Dr. Bharat Vatwani, one of the two Indians named for the 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Award, was ecstatic on Thursday. “At least now, the cause I work for will get its due recognition,” he said.

After completing his MBBS, Dr. Vatwani did a diploma in psychiatry at Grant Medical College attached to JJ Hospital. He then did a master’s at GS Medical College attached to KEM Hospital in Parel, and started practising in Borivali.

That’s when he witnessed something that he described as a turning point in his life. “I was at a restaurant when I saw a very skinny boy sitting on the roadside and drinking water from a gutter with a coconut shell,” he said. Mr. Vatwani and his wife, also a psychiatrist, took the boy to their nursing home and treated him for schizophrenia. As he recovered, they learnt that he was a B.Sc graduate.

In 1997, the couple established a facility in Dahisar to help destitutes who are mentally ill. This was a first of its kind, and locals, who did not like the presence of homeless people, wanted it shut. But Dr. Vatwani fought a legal battle and won. The facility continued for six years till he brought a bigger plot in Karjat and started work there.

Dr. Vatwani will head to Philippines in August for the award ceremony. “I have never received so many calls before. And never had so many people talking about the work we do,” he said.

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