‘Cause of the mentally ill deserves place in the sun’ – Magsaysay Awardee Bharat Vatwani

Bharat Vatwani
‘Cause of the mentally ill deserves place in the sun’ – Magsaysay Awardee Bharat Vatwani

Inoue Jaena

Bharat Vatwani serves the mentally ill by providing them with free shelter, food, treatment, and the chance to reunite with their families

The 6 recipients of the prestigious 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Awards were officially recognized during the presentation ceremonies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Friday, August 31.

Among the awardees is India’s Bharat Vatwani, who has dedicated his life in service of the mentally ill. He provides free shelter, food, treatment, and the chance to reunite the mentally ill with their families through the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation he founded.

Here is the full text of his speech, as provided by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.


From the beginning of time, the world has always been a conflict between right and wrong, between truth and evil, between justice and injustice. Ultimately, community leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Vinoba Bhave, Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, Baba and Prakash Amte, irrespective of their particular sphere activities, support and are torchbearers of the former, and have ended up becoming emissaries of the Truth itself.

Often far-reaching beyond where the stone was thrown into the pond of Life falls, are the implications of the ripples that the stone hitting the water has caused. And the Ramon Magsaysay Award, by recognizing individuals from Asia, has further added to the distance of the ripple created by Asian social emissaries. It is not individual causes that we as Awardees represent, it is the hope of a collective good, a hope that Truth and God shall prevail within mankind. And that ultimately we shall join in eternal bonding to the greater cosmos of a God’s creation beyond.

Despite this, the cause of the wandering, mentally ill, roadside destitute which our NGO Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation espouses, does deserve its place under the sun, as an unspoken tragedy that has befallen mankind. This is because the mental illness causing the destitute to end up on the roads is not of his or her own making.

The wandering mentally ill are shunned, rejected, and denied. They brave the chilling winters, the searing summers, and the torrential rains for months, years, often decades on end. And continue to be shunned, rejected, and denied to the point of non-existence. And to correct this injustice, at least in India, was born Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation.

We had naively thought during its inception, that in the span of our lifetimes, a lot would change for India’s wandering mentally ill. But today, having read a lot of literature on the psyche of social workers, both the famous and the not so famous, the heard and the not much written about, I am well aware that the laying down of one lifetime may well be inadequate for a cause. Lincoln had his bouts of deep soul-searching depression. But the cause which he fought for vis racial discrimination has not been sorted out in its entirety, to date. Nobel Laureate Tagore wrote, “Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake…” 75 years on, his country is yet to realize his vision.

Lincoln and Tagore and those millions of silent strugglers all over the world, who have partaken in ideological wars over innumerable years, have taught us that change is a slow process. However strong and deep-rooted be the emotions, however piercing the inner outcry against social disparity or injustice, howsoever passionate the associated intrinsic desire for change, the wheels of the gods move slowly, albeit very slowly.

And to silently continue on your chosen path, with your nose to the grind, like the faceless, nameless, anonymous soldier carrying the half-hoisted flag of Truth on his shoulder, becomes at some point at time, the wheel of silent revolution in your own silent, unwritten destiny. Leading one to understand the Gospel Philosophy of the Sages of Yore that truth is truth only when it has the capacity to stretch beyond the limits of all endurance. light is light only when it has the capacity to pierce the darkness. I end this outpouring with a few lines from one of my earliest poems –

If life,
could be founded on hope,
And wisdom
on mere understanding,
Then the horizons would be mine,
The rainbows notwithstanding,
But I had nothing,
Just this pen, paper, and a few words,
And my feelings for you,
From the beginning of time…

Thank you. – Rappler.com

Read the speeches of other 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Awards recipients:

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