Whenever I went out on the street of this metropolis that I have been living in for the last 30 years, one thing that always made me feel helpless and depressed, was the ill-fated vagrants who sometimes I found them sleeping on the pavements or rummaging through the garbage-vats for a morsel of food or walking about aimlessly.
Although I wanted to help them but I didn’t know where to start or for that matter how to start. Then ,one day out of the blue, I met this God sent man Joseph Dass. Joseph loves being with and tending to abandoned and vagrant mentally-ill people, who he sees as children of God and to whom he is living God. Starting his life with Mother Teresa’s leprosy mission, Joseph found his calling and set-up his Home of Hope in 1999, with just 2 inmates. He made two important decisions – all those he would shelter would be his family members and there will be no cells, grills, chains and locks in his home. Today, about a 100 men and women live with Joseph and form his big happy family.
Joseph patrols the city in his ambulance and picks up mentally-ill vagrants from bus-shelters, railway stations and even garbage vats. He brings them back home, treats their festering wounds, cleans them, clothes them, feeds them and talks to them in a language that only Joseph and they understand – the language of love. For those who are coherent enough to give contact details of their family, Joseph tries to reunite them, often with tragic refusals by the family. They stay on with Joseph and find a new family in the Home of Hope.
Many of Joseph’s family have been living in the Home of Hope for years and this is the only home they know. Though mentally unstable, Joseph’s love and persuasion has succeeded in keeping them engaged, even if that means peeling a few vegetables a day.
Joseph cleans and dresses gangrenous wounds with his own hands, trying to save the rotten limbs. He says. “I can always take them to a hospital, but if I take them there, their affected limbs will be immediately amputated. I don’t want that. I want to try and save their limbs the best way possible so that they can use their limbs for support.”
Every inmate at Joseph’s Home of Hope is his child and lives in the comfort of his unbelievable compassion and love.
I knew I had to capture the immense work that Joseph has taken on himself, for posterity and let the world draw inspiration from how this man is relentlessly working towards the mankind.
Q&A with Jayati Saha
Photography is the art of telling stories without using a single word. As a Lawyer I had to use a lot of words but as a Photographer I found that I could express myself more without using any words at all.
Photography and writing…
Photography and writing complement each other and sometimes when a moving moment is frozen in time, writing helps the kinetics.
Who left the biggest impression on you?
There is not one but more than one names I find inspiration from. They are Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry, Raghu Rai, to name a few.
Tell us a little about yourself
I imagine images, colours, light, darkness and shadows even when my finger is not on the shutter – that is when I realised that I could be nothing other than a Photographer. I lived in a dull, drab world of corporate law and never saw the world outside the Senior Partner’s corner office. I broke the shackles and the entrapments, smelt the fresh air, smiled at the wild glass flowers and was born again.
Based out of Kolkata, India, she is peripatetic and her journeys have taken her to the India not known or seen by many. Her work has been widely appreciated and have been exhibited in India and abroad, used as tutorial.