Nishtha Bhatnagar, a 35-year-old mother of two and an alumnus of Holy Child Auxilium School in south Delhi’s Vasant Vihar, is crowdfunding 10 lakh rupees for her teacher’s treatment. Her 63-year-old English teacher, Asha Verghese taught Nishtha English in the eighth standard. The veteran had no one to look after her when she was diagnosed with a severe case of bipolar disorder. Nistha then decided to take the reigns and chose to crowdfund her teacher’s way into a senior citizen’s home where Asha could receive the constant care she requires.
Asha’s condition triggers mood swings which can last for days, if not weeks, at a time. Her episodes of depression have symptoms of sadness and lethargy which may at times be followed by periods of elation. An inspirational teacher for Nishtha, she is now incapable of fending for herself due to the debilitating disease.
Asha never had children of her own, but Nishtha was always like a daughter to her. The two go back 23 years when they first bonded. Nishtha was still in middle school. This guru-shishya bond only strengthened once Nishtha got news of her former mentor’s illness.
Even though she only taught Nishtha for a year from, her love for English was evident after her classes with Asha. She then went on to graduate in English from Lady Shri Ram College and eventually began working as a features editor with a leading publication.
In 1995, Asha Verghese quit school after she began suffering from crippling mood swings. It was three years before she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Asha went from one job to the other such as in KPO companies, NGOs and editing from home, but she could not manage both work and her illness. Meanwhile, Nishtha wrote letters to her favourite teacher before going on to introduce her to Facebook, so that they could stay in touch.
A Keralite Syrian Christian, Asha did not want to take undue advantage of Nishtha but the latter convinced her of the idea of crowdfunding. Asha was reluctant of publicising her mental illness, but Nishtha was adamant. Their campaign has already raised Rs. 4 lakh through Ketto, which is an online crowdfunding website. Most of the money that has been collected so far has come from her ex-students. While Nishtha knows that her condition cannot be treated, she hopes to meet the target of Rs. 10 lakh in order to secure Asha’s future.