Calcutta Samaritan passes away

By: C. M. Paul

Kolkata : A philanthropist, industrialist and a much-respected member of the Malayalee community in Calcutta passed away on Monday, 23 January. He was 89.

P.M. John, born in Kerala, had come to Calcutta in 1949 when the city was faced with the huge influx of migrants from the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Living through the seventies, a period of turbulence in the history of Calcutta city with the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, the Bangladesh freedom struggle, the influx of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan, the tension created by political movements, all these together made life quite a tormenting experience for many people. A number of people lost their balance of mind and many could be found roaming on the streets.

It was in response to this alarming situation that Mother Teresa, Dr. Satrujit Das Gupta, Mr. P.M. John, Missionaries of Charity Brothers General Servant Br. Andrew, Dr. R.B. Davis and a few others got together and founded Antara Society. It had the primary objective of providing care, treatment and rehabilitation to the destitute and very poor persons suffering from mental disorders including drug addiction and alcoholism.

As the first step towards achieving the objectives of Antara, psychiatric Outpatient Clinic was started at the Janata Medical Service at Mar Thoma Church Centre, Kolkata as a Joint venture. This Psychiatric Clinic still functions on Tuesdays & Fridays catering to the needs of the poor psychiatric patients in the city.

Soon there was the need to accommodate and treat some of the patients particularly the destitute ones. A building was rented at Picnic Garden and residential treatment and care was started by the Missionaries of Charity (Brothers) who took loving care of the inmates and operated an Outpatient Psychiatric Unit in 1971.

Next year, the group provided residential facilities to mentally ill patients. Ten years later from 1982 onward, a need arose to cater to a much larger patient population and land was purchased in the outskirts of Kolkata to establish the larger Mental Health Hospital. The site was called Antaragram. The foundation stone was laid by Mother Teresa in 1980 .Today, Antara is a 200-bed hospital.

John was also the chairman of Meteor Private Ltd, an international trading house headquartered in Calcutta that has branches in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

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4 thoughts on “Calcutta Samaritan passes away

  1. P.M.John was a fatherly figure to the youth. He,Kunjuamma aunty and Gitty came to the Mar Thoma church every sunday and their presence was a joy to everyone. I remember the visit of Mother Theresa to our church and I beleive it was because of Uncle’s involvement at Antaragram. In the 70’s we youths used to go their with uncle and family to clean,cook,paint and most of all interact with the differently abaled people there. This great Samaritan led a faithful life and now He is in the bosom of our Lord and Savor. I remember Uncle reading from the Old Testament on Good Fridays,Faithfully in Malayalam. He and his family was always with the youth for all the annual youth retreats in Serampore and very active in the Church Annual Festivals. Heartfelt condolence and prayer to Kunjuamma aunty,Gitty and Family at this difficult time and i know for sure His legacy will be continued through his children and grand children. Each and every member of Antaragram, for P.M. John, they were his extended families.

  2. PM John uncle was very dear to our family. As a youngster in Calcutta, in the late 70’s I had spend many days accompanying uncle with other youth members to visit Antara, to clean the place and spend time with the mentally challenged inmates and have lunch with them. It was a regular routine on Sundays after church service.
    When I visited the place in the 90’s, Antara had developed to Antaragram with the perseverance of uncle and his team. He had a vision and lived to fulfill it. I learned from uncle what true service and dedication meant. He was a jovial person, full of life and enthusiasm. His home was always warm for anyone in Calcutta. I will miss uncle very much but his love for us will remain forever.

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