Treasure Hunters, Mental Illness and Hope
Photo by GFA World
Shocked by the news of her 7-year-old son's murder, Tilaka's mind whirled into a grief-laden state of confusion. If only her son had stayed with her that day; if only someone had stepped in to rescue him.
Little Arun had been kidnapped by treasure hunters and given as a sacrifice to their gods in the hope of unearthing riches. Unbearable pain pierced Tilaka's mothering heart when she discovered what had happened to her precious son. Grief stole her ability to think clearly, and she became labeled as a mentally challenged woman by those in her community.
Woman Swallowed Up into Obscurity
After losing her oldest son, Tilaka wandered the streets, slept on the pavement and began murmuring to herself while she gathered up dirty items alongside roadways. Recognizing that Tilaka was far from able to care for her remaining two children, the villagers sent Tilaka's 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter to a children's home in the area. Tilaka would never again be part of her children's lives.
As the years passed, Tilaka's difficulties were compounded by her status as a widow. In a culture that often blames widows for the death of their husbands, Tilaka found little sympathy from others over her plight. She survived by begging, facing the dangers of street life all alone: crime, disease and predators watching for helpless women. But Tilaka fell victim to a different street danger. A bus struck her one day while she sat alongside the road. Badly injured, Tilaka was taken to a hospital to receive treatment for fractures in her leg and hand. She spent months lying in a hospital bed, yet she received no visitors from her family or her village. It seemed that only the kindhearted doctors cared about the mentally challenged widow.
*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are GFA stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.