P.K. Saru, tells hat her endless fascination for human behaviour and her own life experiences led her to set up her counselling centre, ASHA

She was always the “analyst” in the family. Whenever there was a family fight, young Saru solved the issue. Being a debate champion in college, she would argue passionately about everything under the sun. As a child, she was intuitive to even a subtle friction between people. She would think: “Why are human beings so unhappy? What causes so much bitterness in people?”

“As a child, I dreamt of becoming a doctor,” says P.K. Saru. “However, in the 50s, there were no girls’ only medical colleges in Calicut. My family was supportive of me in pursuing higher studies, provided I went to a girls’ only college.”

She applied in Providence College, one of the reputed girls-only colleges in Calicut. “But they did not offer Biology. So I took up Economics. For a Muslim girl to pursue college education in those days was a big deal! I was the only Muslim in my college. But, my father was a high court judge, and he was progressive. He was convinced that I should pursue higher studies.”

However, her fascination with human behaviour continued. After marriage, children, and a divorce that shook her emotionally she decided to get back to psychotherapy. She was in her late 40s, when she did her graduation in Psychology from Annamalai University and took a diploma in Special Education from Avinashilingam College. She also got internationally certified as a Transactional Analyst by a foreign university.

“I decided to practise psychotherapy as it is the closest to medicine. While medicine treats you physically, psychotherapy deals with emotions.”

In 1998, Saru founded ASHA, the Counselling and Training Services. Relationship issues, conflict between parents and children, problems in work spaces, low performance in school... her institution deals with more than 200 clients every year.

Unique context

“The spirit of our institution is ‘Everyone is okay’ and innately divine. This is the key philosophy of transactional analysis, a tool of psychology. We analyse why a person behaves in a particular way, by taking into consideration his unique context,” she explains.

ASHA was an outcome of her fight to overcome trauma, caused by the divorce. Her husband wanted the divorce after 20 years of marriage. She even had to suffer separation from her children. It was her psychotherapist who motivated her to start a centre.

“I was determined. Even as a child, I had a resilience and energy level that amazed my friends and family. I used to be a sickly child; always falling ill. But, once I recover, I would transform into a new person. As my brothers joked, “like a snake that sheds it old skin and gets a new one”!

For her neighbours, Saru, who is in her 70s, is a firebrand. A year ago, a few residents in her layout decided to chop down some trees. Many protested, but Saru’s voice was the strongest.

“When something unfair happens I react. You need to be involved with Nature and society. And that is exactly what is missing in today’s generation. They are obsessed with technology and so alienated from their surroundings, but the virtual social networking sites cannot offer the positive energy of a smile or handshake.”

A broken home is the reason behind most of the mental ailments, Saru points out. “Family provides the right emotional foundation for a person. A bad childhood is often the main reason for mental sickness. I remember an engineer who was our client. He became a social recluse because his army officer of a father used to physically abuse him as a child.”

Lending a ear

And most times, people just need a friendly ear, she says. ASHA conducts several rural programmes in collaboration with NGOs.

Saru remembers a particular camp they held in a tsunami-affected area. “A lady was reeling under the trauma of the loss of her child. She had seen her child drown in front of her eyes. We just sat there and listened to her lament. All she needed was someone to share her pain with. And often, that works the best. Counselling is not always about giving advice; it is also empathetic listening.


ASHA Counselling and Training Services offers basic courses in counselling and psychotherapy. These lead to advanced level courses where the trainees are presented regional diplomas and international certification that qualifies them to become professional counsellors. For more details, call 99439-38581 or visit www.asha-net.com