassed.

He was reminded of that horrific night 15 years ago when he was merely a 6 year old kid. Just imagining that scene itself terrifies him. His father in a fit of rage had damaged the household goods and then had started running outside on the road wildly when he was hit by a car and lost his life. Their lives had turned upside down that day. With nobody to support them, their mother had brought them up with much effort and sacrifice to make the two ends meet. Rahul stopped his imagination and focused on the task at hand. Despite being a bright student he had been convinced by the neighbors and some distant relatives that the spirit of his father had embodied Rameshbhai which was making him do all this.

Having been brought up in a culture that believed in the stories of fairies, ghosts, and spirits, Rahul gave in to this idea and with the insistence of some neighbors decided to take Rameshbhai to an exorcist who stayed at the Kali Dargah in a village 35 km away from their home. By then Rameshbhai had started to become very agitated and had started spitting on anyone who even came nearer but with great force Rahul and 5 of his friends tied his hands and feet together with the rope and also shut his mouth with tape. He was then lifted up from his bed and kept inside a car of one of the neighbours and was taken to the Kali Dargah. It was dark when they reached the place and by then Rameshbhai had relented and had fallen asleep. The fakir was sitting beside a large sacrificial fire wearing a black kurta with red threads tied around his wrists and a white skull cap. He appeared to be in a state of trance. One of Rahul’s friends who had previously visited the place and knew the fakir personally offered his salutations to him, bowed down, touched his feet and said, “Fakir ji, my friend Rahul and his family are in great trouble. Rahul’s brother has been attacked by the spirit of his father and making him do very bad things. Please help him.”

The Fakir opened his dark and brooding eyes, took a cursory glance at Rameshbhai who was sleeping peacefully on the backseat of the car. He took out some holy water, chanted a mantra and went near the car. As soon as he sprinkled the water, Rameshbhai woke up startled and frightened at the same time. The appearance of the fakir was enough to frighten any living soul. Rameshbhai begged to the fakir to let him ego. The fakir laughed aloud and said, “This ghost is very coward. He has started begging for mercy. Take him home.” He chanted a mantra and took out a black thread from his pocket and tied it around Rameshbhai’s wrist. Rahul and his friend were very relieved to see the proceedings. They were confident that the spirit had been set free by the fakir. They bowed down to fakir who asked them to make a donation of 1000 rupees for the Dargah and asked them to stay alert for the next few weeks as the spirit will try to re-enter the body of Rameshbhai. It would completely go away if Rameshbhai was brought there for the next two consecutive new moons for a ritual which would completely set the spirit free. They happily agreed and left the place.

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Upon reaching home, they observed that Rameshbhai was calmer than before but nobody knew what was going on inside the mind of Rameshbhai. He was very frightened of this new development and soon he started to argue with his brother and started accusing him of trying to make him mad and plotting to kill him. Rahul didn’t bother much as he recalled the words of the fakir and thought this was a normal response of the spirit which was still around. As the new moon night approached, Rahul began preparations to take Rameshbhai to the fakir. He brought the ropes and arranged a car for the same. Rameshbhai however sensed there was something abnormal and ran away from home.

When Rahul returned to the room he was shocked to see Rameshbhai missing. He started searching frantically for him. He called out his friends and all of them went to search for him but to no avail. Finally, they decided it was time they seek help of police. They went to the nearby police station late at night and lodged the complaint. When the Police Inspector Mr. Rathore heard the story he was convinced that the missing person, Rameshbhai was suffering from a psychiatric disorder. He immediately sent a search party of constables under him and started to search for Rameshbhai. After 4 hours of searching, finally they found Rameshbhai hiding on the top of a tree near their house. He was keenly keeping an eye on the activities of Mansoor bhai whose home was visible from the tree top.

After some coaxing, Rameshbhai was brought down from the tree by the police. When Mr. Rathore asked him why he was sitting on the tree top, Rameshbhai replied that he had been doing so since many days after he got to know that Mansoor bhai wanted to confiscate his property. Upon descending down the tree, he started pleading to the police to save him from Mansoor bhai and his own brother Rahul who wanted to tie him up with ropes and throw in a jungle and then they would confiscate the house and make money.

The police inspector, Mr Rathore pacified him and asked Rameshbhai to come with him. Without wasting much time, Mr.Rathore and his team comforted Rameshbhai and escorted him to their jeep. They took a U turn, crossed the road and landed up at Psychiatry department of Civil Hospital which was barely 300 metres from Rameshbhai’s home. Meanwhile, Rahul and his friends also followed them and reached the place. The attending resident doctor took the history from the brother and the police and at once knew he was dealing with a case of Schizophrenia here. It was really unfortunate that despite clear signs of the illness, the family had taken 5 years to come to them; to the right place.

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Rameshbhai was admitted in the Psychiatry department and the treatment was initiated. After 3 weeks of oral antipsychotic medications and Electroconvulsive therapy which is one of the safest and most effective forms of treatment, Rameshbhai started showing significant improvement. He started to care for himself, slept better and for the first time in many years, he hugged his brother Rahul when he came to meet him at the hospital.

Rahul’s eyes became teary as he realized how much better it would have been if he had not taken 5 long years to cross the road!

(Schizophrenia is a neuropsychiatric disorder with a prevalence rate of 1-2% globally across all societies in which the sufferer experiences mental and behavioural disturbances like delusions which is a fixed, false, firm belief usually involving persecutory or paranoid themes and also hallucinations which is the perception in the absence of a stimulus. In majority of the cases of Schizophrenia, these hallucinations are auditory meaning the sufferer is able to hear voices of people talking to him/ about him. Schizophrenia occurs due to interplay between genetic risk factors like family history of psychiatric illness and substance use and environmental risk factors like major life stressors which act as a trigger. While there are many theories why Schizophrenia occurs, not one theory is related to spirits/ghosts/pret aatmas. Schizophrenia can be managed by Psychiatrists and not by exorcists. Early diagnosis and treatment favors the prognosis so it is best to initiate treatment immediately following slightest sign of behavioural disturbance. 24th May is World Schizophrenia day. This is my small attempt to create awareness so that people develop positive attitude towards mental health disorders and seek treatment at the earliest without any compunction. If you have read thus far, please do me a favour and alongside all the wonderful memes that you share with your friends and family, do share this also if you liked it. Thanks.)

– Devashish

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