Doctor Diaries- How do I handle the bias?

cognitive-bias-modifcation

There are people whom we like and then there are those we do not. Knowing somebody up close and personal sometimes magnifies their faults and personality quirks. Now, when we handle such issues in our personal life, there is not much of a problem. There are thousands of quotes on the social media which advice us to stay away from negative influences, so that we can be sunny and positive always. Just stay away and your problems vanish. Clap, clap!

But when you are a doctor, and a psychiatrist at that, a lot of people coming to you are not only distressed but also not “nice”, to put it mildly. Within the first few visits, we know their personalities, their decision making skills and their life choices very closely. As a matter of rule, we need to be at our non judgmental best in our counseling. Allow the person to make his/her own life decisions. At best, we can steer them towards a choice, but that too, very unobtrusively.

Unfortunately, this seems utopian on paper, not reality. How can one remain unaffected when he/she hears of a man boasting of knowing how to keep his unruly wife in place by resorting to violent means? How do you react when a lady comes depressed because she is worried about her daughter in law being snubbed by her own daughters? Such a concerned woman, you think. The concern emerges from the fact that the girl’s father has paid a fat dowry and is asking uncomfortable questions about the same! How do you console a father when he cries, that we should convince his daughter to go back to her alcoholic husband’s home, because they have already depleted their life savings on the marriage? How do you convince an utterly melancholic woman (melancholic because, her parents had no male progeny, and hence died uncared for and now the daughter in law has produced two healthy bonny girl babies), who obviously will leave her uncared for too?

These are situations which arise frequently. On a particular level, I understand that these are people who have a different value system and a way of thinking alien to mine. They may have a genuinely good side to them and maybe just discussing their miseries. Atleast they are honestly bad! But these are also times which make me want to quit my “non judgmental” high horse and tick them off like a very strict school marm.

I keep squirming in my seat trying to calm the feminist in me. Most times, I am successful. Occasionally, my unobtrusive push becomes slightly more forceful. And rarely, I do scold. I do fervently hope, that  this happens to anyone who handles human emotions as a part of their profession.

We do not understand the decisions that others make and their reasons for it. Over the years and with some maturity comes the discovery that we cannot change the world so easily. Change is for most part slow, a lot of hard work and painstaking. Once the abusive husband, after 6 months of counseling, finally stops abusing his wife physically (though a wee bit of verbal abuse remains), I should consider it my victory!

Unfortunately, this victory is not all sweet! There is an itch to do something more, push a little more and dream a little. And go back to listening all over again. Maybe, this is more like the bevu bella (an offering of neem and sugar eaten during ugadi, the traditional new year), which symbolically signifies that you should swallow the good and the bad with equanimity. Probably, I should start everyday with a small bite of the same:)

Does this happen to you?

 

 

Let us start a change.

This morning, our hired help got an emergency call from her daughter’s home. Apparently, there was a tiff between her daughter and son in law, no doubt precipitated by her mother in law,that led to a big war of words. The reason for the fight was that the daughter had returned home a day later than was permitted by the monster in law. My maid was ordered by her son in law to take her daughter back home forever, just like that. And worse, my maid obeyed meekly and begged for forgiveness! My maid’s daughter is all of eighteen, married off 6 months before her birthday, despite all our protests and a very timid, quiet girl. Before her marriage, she would handle all the household responsibilities before going to work herself. She used to work without taking without a day’s off, even on her birthday. And finally agreed to marry a man 10 years her senior, without as much as speaking to him, because her mother told her to. And now this!

In the past few days after “India’s Daughter” was released, I have seen every social media platform, every single TV station, every whatsapp group and every newspaper give enormous publicity to what happened. There have been pro ban messages, anti ban messages, protests held and discussions dissecting every single aspect of the documentary and the attitudes that prevail. I did watch the documentary myself and felt my skin crawl and tears fall freely when the creep ( in the garb of a lawyer) and the accused speak of Jyothi/Nirbhaya almost mechanically. I felt a helpless outrage. And then it remained that way. Because:

