Talking about my childhood, it was, as it is with most, an archetype of the Indian middle class family. Morning till afternoon was all about school; evenings were a mix of play with friends, scolding’s from mother regarding excessive play time and deficit in homework. Then there was the aura of strictness and silence that struck the house when father returned home from work. All of this was followed by dinner and bed. Colorless as it may seem, 2 standard deviations on either side and most of the readers will be able to fit in majority of their childhood in this scenario.
Cut, to the concluding days of the winters of 2018-19. In the OPD, a difficult adolescent case is being discussed with the consultant, as I await my turn to discuss my case. The adolescent in question has not been improving for long, despite best efforts. It is decided to call the case for a detailed work up, as it requires intensive management. Very rarely does one realize that life often offers a snapshot or trailer of things to come by.
Few days later, as I begin my first case for the day, I realize it’s the same case. Speaking to the young lad first, he doesn’t reveal much except the major complaints he had been facing. As in Psychiatry, and in life, there’s always more to things than which is visible and said. Next, as I send the boy outside, I call in the mother to listen to her version of the ordeal.
The middle-aged women, bearing a look of lifelong struggle and sadness, working as a helper and cook, in a helpless yet determined voice revealed, what no childhood or motherhood should look like.
“Bahut acha ladka tha yeh sir. 3 saal se jabse iske papa ghar chhod ke gaye hai, bahut gadbad ho gaya hai yeh.”
Further enquiry revealed, from a tearful voice: –
“Bahut maarte the iske papa mere ko. Bacho ko bhi kafi pareshan kiya hai inhone. Bahut baar mere piche se kisi aurat ko ghar laate the yeh. Yeh cheez bacho ne hi batayi hai mujhe. Unko dil ki koi bimari hui thi to maine apna saara paisa kharch diya tha unpe. Ab woh ek rupaiya bhi nahi bhejte, unhe pharak hi nahi padta humse. Bahut pareshani dekhi hai sir. Ek baar mujhe Chikungunya-Dengue ho gaya tha, upar se yeh bhi pareshan karte the. Main nahi jeena chahti thi, kuch goliyan bhi kha li thi ek saath, ki mar jaayu, par bach gayi. Uss time issi ladke ne 6-7 mahine meri bahut seva ki, warna shayad main mar jaati. Aaj yahi ladka meri sabse badi pareshani hai.”
There’s rarely anything tougher than being a single parent. Poverty makes it worse, mental illness to your child is disaster.
Gathering some emotional stamina to go through rest of the assessment and discussion, as I was about to wrap up the consultation, I picked up my appointment diary to give a follow up date and time to the patient. I reassured the mother that a timing which didn’t disturb her work schedule would be manageable, to which she replied:
“Sir kaam ka kuch pukka nahi rehta , permanent nahi hai kuch, kabhi hota hai , kabhi nahi. Aap apne hisaab se tareek de do.” – said a near paralyzed voice.
A supposedly colorless, archetypal childhood, of which many may not speak with pride, is an unthinkable dream for someone in some corner of this universe.