Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26th 2012. Morning 7.30am in Toronto.

It's cold.(7 degree celcius). And cloudy. Just had my coffee. It is one of those rare occasions when my husband made the morning coffee instead of me!
I am in bed.  Under a rug. Reading an old Chase (Mission to Venice). And enjoying the moment!
I pause now and then  to look out of the window and see three trees whose branches are  laden with  white flowers: the pear tree, the cherry blossom and the crab apple tree. I can see a few trees in the valley below that are still brown and leafless while many others  are sporting new leaves with the lovely fresh lime-green hue.
Husband has left to work. I too have to leave  in an hour's time. Meanwhile I am enjoying this heaven.....
It's a grey, cold day outside.  I am  warm & cosy, snuggled up in a bed inside.....with a nice book for company. The cat's lying by me, half asleep..half awake. There is silence in the house, except for the low hum of vehicles passing through the valley below.
Blissful Solitude. 

PS:  I have read 'Mission to Venice' long ago. Thanks to my terrible  memory, I have forgotten it almost fully. And now, I am savouring the pleasure of reading my favorite author again.
Rereading favorites, as if for the first time, is the one bright side to having a poor memory!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Butterflies in the garden

I saw several butterflies yesterday(april 20th 2012) in my back garden .They were flying around the flowers of the cherry blossom and pear tree. Is this butterfly season in Toronto? I usually see them in fall time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The fruits of procrastination

           Unbelievable fruits of procrastination reaped by known acquaintances:
A procrastinator I know, once soaked tamarind in a stainless steel lota and placed it by the kitchen sink. She used a part of it and left the rest in the lota. Daily, when did the dishes, her eyes passed over this lota. But for some reason, she neither  used the tamarind nor did she throw it out and clean the lota.
As it was near the washbasin, the water did not dry up but a few drops of water splashed on the tamarind daily and the tamarind sat in the lota for months. Finally a visitor to the house took the glass to clean it and discovered that the tamarind had made a  hole in the lota ! Stainless steel which is supposedly  indestructible now had a hole in it caused by a bit of tamarind; the  stainless steel lota which would have lasted a hundred years with daily use was destroyed by this procrastinator’s delay in removing the tamarind! It would have taken but one or two seconds to remove the tamarind and one minute to wash the lota. This procrastinator’s inability to spare that single minute, lead to this lota's destruction.

Another procrastinator was one who had one son and then became pregnant again.  Neither she nor her husband wanted another child and decided to abort this pregnancy. Thanks to procrastination, she put off the visit to the hospital for various sundry excuses. Finally when she and her husband found the time to visit the clinic, the doctor told them it was too late to abort! They had to have the baby.
It was a boy. This boy's best friend, my cousin, who told me this story, was glad about this bit of procrastination!

Another friend of mine who is a phenomenal procrastinator had intermittent  bleeding and was advised by the doctor to get her uterus removed. Thanks to her procrastination, her uterus is getting bigger, the fibroids growing in it are getting bigger and (she is still procrastinating!) her doctor has warned her that when they remove the uterus, the cut on her tummy is going to be pretty big. But she is still procrastinating! 
Her uterus could have been removed through her vagina, without a major surgery if it had been done a couple of years ago when her doctor first advised her! I am wondering when she will finally get round to getting her hysterectomy!

 I have witnessed other phenomenal examples of procrastination leading to major losses... loss of tissue(to breast cancer), loss of life, loss of lakhs of rupees and so on.