  1. I feel that no amount of media coverage may change the harsh ground realities of thousands of millions of faceless, nameless Nirbahyas across our country or the world. The huge mass of humanity which watches these shows and newsreels are those who already seem to have a slightly different, egalitarian and non traditional mental attitude. These are not much the group who needs to change. Change needs to happen in the rural most parts of India, where women’s dignity and independence are still decided by the men of the family. Where women are not individuals, but burdens. Where the society (as Mukesh Kumar’s lawyer aptly put it) has no place for women. No point in just showing them the middle finger. We need to actively change them. But how?? We have “Beti bachao, Beti padhao”in place, but no “Beti ko respect dena bêteko sikhao”anywhere in sight.
  2. The evil mother in law does exist. Those who have different rules for their daughters and different ones for their daughters in law. Those who think and believe that the ‘sun’ rises and sets with their ‘son’, or rather because of him. They shower so much love on their sons that it becomes a sort of emotional debt to repay back that love, by taking sides when there is fight between the mother and the wife! The daughter in law that they themselves sought after the many ‘girl seeing’ sessions, becomes an object of hatred because she tries to tweak the rules of the house a little. A reverse Oedipus complex I would say! It is difficult to be non judgmental about such women and rationalize their bad behavior with many excuses. When we try family counselling in such situations, it feels as though you are smashing your head against a brick wall! And the men of the family at best, look mutely, smile condescending smiles and say “Oh, you know women, what can we do? “, and act as though the whole thing had nothing to do with them!
  3. And the so called myth that ‘Women are women’s worst enemies” seems true to a certain extent. Pick a random case of dowry death, the MIL is almost always the master mind. Pick a case of child marriage, the mother is the one who has ‘counselled’ the daughter that this is what is best for her(as in the case of our maid). Pick any post marital conflict, the mother is the one advising the daughter to go back, so as to avoid the shame society would hoist upon them, lest a daughter comes back to the maternal home in disgrace. Pick any child who has dropped out of school, it is because there was no one to share the mother’s burden of work (it does not occur that the boy can share this burden too!). These are the bitter realities, which we as the middle class have forgotten and brushed under the carpet. We are truly a lucky group of people whose parents changed their attitudes. But for a lot of other women, these painful realities are a part of daily existence, and they come to us as patients of depression, or victims of assault, if they try swimming against the stream.
  4. Finally,us. Most of us did download the controversial video and watched it in horror, a lot of us walked candle light marches, many hosted seminars on the evils occurring to women and many spoke/ wrote about it( including me, by the way), but it did not cause change where it mattered most. When my maid got her daughter married, it was on the tip of my tongue to advice the girl to rebel, and go back to her studies. But I did not. I protested feebly, and then left for her to decide. I feel like telling my abused patients to get the hell out of their abusive marriages and make a life for themselves, but refrain because of my so called professional ethics. When I hear my neighbor beating or scolding his wife in a drunken brawl, I choose to curb my anger, rather than go back there and help bash the living daylights out of him! I am sure most of us are in the same state of helplessness and hence the quantum of people abusing/ disrespecting/ troubling/ and killing women will not subside.

There are too few of us who do and too many of us who keep quiet. Far too many who accept a ‘pedha’ as a sign of happiness when a male baby is born and sweetened puffed rice (almost apologetically) when a girl is born. Too many of us who still believe that with marriage and children only, is a woman’s life complete. Too many of us who do not protest when widows are not given adequate respect at family functions… and so on the list grows.

Changing rules and government policies may work in the long run, but till then we may continue to lose many of our kind. So let us start the change in our everyday lives. Let us not wait for some incident to happen for us to awaken from our stupor. Let us start small, and consistent. Let each one of us make sure that our maids have an education. Let us not watch/allow watching of regressive serials where women are typecast. Let us not hum item songs, because they do objectify women, how much ever they are supposed to be an integral part of the script!

Instead let us show small children inspiring videos of women who have done great work despite their odds, as a part of school curriculum. Let us teach them how to use legislation in case they are harmed. Let them know that they need not swallow abuse just because their marital prospects and family honor may be damaged. Such small things may go a long way in building positive attitudes at a young age. Let us show them that…

women rights quotes

The world remade.

How would I remake the world?

The question makes me quiver with a strange kind of excitement. The anticipation of a power, handed to me on a platter. Like I am the most supreme, and that I have everything under my control. I can twist, tweak, mould and reshape what I want. Oh, what fun! But yes, also an enormous responsibility.

Is it not easy, I ask myself, with one sweep of a wand, to make everything peaceful and perfect? Then life would have no twists and turns, be one straight long road, and life would be one big party. There would be no need of a God to pray to, no police for want of protection, no religion for a feeling of belonging, no nations to feel patriotic about, no movements to fight against discrimination. Sounds so desirable, but is it practical?

The world was meant to be just the way it is. The imperfections, the injustices, the tyrannies of rule and mishaps. I believe that there is a purpose behind everything. And if there is chaos in this world, it is there to teach us something. To keep people moving forward, to mutate, to fit and to survive as evolution meant us to.

One single person in this world changing things would cause a feeling of dissatisfaction to a lot of others. Like a dictatorship. Because that is how we are made. Everything is relative. For every good, there is an evil; for every misfortune, there is a miracle; for every superstition, there is a rationalization and we all know that every human thinks in two radically different ways in any given situation.

If I try to make things better for one person, then I am bound to make someone else dissatisfied. Even terrorism seems to have another point of view, or it would not have survived this long!

So is everything hopeless? Is there nothing we can change? I believe that the change is something buried deep inside of us. This would be the place to target. For humans to understand that they are always not right, that every one step each one of us take can cause myriad ripples in multiple directions and so we must be careful. And that we should learn to care. About ourselves, our fellow beings, our environment and of things beyond that we do not understand as of now.

Caring, a lot of people believe can make us weak. The biggest decisions in this world were made with our heads rather than our hearts. But look where it put us. World wars, communism, the formation of countries, religion, the caste system, gender stereotyping, traditions – all of which were in the first place decided upon rationally to bring a semblance of normalcy to this world. But did they?

Therefore, I beg to differ. I feel that caring is the one thing which makes us strong, gives us foresight and wisdom to change what we can, fight when the need be and sometimes let go of things which cannot be changed. Every social evil, and environmental catastrophe that I can think of could have been changed if we had cared, rather than made-rules!

This I believe is the change the world deserves. So yes, if I could change one thing in this world, I would choose to inculcate the feeling, the thought and the attitude of ‘caring’ into every single soul living on this earth.

Then I would say, may the fittest survive.  This is my world remade.

This post is a part of a competition that I am participating in.

“I am participating in the #TheWorldRemade activity at BlogAdda in association with India Today #Conclave15 “