Thursday, March 27, 2008

Split minds-Contd.

This is part two of my previous post. As I had mentioned let me credit the women who took it on themselves to deal with these men.

Preeti was shattered and heart broken on her return from her honeymoon with Montu. Her trip to Darjeeling was a disastrous nightmare that she preferred to forget like a bad dream. Her family was enraged and rightly so. No one believed that Montu’s parents were unaware of their son’s mental condition. They accused them of deliberately ruining their daughter’s life. A divorce is the only answer they said. Preeti went back to her parent’s place to think of her future with or without Montu. She was glad to have family support and Montu was almost a stranger theirs being an arranged marriage. Two months later she surprised everyone by announcing that she wanted to give her marriage a try provided Montu’s parents co-operated and stood by her. She was just 25 years old and was under no compulsion-societal or otherwise. Today Montu has been given treatment and a transfer to a place closer to his parent’s place and between them Preeti and her mother in law take care of Montu and now have a baby boy who is the center of attraction. Montu is not a normal husband but Preeti has learnt to deal with him and her mother in law loves her for it. I understand how difficult it must have been for her to take the decision. With everything in their favor we have girls who crib and complain and here we have girls like Preeti who have such mental maturity and strength. Hat’s off my child! You’ve made your parent’s proud.

Rajan’s mother was just the simple Indian mother of the early sixties. Those were days when marriage was the answer to all problems. A wayward son? Get him married. Short tempered? Gambler? Unemployed? Marriage would make him responsible. And so what if it did not? A wife had to tolerate the most atrocious behavior and smile on top of it. So when she dissuaded her husband from continuing negotiations and adopted a ‘wait and watch’ approach she was actually displaying a practical mind without letting her emotions influence her. It was not easy. No one wants to believe the worst. She must have prayed hard that her assumptions be proved wrong. But she preferred to accept the bitter truth than to spoil the life of an unsuspecting girl.

Finally Raman’s sister in law Prabha who was initially heartily disliked by his family since she did not belong to their community in the strictest sense. She was a Brahmin alright but she spoke a different language. There is a saying ‘teen Brahmin,terah chulhe’ meaning every sub sect among brahmin’s considers its group to be the best and refuse to eat food cooked by the rest. Then disaster struck. Raman’s unmarried brother died and his mother had to move in with the surviving son and unwanted daughter in law. She too died a year later. For the past 24 years Prabha has been taking care of Raman and he in turn helps her out with house work. He loves his niece and she reciprocates in equal measure. Uncle and niece share a rapport that has to be seen to be believed. I can understand a mother caring for a son or a sister being sympathetic towards a brother. A wife bonding with her husband may be a little more difficult but a sister in law forgetting the insult heaped upon her and gladly offering her schizophrenic brother in law a home and treating him with the respect and affection he deserves is something different. We may not be able to emulate her but the least that can be done is to appreciate her as the unsung heroine of our times.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Split minds

Preeti was a fun loving, happy go lucky girl till about three years back. Her marriage to Montu changed everything. No, it was not the usual MIL/DIL clash. Her mom in law treated her at par with her own daughter and her only sister in law was happily married and being 8 years older treated her like a kid sister. Financial problems were non existent and her father in law was still working and was the sort of person who would not remain idle even after retirement. So where was the problem or was her problem an imagined one? Her husband’s mental condition was questionable despite the fact that he had a good job as an Area manager in an MNC. His parents were not at fault. They had not realized that the occasional temper tantrums and aggressive behavior shown by him were indicative of a split mind and needed medical counseling and treatment for life if his condition prevailed or deteriorated. Symptoms of schizophrenia showed up after marriage when he seriously accused his wife of having an affair and insisted that there was a third person visiting her after he went to sleep and began to keep her under lock and key.

Ganesh was a brilliant metallurgist who was accepted for a Ph. D program in England with full scholarship. His mother was planning to get him married. He had a charming personality and a soft temperament and no girl with her head on her shoulders would have any problem adjusting with him. A telegram from England shattered their hopes. He was being flown back to India because he had been diagnosed schizophrenic. He had been unable to complete his research work and all he had to show for his seven year stint in England was a thick note book with scribbling that he insisted was poetry. He was unable to tell them what went wrong.