One example of loss of a huge amount of money was my friend’s postponement of buying of gold. Her relative gave her a few thousand rupees (in the 80s) and wanted her to place an order for a pair of gold bangles. There were several jewellers near her college but each day my friend put off placing the order and would run home after her classes or to her friend’s house or movies. After many months, when she could no longer tolerate her benefactor’s nagging, she went to place the order for the bangles and discovered to her horror, the price of gold had gone up and she could not buy as much gold as she could have, if she had bought as soon as she was given the money.
A friend of mine paid the price for her doctor's procrastination...he procrastinated i.e. he took his own sweet time to refer her for  tests...she paid the price.
A sweet gentleman I know, a friend’s father, owns a coffee estate . He was a master procrastinator when it came to tedious jobs such as the various court cases against him by relatives who were fighting for the estate. My friend once described him as one who would rather go into the forest with a child who wants to find a bird’s nest and spend the entire day trying to find the bird’s nest for the child …..than going to court with his lawyer on the day his case is being heard in court! This man's pathological procrastination and avoidence of facing up to the tedious tasks of meeting his lawyer, doing his paper work, etc, nearly cost him his estate! Thanks to the efforts of his long-suffering wife and his persistent lawyer, the estate was saved. But knowing this man, I  think, he would not care whether his estate was  saved or lost ! This estate is his only source of income; yet,  he is so lost in his own  world. He actively avoids the important tasks and diligently follows up on the trivial! No. he is not having any major mental problem such as schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism, personality disorder, mental retardation, etc
What causes this sort of fatal procrastination?

(1) One reason I can think of : The effects of procrastination are not immediatly felt  and the procrastinator does not experience any fear about teh consequences of his procrastination. Herre is an example.
Whether I  throw  the  old meat dish sitting in the fridge either  today or tomorow does not really make a big difference. And so...I keep postponing throwing the meat to 'next time'...Though I open the fridge, a few times daily, I dont feel alarmed about possibility of mould on the meat dish.
 Putting off doing something for one day, is by itself harmless, and ergo...the procrastinator makes it a habit of doing it daily! Maybe procrastinators, get into a pattern of behaviour and are unable to get out of it.

(2) Is procrastination a type of inability of the brain to take the task(the task one is delaying) seriously? 
When an outsider warns the procrastinator to stop delaying, the procrastinator's brain cannot appreciate the seriousness of the warning or even of the situation. 
 I have experienced this myself...I have not studied for an exam; time is running out; I know I am going to fail if I dont study....yet, I find tasks to do instead of study the subject; my brain tells me to study but I simply cannot sit with that set of books! I do feel exam-anxiety, sometimes intense, sometimes mild, but neither the high nor the low anxiety is effective in motivating me to study! There seems to be a kind of inertia, when I have to do something unplesant and this inertia leads to procrastination!
 Analyzing my own procrastination and of others I know, I think these are some more reasons causing or maintaining procrastination.
1)Avoidance of unpleasant, boring, tedious tasks. Avoidance of what one perceives as non-rewarding, uninteresting, unthrilling tasks. Avoidance of doing something because one anticipates failure.
2) Laziness
3) Tiredness, lack of time, poor motivation for what needs to be done.(anemia, low energy levels?
4) Is it possible that procrastinators cannot understand time-sensitveness of the work they are delaying? I know for example that I have only till tomorrow to book an appointment with the doctor...I know how important it is that I see the doctor before his time gets filled up by other clients.  Yet, this awareness does not translate into action! The thought of booking an appointment is sitting in my brain but there is an  inertia  or paralysis-sort-of-thing which prevents me from booking!

