Some write for peace, some to preserve their sanity, others to suit their vanity and some of us for survival. This was the speech I delivered to my fellow social workers as we parted for our field work that semester. Our targets were never ending. In bulleted points they read Study micro credit programme Increase number of groups and their thrift, and their loan. Start micro enterprises conduct balasabhas and training programmes.
I have never hated a semester like that. I realised I could not work bound by time and for tasks that were mechanical and done for the sake of it. And if you think it ends there it doesn’t. We were also expected to do 5 Case works 3 Group works 1 monograph (whatever that meant) A mini research too
So while explaining to the local women about rabbit rearing and palm disk making my eyes searched for potential cases on which I could indoctrinate and inflict my case work principles.
Days passed sorting cat fights and dealing split groups who were dominated by their husbands. Many fights began on disagreements over what microenterprises their husbands suggested were profitable. Amidst all this chaos I pondered about how I would manage 5 different cases for case studies.
I met her by chance. You would never notice her because she lived alienated. Her house if you could call it one was just scraps of tin sheets with tarpaulin to make a roof. There was no water supply in the vicinity, no latrine and when I stepped inside I saw no rations either. She had asked for a doctor or medical help to discuss some issues and one of the women in the neighbourhood group thought I could help her out.
As we started talking she told me her husband and father in law were demented – No that’s not how she said it , she said they were possessed by spirits of their ancestors and they spoke to spirits. She was not burdened by this but she had to support her family. Her husband’s brother was a drug addict and would try to harm her husband at night so she was also the protector. I was dumbstruck as to how she combat all this when she told me the rest. “ I don’t stay here during 10 days , when I am menstruating that is- evil spirits attack women then so my husband asks me to leave to my place and when I come back the house is a mess the spirits do all this” . At this statement I stopped writing, my casework Performa did not matter anymore, I did not even feel like making it a case, I could not fool with her, by making her case an inquisitive delicacy at my field work viva. I didn’t care about breaking the social work principle which taught me never to empathise.
Throughout the conversation I was aware of her son a 4 year old sitting alone in the corner. I could see he was talking to someone but I saw no one in the vicinity. “I am just worried about him, madam she said. Brilliant boy but does not socialise”. I tried to talk to him but he behaved aloof. She left me with the boy. And I sat observing him. He was indeed talking to someone and when I asked he pointed no where and said he saw someone. I felt miserable. Was he hallucinating? “By the way the doctors gave some medicines for my husband though I told them it’s the spirits she said. They checked my son too god knows why, my boy looks healthy doesn’t he” ? I was not listening to her anymore .I opened the green card with the verdict inside, which I already knew. I scrolled down to read her husband’s fate written in bold letters stamped forever “SCHIZOPHRENIA”. Is my husband very ill? And will you be able to find a school for my son? I said I will, I had no heart to tell her what schizophrenia meant, I could not understand the spirits she knew and her son was not normal either. I had failed in a real life case work and I broke my code of ethics- I acted Human – I cried.
Sometimes in life people we meet teach us more than our texts and syllabus and their problems make us ashamed . Make us ashamed of how little we know and how little we can do with the weight of the jargons indoctrinated into our heads.