Friday, August 26, 2011

Fighting Corruption

A lot is being said about the anti corruption drive and I feel glad that the lay man has stood up against the corruption that prevails in society. The huge crowd that gathers in support of Anna Hazare is proof that the common man is sick and tired of greasing palms to get the simplest work done in Government offices. I feel bad that I also am part of the problem simply because I am not part of the solution. I did not offer ‘chai pani ka paisa’ to the dealing clerk while submitting my thesis. The process was deliberately delayed and the examiner’s report suppressed. Finally I manage to acquire my doctoral degree 18 months after I submitted my report. I had nothing to lose since I had a job and at that point in my career I could not have got an automatic promotion. I attended three interviews after that but the story was the same. It was whispered that there was a price attached and the moment I landed in Patna negotiators would seek me out. No one did. So I really haven’t directly dealt with mediators who strike shady deals on behalf of the powers that be. It is all hearsay which may or may not be true. Again it was a consolation that I had a job that promised a pension on retirement and I was in a better position than many others equally qualified and competent.

Is it the same with others?

Kala is the Head Mistress of a middle school that is semi government. Funds are released after several rounds of meetings and around 30 teachers working under her wait for months to get their salaries. And when the salary amount is sanctioned the dealing clerk delays the transfer of funds till she pays him an amount agreed upon as ‘chai pani ka paisa’. This depends on the amount each teacher stands to ‘benefit’. There is no guarantee as to when the next salary would be sanctioned. I wonder what ought to be done under the circumstances. Some teachers are sole bread winners with several dependents. Kala knows that as a teacher she should fight against corruption. Complaining will not help since the clerk is perhaps the agent and there are many others who benefit by his collection. I wonder if Anna Hazare’s drive against corruption will actually reach out to such people who are victims of a corrupt system.

I have no sympathy for those among us who grease palms for obtaining favors out of turn. Driving license given out without the person taking the test for instance. A friend’s husband lost his life on account of rash driving by a teenager who in all probability was under age. But who cares? We want the easy way out. One goes to a government hospital and the treatment he/she gets is definitely better if hospital staff are bribed. The list is long and this is only the beginning.

I don’t mean to say that we should lose hope. I feel that we ought to take steps to counsel government employees and impress upon them that it is a shame to expect ‘oopari kamayi’ (bribe) as a right. The chain/circle is vicious and inter-connected and links politicians, bureaucrats as well as their sub ordinates. I end with two examples of upright IPS officers that makes me think that it is wrong to paint everyone with the same brush.

One involved the SP of our township some three years back. He had given his phone number to the women’s organization that supported a complainant of domestic abuse and asked them to feel free to contact him at any time of the day/night in case of trouble. They rang him up at 2 in the night and within minutes the station in charge of the police station nearest to the girl’s house sent a constable to arrest her husband.

The second involved the DIG of our township. We had an interactive session with him at a local college. He asked the audience to co – operate with him in punishing erring traffic police/constables and the like by lodging an instant complaint. A constable posted at the National Highway leading to our town was seen accepting bribe to allow the entry of heavy vehicle during the time declared as ‘No entry’ time keeping the safety of school children returning home in auto – rickshaws/ private vehicles in mind. Someone clicked a photograph of the constable and forwarded it to the DIG. The man was immediately suspended. This has served as a warning to other constables too.

These are the steps that responsible citizens can take to be part of the solution. I add that I myself spoke to the aforementioned DIG at six in the morning on behalf of my servant who said that the station in charge of our area would not accept a complaint that she wished to lodge. I wanted to check for myself if he would take calls that early in the morning. And he did. He asked her to go to the police station that very day and that he would direct the station in charge to take appropriate action.

If we wish to take Annaji’s movement forward we too need to do our bit.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Following Up

I had written sometime back on a few cases of schizophrenia in two parts and had commended the care givers on their role in taking care of these people. I had heard of these cases from people close to them and was full of admiration for the decisions made by them. I’ve been following their case from time to time and updated myself on the course their lives have taken since then. I refer in particular to the case of Preeti and Montu.