5)I have managed to avoid procrastination, when I have people pushing me to complete my tasks. I have seen this in other people too. So, I am wondering if 'some'  procrastinators or procrastinators 'sometimes' need an 'external push'. Procrastinators may lack the inner locus of control and need external aid to prompt them to do things on time. Of course, external promptors do not work for some procrastinators; external promptors may not be effective sometimes.
6) I have seen a whole lot of procrastinators who are quick to do tasks for others such as friends and relatives and even strangers. But for some unfathomable reason, they put off doing what is vital and urgent for themselves or their families (i.e.their own wife or children). I have watched with bitterness a parent put his own kids needs on hold and run around fulfilling the same needs of other kids…who also have parents to take care of them. There is absolutely no excuse for this father to neglect his kids and run after the other kids needs. I am now coming to the realization that there are several men(hardly any women) who will do any errands or chores for their friends but will neglect the same  chores, with the same degree of urgency in their own households! Their long-suffering wives and kids have commented that their father probably hates them and this is his way of showing it!
What causes this  self-destructive delay of completing one's own tasks ? And what the hell prompts this extraordinary altruism and  promptness with other people's work?
  Is it the  great sense of fulfilment when one does chores for others? Maybe the procrastinator craves for the gratitudewhich  the friend shows.
 Maybe the procrastinator's love  for his wife and kids has waned with the years.
 does he get some perverse pleasure through this passive aggressive way of procrastinating  about  urgent  tasks for his own or his own family's interests ?
7) No sense of priorities: Could this be an explanation for procrastination?
 I am not convinced about this reason for procrastination but I am noting it here for what it’s worth.  One grim example of a lack of a sense of priorities is of a person who wanted to do some totally unimportant work when  his daughter was about to deliver a baby.(Daughter's husband was not around at the time) He did not want to go to the hospital with her but run after this less than trivial errand of his! What is the motive behind this wilful neglect? Anger towards the delivering new mother? Absolute disregard for what is important ? This is another example of men who neglect family and run around doing chores for other people.

This has nothing to do with procrastination but I am writing this here anyway. I would like to discuss about a category of men I have seen in Indian culture ....these are men who have terrible relationship with their wives and  they are extremely disrespectful, dominent and abusive towards their wives; they do not have affairs or mistresses; they treat all other women such as thier daughters, mothers, sisters, friends wives, etc with respect but do not accord the same decent treatment towards their wives. They are very popular and liked by everyone (except their wives) and labelled as  "good decent men"; they are honest, hard working, etc. They run around doing endless chores for their friends; loaning money to their friends, relatives and even strangers but will never do the same for thier wives! They truloy believe they are decent men and what they are doing is right. They are simply unable to see how abusive they are towards their wives! They honestly believe they are treating their wives fairly! I keep wondering if videotaping their behaviour towards their wife and others and showing the two tapes will help them discover how different their behaviour is with wife and others. But I doubt it.
This is one major mystery for which I cannot think of an explanation. This absolute blindness and lack of insight about their behaviour towards their wives. I have seen this not in one family or a few but several. I am sure it is some kind of a diseased behaviour caused by the male dominence in Indian 'culture' and society. These men who are utterly decent in all ways, except towards their wives. Most or all of these wives, are very sweet women who do not deserve (I am not implying that if the women were not sweet they deserve!) to be treated thus.
But most or none of these women(at least my mother's generation and many of my generation) ever get a divorce but put up with this obnoxious behaviour...for various reasons.
 I am getting so worked up…as I write this! I am stopping here before I lose all clarity of thinking! I will be adding all the other incidents of procrastination I have seen or heard  of ....along with my theories of procrastination.
Just to let you all know...I have written this essay without referring to any studies or texts or whatever. So none of this is based on research. It is based entirely on my own experience.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Overzealous reading & Misreading of Body Language

My boss told me a few months after I was selected that she selected me in spite of my ‘hostile’ body language during the interview…she knew that I was not hostile and that I was sitting in my typical posture i.e. arms folded across my chest.
Folding my hands across my chest is my most typical posture when I have no use for my hands. I stand in this posture while waiting in lines at bus stops, when I am chatting with someone, while watching the milk come to a boil on the stove…I feel neither hostility nor anger against anyone ….I adopt this posture because it’s the best way of staying warm (I feel cold at least 9 months of the year in Toronto); Or maybe I stand in that position because it is something I have done for decades. I do not know, how this came to be my typical posture; but this is my posture and as I said before, there is no anger or hostility or any emotion for that matter, when I am in this position.
I hope I do not have to change my posture…. I hope that the people stop defining body language in such narrow rigid terms. People should accept that the body language of people from different cultures mean different things or mean absolutely nothing….a posture is a posture and may mean nothing else!
I am getting sick and tired of putting my hands on the table when I am at meetings. I prefer sitting with hands folded across chest and one leg across the other. To put my hands on the table each time I remember that I ‘look hostile’ is such a bore. Even if I do put my hands on the table, in no time at all, my hands are back in their usual position i.e. folded across my chest…without me noticing!
People should stop interpreting every gesture, frown, smile, posture, tremor, tic, movement, expression, stoop, walk, dress of people. People who keep interpreting body language or ‘reading between lines’ often jump to wrong conclusions and also argue endlessly that their conclusions are right! For example, a colleague told me that I look sad and asked what my problem was. I was actually  feeling bored, not sad, but I could not convince my questioner  that I was bored, not sad!
Would a burka help me? The burka, especially the Saudi Arabian one which covers one, completely from head to toe will stop anyone from reading  or misreading body language or facial expressions!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

43% in maths!

