Monday, September 27, 2010

The 'logic' behind family honour

The Indian family may be as protective as an eye lid. If soap enters your eyes, the lids shut tightly; so tightly that you can't splash water to dilute the soap. The eye burns like on fire and  fingers try to pry the lids open, to no avail.. If something goes wrong with the families here, the protective shutters are down instantly. No one can cross these barriers or help this family. A drunken father, a violent husband or a cheating wife; all lurk behind the closed doors causing pain and sorrow to those around them. Anyone who complains against a family member, for all the truth in the complaint, is considered  a traitor of the worst sort. The family honour is more important than any cruelty or injustice suffered by its members.

Once a colleague Ms.P, brought one of her wards,let's call her Sajitha, a girl from eight grade to me because her sister had confided to  her that her she was worried about sajitha's behaviour. I want to put on record parts of the conversation I had with the kid.

Sajitha: Is it wrong to fall in love?
Raji: Fall in love? No.
S: I am in love with a doctor. He loves me too.
R: Are you sure he loves you?
S: Ofcourse!  Wherever I go, he follows me.
R:Who? The doctor?
S: Yeah. When I went to the hospital, he was there; when I went to the market he was there. I told my aunt, "The doctor is here and smiling at me." She told me,"Keep quiet" I saw him in school too.
R: How do you know that he followed you? He may have come to the market by chance.
S: That was confirmed when I saw Pandi ( the cleaner of the school bus). He watches me through Pandi when I am in school.

R: How do you know that?
S: I was running up the stairs and stumbled and fell down; when I looked up, Pandi was there staring at me. That instant I knew that Pandi was his messenger. He stands behind the school wall and Pandi tells him what I do.

My sense of alarm started to rise  three fourths way through this conversation and at the end of it, I realized that this girl was probably hallucinating. Although I was  in my twenties, I  realized that the girl needed far more than counselling. I spoke to the girl's sister and she told that her mother had suffered form mental illness, had undergone treatment and had committed suicide. She also told that her sister did many things just like their mother used to. She would sing loudly all of a sudden, in all sorts of places; she would hop in circles around the room for a long time and so on. I told her to bring her father. The father came. I told him of my conversation with his daughter and said that she needed help. He was silent. He left. I heard that he had removed his kids from school and they were nowhere in town.  He refused to attend phone calls from any of the teachers.
The same year my daughter received a prize for acting in a school play. This father was the dignitary who was called to give her the prize. The great Indian family, with the venerable father as its head, is an honourable institution.


BALA said...

It is not only hallucination but can be termed 'schizophrenia'. What she saw was true but she conceived a rather twisted meaning of every thing. The most agonising part of the story is that the father who is big enough to be a chief guest in a school function kept mum when he had been told about his daughter's condition. Sometimes i have a feeling that the literates are a menace to the society.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the girl? The father might have kept quiet but he would have taken some steps to take care of the daughter who is motherless. All are not Raji to depend on and confide in. Probably he may not know you that much. Just for argument sake i can say that the eye itself has self-curing mechanism, though the burning is inevitable in the process.

Raji said...

I agree with you sheela, but I felt that the father appeared to be more keen on hiding the kids. The concern for the child seemed to be secondary.
And bala, I suspected that, though it means that mental illness may affect a child at that tender age