I had mentioned that Preeti surprised everyone by deciding to give her marriage a try although she was under no compulsion to do so. Her parents in law were so grateful to her that they pampered her to the core and provided her with the necessary support in running the house and attending to her whimsical husband. Now that the couple opted to have a child one would expect her to bond well with the husband and their marriage would be near normal. With many of our marriages having their own ups and downs, even without having to deal with a mentally imbalanced spouse, one ought not to imagine that life was very easy for the girl who was totally unprepared to deal with the situation. However, to be fair to her, she did try her best. I don’t mean to say that she has failed in her effort or has given up. Her problem was different.

Preeti had a baby boy some three years after her marriage. She loved her son alright but had a nagging doubt as to whether her husband’s condition was genetic and if he would inherit the condition from his father. Schizophrenia does not necessarily show up till adolescence or even much later and she had no means of knowing about the possibility of her son ‘turning mad’ as those around her cruelly described her husband. She looked for indications where there were none and even the slightest tantrum shown by the child was attributed to faulty genes. It was very distressing for her parents in law to cope with the mindless insinuations heaped by her on an innocent toddler but could do little about it. Things came to a head when she refused to return after a visit to her parent’s place saying that she did not want the child to pick up ‘mad ways’ from his father. Her parents did not feel free to advise her since they partly blamed themselves for the mess that she made of her marriage. Her husband went for a patch up but he was manhandled by her brothers and uncles. They conveniently forgot that he had to take medicines for life or that his condition had to be managed only with the help of medicines unlike a physical affliction that could be completely cured after a period of treatment. He could not muster courage to go again. The rift widened and it appeared that they would never patch up. However, counseling came from unexpected quarters.

Her paternal grandmother was the one who intervened and set things right. She was sympathetic towards her granddaughter but also questioned her decision to opt for a biological child. Did she not know that he had a 50:50 chance if inheriting his father’s trait? No one was perfect she claimed. The boy could derive some shortcomings - both physical and mental - from her as well. Did she expect her brothers to take care of her once her parents were dead and gone? She could opt for separation but not until she found a means to support herself and her son.

“Stop pouting and sulking.” Were her final words. “You made a choice earlier and were glad to be hailed as a sacrificing wife. You were amply counseled by his doctor and were advised on what could be expected of him. Please don’t think that I am not supporting you. You must admit that you are also partly responsible for the situation. Be brave and face the situation. What if it were your brother instead of your husband? Would you love him less on account of his mental condition? ”.

Somehow, her grandmother’s words made sense and Preeti returned to her husband. She went for counseling sessions and felt better after that. She got enrolled in computer classes and is able to divert her mind from negative thoughts and doubts that earlier haunted her. Her parents in law refrain from ever referring to her prolonged stay at her parent’s place or her tantrums when Montu went to fetch her. It is just as if she has returned from a well deserved break which was perhaps just what it was.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Advising caution.........

This week brought in news of a family friend’s unexpected demise and the tragic instance of child sex abuse yet again. Both events disturbed me a lot.

Death is the most natural event to occur in our lives and yet we are never ready to face it. I have mentioned the Sinhas in a number of my posts but two alone stand out in my memory - Canine instincts written when I had just started blogging and a Deepavali post written soon after. Both the pieces were the products of my first year as blogger. We have known the family for nearly 35 years. Our children practically grew up in their house. My son was like a toy in the hands of their sons. They would rush to see him after school and would carry him away to their house from the time he was a month old. Whenever the boys were given new clothes for Durga puja or other special occasions the boys would definitely come over to my place to show me their new dress. How I wish God had been merciful to them. The older of their two sons passed away of renal failure at the age of 31 and their mother never quite recovered from the shock. She lived on without the urge to live and followed the son 8 years later. However, their second son married a very adjusting and accommodating girl and Mrs. Sinha spent the final years of her life with them doting on the granddaughter who she felt was her dead son gifted back to her. Now, it was the turn of Mr. Sinha to pass on. He died of a massive heart attack and it breaks my heart to see the son alone in this world. He is not the kind of street smart guys one sees all over the town and after his father’s unexpected death he did not even know what to do next. It was Mr. Sinha that managed things.