It’s April 2012 and the results are in ! My darling nephew has got 43% in maths which has, I am sure, left his parents devastated. I am sad too but I am more concerned about my sweetheart getting psychologically damaged by his marks….I hope he does not become an anxious, mathematics fearing mess who starts thinking he is ‘useless’ because he got 40+ in maths.
His scores in other subjects are okay i.e. in the 70s in physics and chemistry and 80s in biology , 60s & 70s in English, geography, history and so on. My advice to his parents is this.
Don’t pressurize him to do well in maths by making statements like  “You did not work hard enough. You watched too much television. You played too much. You sleep too much. You take life too easy. You do not care about your future. Your friends did so well. What is your problem? Maybe it’s our fault that we give you too much and spoil you too much. If we were stricter, you would have done better. Maybe we should hit you with a broom instead of giving you all these luxuries”.
 Analyze why he got low marks.
He’s in 8th grade, going to 9th.  Try to get the paper from the school and find out why he lost marks.
1) Has he not understood the question? Does he not know the steps to answer? Has he not understood? Is it careless mistakes due to attention problems and carelessness? Is it poor working memory and he does not remember all the steps? Is it poor conceptual understanding of the problems?
2) Once you identify his weaknesses, try to strengthen the weaknesses, during the summer holidays. Make sure he has understood all the stuff in 8th grade maths. Getting a score of 40 in 8th grade and getting promoted to 9th grade, definitely sets him up for bigger failure in 9th grade…. if nothing is done to ensure his understanding of 8th grade maths is complete.
3) Make him practice, the sums until he has understood fully and gained fluency i.e. speed and accuracy. Working out the problems should be automatic to him…it will be automatic only if he has practiced it a lot.
4) Make mathematics fun in whatever way possible…if you cannot make it intrinsically interesting or rewarding, then, offer him rewards for completion. Make sure he gets the rewards even for attempting maths, even for getting one step right…that way, he gets a constant stream of rewards, which will keep his motivation to do maths aroused. Of course, the reward should be something he wants; also keep changing the reward so he does not get bored with a particular reward.
5) Make him think aloud when he solves the problems and listen to the solving. Then you can identify, what he has misunderstood and correct his understanding immediately. The main problem is that feedback is not given to a student and so students never know WHY  their answer is  wrong. Unless, the teacher gets into the brain of a student and understands HOW the student has arrived at an erroneous answer, he will not understand why the student got the answer wrong. There is no point in giving the student the correct answer. Give the student, your analysis of why and where and how the student went wrong. Once he understands why his answer is wrong, he will get rid of that way of solving the problem and learn the correct way of understanding and solving the problem.
6) Praise him for all other achievements of his. Do not focus only on his maths low marks. Let him play and have fun and enjoy summer holidays too.
I know that you guys are not familiar with maths…i.e. you last did academic maths about 30 years ago when you were in grade 12.
 I know and deeply appreciate what a struggle it is for you, with your non-mathematical backgrounds to teach maths of high school level to your kid. You have been immersed in the medical field which is your profession and the only maths in your life is juggling your house budget.
 I know how much you struggle to study high school maths yourself, before you teach your kid. But remember, your kid is luckier than the kids in villages, without good school teachers, your kid is luckier than the kids of low literate parents who can neither help their kids with their studies nor hire tutors.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The accident by Linwood Barclay

Finished reading this book recently. It was a real page turner. Enjoyed it a lot.

