House of cracking soul

by Zulfadhli Zaki

The Small town of Tanjung Rambutan, surrounded by the limestone hills, 200km north of Kuala Lumpur, is home to a private care centre for the mentally-disabled called Pusat Jagaan Bakti. The home, started back in 2008, was established as a mental patient care centre. Puan Halimaton, the owner of the care centre, sees patient in Hospital Bahagia increasing abundantly year by year. Overtime, the care centre became a shelter for patients with disabilities, whose parents had abandoned them or those taken into the centre by Halimaton. Most patients have spent their recovery period in this care centre until they cannot do anything, accompanied by the floor, four walls and a pillow because there were insufficient funds to provide for them.

While on holiday in Ipoh at the end of 2015, I came across Bakti and witnessed myself how those with mental illness suffered. Talking to Halimaton, she invited me to stay at Bakti’s women’s house because the men’s house was too risky to stay as the patients usually behave aggressively. I declined the offer to stay at the women’s house. She told me the history of Bakti and some details of the patients. Halimaton seemed to trust me and let me stayed at Bakti’s men house. I realised that she developed Bakti’s by her own initiative. Trust is a virtue of the idea of looking more deeply into life in the Bakti. I wanted to portray the characteristic behavior that was build from depression and I wanted to explore the extent of human endurance on mental pressure that have surpassed the individual.

To access the 10,000sqft bungalow that places 28 patient was not easy. Solihin, the caretaker, used to live here and he was among the patients who recovered. The house was totally surrounded by grills to prevent the patients from escaping. There was nothing in this house, just walls and pillows. They were aware of my existence. After Solihin locked up the entrance, I felt like I stepped into another world – a world full of silent depression. Halimaton reminded me that some of the patients here were brought in because of the crime they have committed and some of them will act aggressively at times. I have no idea what risk if I was going to encounter. After adapting to the situation, I managed to put a smile on the faces of the people there and that was a sign of acceptance.