However, this was not the purpose of this post. One thing that worried me was the fact that the family lived in perpetual denial. They never believed that they could fall ill. Bikhu, as the older one was called, was perhaps a case of juvenile diabetes. Mrs. Sinha was obsessed with cleanliness and yet the flush out pan in their toilet would be full of ants. A doctor friend suggested that all four have their urine samples tested and at the age of 18 the older son’s urine had sugar not in traces but in excess amounts. Kidney failure had set in. The family kept fooling themselves that all was fine. Diet control was never seriously considered and the boy lost his life thirteen years later.

Mrs. Sinha too was perhaps diabetic but she also waited till her kidneys began to fail before opting for treatment. By then she had lost her first born as well as her desire to live. Mr. Sinha had a massive heart attack soon after the son’s death. He was obese and the doctor had recommended weight control and change in life style/food habits. Mrs. Sinha’s notion of treating a heart patient was indeed weird. He needs good food she would insist. Chicken soup was okay but she would give him chicken fry and scold her daughter in law if she objected. You will starve him to death – she’d scream. Every time I enquired after his health Mr. Sinha would say that he was fine. He never went for regular check ups saying that doctors would unnecessarily ask for tests to be done even if there was no need. From a week before his death he had mild chest pain. Given the medical history of a previous attack he ought to have gone for a check up. He passed it off to gas problem and tried home remedies. Unfortunately he did not survive a second attack.

After the age of 50 one has to be prepared for degeneration of the system and take the necessary precaution. Given the history of diabetes in the family I have advised their son to monitor his blood sugar levels. I hope he takes my words seriously. With two little girls and a wife to support he cannot afford to be indifferent the way his parents were.

The other case of child sex abuse took place in our complex and the victim was a little girl of about 8 years in age studying in class III. The abuser was a class mate’s father. As per an arrangement with him, the girl’s father would drop his own daughter and the abuser's son studying in the same class at school and the boy’s father would bring them home. This was a recent arrangement that was initially a temporary one during the exams and was continued since it appeared to suit the two families. The man in question would delay bringing the girl home saying that his milkman arrived around the time and would go away if the house was locked. He’d send his own son away to ride a newly purchased bicycle and with his wife away at work he’d have the house to himself. He initially tried getting familiar with the child and threatened her of dire consequences if she told anyone about it. After a few days he forced her to drink some foul smelling stuff saying it was orange juice (perhaps alcohol) and forced her to have oral sex. He also tried fingering her privates. The child was petrified but just told the mother that she did not want ‘uncle’ to bring her home. That very night she woke up with a start and started screaming incoherently and all that the mother understood was that she wished to be saved from ‘uncle’ for whatever reason. The child’s father had left for Calcutta in the evening and was to be away for the week end. The mother called the watchman and took the child to a doctor in the complex around midnight. The girl was weeping profusely and shaking as if she had convulsions. She would not let the doctor touch her. His wife however coaxed the entire story out of the child and was stunned that such an incidence could have happened. The mother was initially shocked but around 6 the next morning she informed a women’s organization that swung into action and by 10 in the morning the abuser was behind bars. The DSP took special interest and assured the family of immediate action. The mother supposedly slippered the man right in front of the station in charge of the police station. The father came back immediately and when I met him in the evening he said that he must have received at least a hundred calls asking him to withdraw the case. I now hear that he has indeed withdrawn the case though I do not know for sure. Even if he has(there could have been some compulsion that we do not know of) I appreciate the quick action taken by the women’s organization and police.

The two are unrelated incidents but had to be shared. The world needs to know that it could be one among us who’d be the next victim and caution - whether in the case of health or in the trust one places on a neighbor- will not hurt.