I borrow several books at a time from the library but only a few of them hold my interest and I finish reading only those few. This book is one of them.

Feb 2018: My take on Barclay after reading several of his books: His books are set in New York State;  middle class families in small town figure in his books. After reading many of his books I am arriving at the opinion that they are bloody dystopian! When you read one or two books, you don't think of him as dystopian. But after reading many, it's like so depressing and evil.
Despite, this feeling, I know I will be ready to read his next book! What's wrong with me? Why am I addicted to this guy's books? When reading his books, with morbid fascination, the thought which keeps running through my head is that this author needs to visit a shrink. But then I think, maybe he's fine...he only writes this way so as to go 'laughing to the bank'.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Property Disputes

Was discussing today about property disputes in families between siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins and even between people who are 3 to 4 generations apart. Recalling the numerous  property disputes I have witnessed in India, I realize that in Canada, I have come across only one property dispute. This ‘ one’ property dispute  is that of  a colleague of mine, in her 50s, who is concerned that her mother will be duped into willing away her cottage to one of her brothers( who she believes is cunning) and she’s  worried that she will not inherit her share of her mother's cottage.
Property disputes are one major pain in the neck I have come across in numerous middle-class and upper-class families in India. At the time of dispute, the siblings seem to forget all the love and affection they had for each other growing up; they appear more like   mortal enemies, who don’t trust each other than like the siblings they really are! What depresses me now is the realization that hundreds, nay millions of hours in India which people could spend doing something enjoyable, go towards these property squabbles. If people realize that they are but visitors for brief periods of time on earth and cannot carry the baggage (read property) they accumulate here to the next lap of their journey, then, why waste so much energy, trying to accumulate property? Why not enjoy life, without trying to accumulate riches? Is life less fun if one wears a fake diamond instead of a real diamond???
Property disputes are especially bitter and rough in villages. The people’s behaviour is so disgusting, that I cannot believe that they are the same smiling relatives with whom I had interacted in the past.
I have seen disputes for land, houses, shares in wells, trees, crop yields, gold, things such as copper and brass utensils, etc.
I have seen disputes between
Brothers and step-brothers
Sisters and brothers: This is especially sad as brothers in India, often think that the property should go only to the males in the family and not females. The females, especially the mild ones go through years of hell as their husbands and in-laws  insist they get their share of the property and the brothers refuse to give.
Believe it or not, I have seen disputes between mothers and their sons for property!
I have heard of rumours of murders for property in rural areas but as no one ever is arrested or jailed. I believe these rumours are true.
A friend of mine says that he is so glad that his father, an impoverished government employee, never made any property. Thanks to absence of property, he and his siblings are still friendly and have a good relationship with each other. He strongly believes that if his dad had managed to build a house, there would be a huge rift between the brothers after the parents death for the property. He thinks his oldest sibling would have demanded that he should get the house as he is the oldest, the youngest would have demanded to keep the house as he looked after his parents when he started working, the middle one would have demanded the house as he is the only one with a son, while the rest have only daughters!
I can write pages and pages about the property disputes I have witnessed in my life, since childhood. In India, unfortunately, all disputes happen at home, in front of the children and no one seems to care how traumatic it can be! The fights can get physical, very ugly, yet, no one thinks of the kids watching all this with dread.
One dispute which moved me to tears was one in my village. Two brothers divided the land between them and had to share the water from their ancestral well to irrigate their lands. The older brother bought the share of the well from his brother by paying him and the younger brother who seems to be really stupid, was happy to get money for selling  his share of the well. In no time, the younger brother’s crops dried up and he had to pay his brother to use the well water every time! He tried to return the money to buy back his share in use of the well but the brother adamantly refused. Of course, after paying for water,(you actually pay for the electricity to run the pumpset to draw water) day after day after day, the younger brother hardly made any money from his crops. Neither did his elder brother agree to let him put another pumpset in the well. The younger brother gradually drifted into poverty and was forced to sell his lands.
It is so difficult for me to understand how a sibling can do this to a brother or sister sink instead of helping and in some cases, even cheat a sibling and let him slide into poverty.
I have observed a cycle which repeats every generation in India:
   Adults fight bitterly with their siblings for their parent’s property.
Yet, these very adults become loving parents who have lots of great plans for their kids future. The parents never anticipate that when their kids grow up to be adults, the kids will likely fight with each other for the property and lose the affection they had for each other as children. Each adult fighting for  his share of property strongly believes that he is right and his siblings are greedy and bad; each of these fighting adults believe that their kids will never fight over property but live in harmony! I have seen this cycle, so many times, it is funny, how no one ever learns!
