I speak what I can speak
It was during the lectures by Susan Adahl, titled Anthropology of the Mind, that for the first time in my life I began to ponder deeply about what is normal and what is abnormal. Is there anything such as normal at all? I was brought up in a Hindu religious family where we are encouraged to listen to the voice within ourselves and follow it. During the lectures, I was surprised that a spiritual man could be a schizophrenic in a different culture. The classes filled me with a lot of anxiety and I had to do something about it.
Some casual online research led me to Pahkla Camphill Village near Tallinn, Estonia. According to their website, Pahkla Camphill Village offers to adults with needs for special care the opportunity of living in the community through participation in the village activities, giving them the opportunity to feel appreciated and valuable members of society. Pahkla belongs to a larger world movement of Camphill Villages around the world. Some of it’s founders were physicians and psychiatrists, including Dr. Karl König, who emphasised on providing holistic treatment to people with needs for special care.
I met Jaak Herodes, a retired Estonian psychiatrist, who helped in building up Pahkla. In his words,
“The mentally handicapped people were trying to find new ways of treatment and therefore we had to open up such a place. We visited the Norwegian Camphill Village and we were very impressed by it. We found that patients were not really improving with the medicines, they needed a life where they could be involved in activities such as gardening, animal farming and even painting. They needed a community to live in. It was important to allow the people to develop themselves.”
Direction and Cinematography -Rajat Nayyar
Editor- Rajt Nayyar
Text - Rajat Nayyar
Location - Pahkla, Estonia
Today Pahkla Camphill Village is home to 25 villagers, which includes the Manager (Katarina) and 4 German volunteers who have taken a year off and have come to contribute in this community. Out of the 20 villagers, some have down syndrome and some have had the history of other psychotic disorders.
Jack Herodes took me to Pahkla for the first time and introduced me to the village. We all sat down for lunch together, a tradition followed at Pahkla. The villagers couldn’t speak English but constantly kept asking Katarina about me. I became interested to know them as well but did not know where to start. What were these answers I was looking for anyway? I was not there to know what kind of experiences voice-hearers have had nor was I there to understand any other kind of mental illness. I was at Pahkla to remove my own fear of the “abnormal”. The anxiety that was produced in me during those lectures was a yearning of sorts, to expand my heart a little more by removing a few barriers.
We finished the lunch and the villagers returned back to their daily lives, which involves milking the cows, cleaning the shed, making cheese, baking and (those days) rehearsing for the Christmas play. Kristina, a villager, was very interested in communicating with me. She was the only villager, other than the manager and the volunteers, who could speak in English. Kristina, as I was told, is the only villager who can decide things for herself. To follow any other villager in their daily lives at Pahkla, would require permission from their parents. While Katarina was telling me this, Kristina was also present and gave me a smile, which I returned back to her.