Photographers' Blog

Suffering in silence

Karachi, Pakistan

By Akhtar Soomro

Arriving for my trip to Edhi Home, I met an elderly man working as a driver sitting outside the building. He assisted me in entering the building and introduced me to the lady in charge. She welcomed me and let me in by crossing an iron grill gate separating this place from the outer world.

As I walked through the huge corridor housing a row of rooms, each consisting of a bath, windows, square holes in the roofs for ventilation and an iron bar door. In these rooms resided elderly women, victims of mental illness, children missing from their families and victims of domestic violence.

Beams of sunlight fell on walls adorned with graffiti drawn by the patients – depictions of amulet charms, inspirational quotes, a drawing of three girls holding flowers in their hands, a peacock, even a short letter requesting the reader to inform someone of something.

From distant rooms came echoes of children reciting the Koran, a voice of a woman hypnotically praying to God, dispersed sounds of murmuring, humming, wailing, crying mixed-up with giggling, all fractured by the noise of iron door hinges and grinding wheelchairs.

While passing through the halls I was stopped by many young and elderly women, their chins up to stare into me with their sad eyes and murmuring lips, wanting me to listen to them, and their tale of how they came to this.

City of joy

By Rupak de Chowdhuri

It’s festive time in Kolkata, with the Durga festival celebrated across the city, before Diwali celebrations fill the city with light. Kolkata has been called the “City of Joy,” a title which was immortalized in a book by Dominique Lapierre. It tells the story of the poorest of the poor who still somehow find hope and joy in life. Little did I know I was about to come face-to-face with such a story.

I hunt for pictures every day. One day, I was looking for pictures when an old friend told me to go to a place where I was guaranteed to find a good story. Because of my curious nature, I started to walk in search of the story I’d been told about in the middle of Kolkata. I started searching among the food stalls because I wouldn’t believe it until I saw them myself.

At last I found them. And I stood stunned, like other customers in front of the food stall. I watched for half an hour.

Sheltering mental patients

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At an Indonesian center for mental patients run by the Galuh Foundation, I found Totok.  A patient who had just taken his morning shower and shaved. Totok used to be a thug in a market, and was feared for his habit of beating up vendors. One day, the vendors’ anger peaked and they beat Totok  up, leaving him with physical injuries and mental damage.

I read about the foundation in a local newspaper, in an article about a wedding between a  female patient and an employee of the foundation. The foundation was set up in 1982 by Gendu Mulatif in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. Mulatif used his money to build a compound to take care of homeless patients who had been taken in from the streets. Once admitted, he treated them with medicinal herbals and changed their diet to vegetarian.

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Head nurse Suharyono (L) and Suharyoso (R) bring in a man suffering from mental illness (C) shortly after finding him at a street in East Bekasi, outskirt of Jakarta November 5, 2009.  REUTERS/Beawiharta