Rajan was a bank officer in his early twenties. His uncle offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to him. He refused saying that she was like a sister to him. He had practically grown up with her. His father arranged for him to visit athe family of a girl in Secunderabad to see their daughter as the first step to further marriage negotiations. His mother accompanied him. She noticed that all was not well with him. He smiled and chuckled to himself and appeared to talk to some invisible person. She refused to get him married although he was keen and how right she was! Two years later Rajan left his job in the bank and came home for ever. He had been diagnosed as being schizophrenic.

Gayatri was a happily married woman with two children-both boys. The older son was good at his studies while the younger one was average. At a family function the younger son was seen showing a photocopy of his 10th standard board mark sheet to the guests. He had obtained 69% but kept telling people that he had obtained 96%. Everyone took it to be his idea of a joke. Two months later he was on medication for schizophrenia and hasn’t fully recovered. Gayatri insists that he was never compared with his older brother nor had they ever rebuked him for his mediocre results. They understood that all children did not possess the same level of intelligence and were glad that had never failed an exam.

Finally Raman who was a qualified engineer working in the Railways. While applying for the job he had mentioned that he had a first division in all the examinations passed. The truth was otherwise. He had obtained a high second class in Engineering. He tried to overwrite his marks in the original mark sheet and when the mark sheets were being scrutinized he pretended that he had forgotten to bring them. His performance in the interview was good so he was given provisional appointment on condition that he submitted his original mark sheets for scrutiny within 3 months. As time lapsed he began to panic and unable to stand the pressure he attempted suicide and finally resigned his job. He is also on medication for schizophrenia.

All such examples show that a perfectly normal person can be a victim of a split mind and anything yes ANYTHING could act as a trigger. I wanted to high light two things through this post of mine. First, the role played by the family and its importance to the affected person. Second, the stand taken by the women in some of these cases as my tribute to these unsung heroines as my contribution to the International Women’s day celebrations. Since both aspects need to be dealt with in some detail I’ll stick to one at a time. So I take up the first one in this post. I’ll continue with the second aspect later.

Coming to family support-

When a person is declared schizophrenic the family is shattered and takes time to accept the situation. They tend to keep their anguish and agony to themselves. And why not? Wagging tongues and prying relatives may do nothing to alleviate their agony but would be the first to offer unsolicited advice and put on a ‘know all’ air.

“All this treatment is useless I say. Waste of money. That’s all. I knew a person who was treated so badly at the asylum that he ran away from there…….” And this goes on and on.

I agree it is difficult but the sooner one comes to terms with the situation and starts therapy the better for all concerned including the affected person.

A schizophrenic person needs regular medicines. Very often the family cannot afford it and just manages with half the prescribed dose. I hear that there are health centers where such patients can be treated as outpatients at nominal cost and medicines are sold at subsidized rates. But everyone seems to be short of time. This is where the extended family can help. They can take turns to take the person to such clinics. Often it is seen that a person’s treatment is abandoned midway. We don’t see people doing so for physical ailments. Blood pressure, blood sugar etc also need to be monitored and once medication is started it continues for life. Is schizophrenia any different? I feel that the government also needs to pay more attention and offer medicines to these patients either free of cost or at subsidized rates.

Most schizophrenics aren’t eccentric all the time. They are quite capable of doing routine work. Parents need to be supportive but over protection will not help. They need to be given vocational training and made to do some work. Oh yes, I agree that the person was bank officer before he fell ill. But if he is now just capable of working in a grocery shop handing out goods to customers, so be it. Doing a little work and involving some regularity will go a long way in helping them to lead a near normal life. There is nothing to be ashamed of as long as the job is an honest one. And please don’t regard them with contempt even if you cannot help them out.