I still remember a lovely palatial bungalow in Coorg in a coffee estate built by my friend’s grandfather. He assumed that his sons will live together even after they married and he built a huge house, with several bedrooms and bathrooms.  Now this palace sort of building is lying empty and none of his sons live in it; these sons   hate each other so much that they visit and stay at this house only when they are sure that the  other siblings are  not in the house!
You my dear reader may be wondering, why the hell these people don’t go to a lawyer and fix the property division in a neat fashion..... but(1) writing wills and(2) bringing in  lawyers is something alien and unliked by most people I know. My own dad is refusing to write a will and says that his property should be equally divided between us!
Majority of the  educated middle-class people in Bangalore  I know refuse to write a will or officially  transfer property  to whom they like. Most things are said orally and these days, that is not enough. For example, one old man wanted one of his sons-in-law to get his house as this son-in-law had always taken care of him.The father-in-law always stayed at this son-in-law's house during his visits to the city over several decades. But he only told this orally to the people around him and did not transfer the property to this son-in-law or write a will. After he died, the other son-in-law demanded a share of the property and the house was sold and money divided among them!
 I am going to add here a few of  the property disputes I have seen in India amongst my friends and relatives. It seems funny to me, a bystander but I do know how painful it is to the people involved.
 I am not from a rich circle and so the disputes I have witnessed are  for small amounts of wealth. I can only imagine how terrible the disputes must be in families who are much richer such as the families with businesses, film stars, politicians, etc.
One hilarious dispute I can think of right now was the division of coconuts in one tree belonging to two brothers. This tree was near my land and I would sit under this tree and read my books, when I visited my village in holidays. This is what happned during one of my summer holiday visits. One morning,  one brother who owned this tree came and looked up at the tree and his wife asked him to pluck a few coconuts. He plucked a few coconuts and left. In the afternoon the younger brother came with his wife and both looked up and spotted the missing coconuts. They asked me if the brother had come in the morning and I said yes and they asked me if he plucked coconuts and I said yes. The younger brother’s wife asked her husband to pluck some coconuts and he did it reluctantly. He said they did not need it but she insisted!
By now only the green tender coconuts were left in the tree. The next day the same thing happened again and in 2 days, the tree was stripped of even the tender coconuts! This stripping of the tree happened within weeks of the death of the father of the two brothers From what I later heard from laughing villagers, the two brothers stripped the tree as soon as the new tender coconuts appeared big enough and never ever let the coconuts ripen in the tree!
Is it the poverty that makes people so greedy?
 Is it the fact that a person cannot bear the thought of another person  having more than him which leads to  fights for property?
 Is it anxiety about the future which drives this need to accumulate as much as possible for the future?
 Is it that parents do not trust their children’s capacity to fend for themselves  as adults and they feel a need to make property...through hook or crook, for their kids future well being? That they have to make property which will support their kids, in case their kids do not get jobs? 
These assumptions above  are my analysis of people's motives for their property making behaviours. For some reason people I know do not trust stocks and shares and only invest in real estate, gold to some extent and agricultural land. None of the people I know ever think of investing in businesses.(except for a few Shetty community friends)
Another common but hilarious property division feature I have seen is the building of a wall right in the middle of a house to divide the property between two siblings. There is no money for the brothers to make the division look elegant and so a wall is simply constructed. One side of the house gets the kitchen while one side gets the bathroom; one may get the cattle shed while one gets the bedroom! The families live like that for years and do not think of sharing and co existing without the wall. Division of houses is common in cities too but may take various ways. One sibling may get the first floor and one may get the second floor. Or the house may be sold and the money divided. Or as usual in villages, the property may be divided by building a wall in between.
One unfunny aspect of property division is the division done immediately after the death of the male head of the family. The timing of property division seems so wrong to me…in the middle of grieving the widow is expected to settle this property division between her sons. Often there is nothing given to the widow…everything goes to her sons on whom she has to depend  in future. Ugly fights happening at a time when the body is barely cold is something I have heard of but not seen…Thank God.
One unconfirmed rumour from a neighbouring village I have heard is of a childless couple adopting a baby boy several years ago. The father of this boy died of old age and a few years  later his wife died. The adopted son who was an adult did not get their property as expected! He was ruthlessly evicted from the house and his father's house and lands were taken away by his adopted parents relatives! The village witnessed all this silently but no one dared to support or help this adopted son. The idea is that he is not a blood relative and the property should go to the blood relatives!
The adopted parents suspected that this may happen and had signed papers willing their property to him. However they had also signed blank court papers for something else and their lawyer filled in these papers after the couple's death, willing the property to the relatives, who he felt were the rightful heirs!
I am moving  from  talking about property disputes to a topic which comes up when talking of property disputes in India i.e. forging signatures and signing blank documents.

