Anna (which means 'brother' in Tamil) was born in Tamil Nadu, South India. He is partially deaf, epileptic and has learning and behaviour problems. After his mother died, his family did not know what to do with him. His father took him on a long train ride. Anna fell asleep. When he woke, his father had left him. He was alone, confused and roaming around the unfamiliar tracks of Howrah station. Picked up by a local institution, Anna was often beaten and drugged to the point of comatose to keep him quiet. He was 10 years old.
Along with Sunil, he was the first of the boys David helped, and therefore where the shuktara story began in 1999. He came to us when he was about 16, and his behaviour was so challenging that no one else would work with him and he had nowhere to go.
Because of his ordeal Anna, now in his 30s, is very sensitive and can easily get upset. The other boys have to be careful not to provoke him, because anything that is said to him could cause him to rage.
As the home he was in previously didn’t provide anything more than food, and most of the time Anna was there he was either locked in a cupboard or was being beaten by the guards, he had never held a pen or pencil before. However we enrolled him in the adult training programme at the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, and he soon experienced being part of a team in the bakery section of their Adult Training Unit. He also asks to draw from time to time, and we love the portraits he creates.
Anna’s safety lies in his space on the ground floor of the shuktara boys house, and he rarely moves from there apart from going to the bathroom. He sometimes cleans the floors of the ground floor of the house, if he wants to. But he will do it in his own time and not when people ask him to. He loves watching TV and listening to music on the radio.
"This is his home. It is the only place he has ever known that has kept him safe and not abandoned him," says David, shuktara’s founder. "None of us could imagine the trauma that Anna has had to face in his life.
We know that Anna needs safety and security for him to feel at peace. In one swift moment that peace can be shattered by a thought, a word or an action by somebody around him. I see his deep pain and it makes me so happy that we have been able to help him."