Finally, it is only pure coincidence that the examples I gave were all men. I have no idea if men are more affected than women. I have personally interacted with three of them and have heard about the other two from reliable sources. Be it as it may, my only request is that the next time you see such a person remember the person he was and try to do your bit to include him in society.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dealing with step children

I meant to write about step mothers long back but was rather pre occupied with my SIL’s illness first and white washing and painting of our flat drove me crazy and my mind stopped functioning temporarily. I’d return to a messy house, sweep and clean till 9 in the evening and go to bed exhausted. The white washing is not over. Only three fourth done but the painter has vanished. His mobile is switched off whenever we call him so we’ve learnt to live with a verandah in a jammed state with the ladders and stools used by them and the other full of paint brushes and half used paint cans and what not. We’ve paid the fellow only 50% of the amount agreed upon so even if he has started work elsewhere he will definitely come for his money. Either we do not know to extract work or come across as people who can be taken for granted (Fools, perhaps?). I was therefore perpetually out of sorts and just couldn’t type a word let alone a post.

Coming to the point I feel step mothers are a maligned lot. With Snow White and Cinderella being ill treated by their step moms and David Copperfield having to face the wrath of a step father I was sympathetic to any child who might have lost his/her mother and had to deal with a step father. Widow re - marriage was rare during my growing years so I never gave a thought to the possibility of a person being ill treated by a step father. That happened in foreign countries I felt. As a teenager I had the unfortunate opportunity of witnessing the manner in which our cook Kalyani mami treated her step son. The boy stole money from our house and ran away much to our relief.

My first impression about step mothers changed when a neighbor and good friend of mine B…….. died a pre mature death when her sari accidentally caught fire. Her son was just seven years old when she passed away and her husband re-married within 3 months. The family shifted to a new location and I happened to meet them 4 years later. The girl who replaced B…….. was a gem and treated her step son with the same affection that she reserved for her own daughter. The boy reciprocated in a similar manner and I found myself hoping praying that others in the extended family let them be. Very often it is these others who poison children’s minds but luckily it was not so here. The boy is now a qualified engineer and I hear that he is as fond of his step mother as he might have been if B……… had been alive.

A P was just 4 years old when her mother died and her younger brother was not yet one. Her father re – married. Her maternal grandmother filled her mind with negative thoughts about her step mother.

“Mummy” asked the girl “will you change when a baby brother is born? Nani says so.”

“Never my child. I’d love you and Chotu always. Why would I want another child?” said her step mother. And she did not stop with saying so. She convinced her husband and had her tubes tied and never had children of her own. AP was our student some 10 years back. Today she has a good job and her step mother takes care of her children while she works. She has grown up to be a confident young woman and when her husband lost his temper during the initial years of their marriage she stood up to him saying that her mother would stand by her and she was certainly not putting up with his nonsensical behavior. He has mended his ways since. How many young girls can say so about their natural mothers I wonder.

The relationship between a woman and her step children has to grow and it is for society to encourage such growth. It is not easy if the step children are old enough to understand and adopt an antagonistic attitude. However no one bothers to understand her side of the story. I do agree that there are several step mothers who never ever accept step children as their own. My heart goes out to these children who suffer in silence and never really get out of the trauma. But there are several others who accept the situation and treat their step children really well. I wanted to write in support of these women who are grossly misunderstood by society.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mother of tags!

Rajni has tagged me to name 5 of my own posts with the following criteria: the five have to be about
4)My Love
5)Anything I like (my favorite post)

Family-Well I have written quite a few posts about my family but this one about the trouble my children gave my ageing father in law takes me back to the time my children were in their pre teens. Why did not time stop just there? I cherish the blind faith they placed in me and do wish that we had continued so for ever.

Friends-To be frank I have not written much about my friends who have been like family to me. It seems rather strange that I should have missed writing about them. May be I will do so soon. However I have written one about a colleague who could laugh at herself and I feel I have given her due credit.

Myself-Well, well my blog is almost an autobiography with most of the posts dealing with personal experiences but ‘Striking roots’ written in 3 parts depicts me as a young bride in Jamshedpur and I cannot believe that I really felt so out of place here.

My love-My husband of course! And I love pulling his legs. I’ve done just that in this post of mine.

My favorite post-‘Living Fossil’ evoked a lot of responses and is a clear favorite. However I also like this one a lot .

I have to tag 5 others including 2 new ones. Well I do hope they haven’t done it already. I tag hillg’mom, eve’s lung and artnavy among my older friends and pooh and parijatha among the new ones. No excuses and all of you must carry this forward if you haven’t done so yet.