Signing blank sheets and blank cheques and blank court documents which are filled up later by lawyers is something which was common in rural India about 2-3 decades ago. I am not sure if this still happens.  But this is how it generally goes. The lawyer or whoever the official is explains orally to the illiterate person/client about what he is going to do. The illiterate and maybe  busy farmer, signs or puts his thumbprint on the relevent document; trusts the official or lawyer to do the right thing and goes back to his farming. The lawyer or official deals with the documents and does what is expected of him while the farmer goes back to his village. Most villagers do not comprehend the convoluted system of the courts, government offices dealing with sale and purchase of lands, banks, etc and prefer to let someone they trust to do it for them. The trust is so complete that they sign in advance, trusting that the document will be drawn in their favour. They are also so busy on their lands that they cannot afford to spend time, scrutinizing documents and running around the burecratic government offices.
I myself have recently mailed signed blank papers to my relatives in India. I do not have the time to run from one bureacratic government office to another in India to get my work done ; I trust my friends and relatives completely  and my signature will help them, get my work done easily! For example, they can go to the government office, find out how the letter is to be written and they fill up the blank space above my signature and my work is done. I do not have to go to India for that ! Ideally it is not the right way to do things  but trust is trust!  I know I am contradicting myself by saying that I am signinng blank papers butr that is how India still works. When government forms have to be signed, well meaning people have forged signatures for others to save time. (1)The right path: take the form, mail it to person, who fills and signs and mails it back and then you submit and then get work done: This takes 2-3 weeks. (2)The quick route: If your friend visiting the government office on your behalf, forges your signature, work gets done immediatly! and No harm done!

Of course, there are numerous tales of unscruplous money lenders duping poor illiterates of their money by making changes in the loan documents. One can see this in the old black and white Indian movies.
I really liked this article I saw online called the Godfather of Bangalore about the land mafia in Bangalore. It gives a clear picture of what is going on in Bangalore's underbelly today. You can read about how a Mafia character settles property disputes between people (even members of the same family!)and makes money himself!

Monday, April 2, 2012

ADHD in the family

I am continuing on the same topic i.e. the reactions( to receiving a psychiatric diagnosis for their children)  of two middle class, highly literate, urban, professional class, south Indian.
This time I wish to talk about two relatives of mine: one set of relatives  has a son and daughter with ADHD, live in USA, both parents are working, highly involved in their children’s academics and the children are highly intelligent and both have symptoms of  moderate ADHD... yet, parents have not gone to a psychiatrist or peadtrician  to seek help. They have received a few but not serious comments/complaints from school ;  at home, they have a tough struggle, dealing with the two kids. But they are managing to somehow pull it together and manage  with their own professions & lives  and the children’s academics and extra curricular activities.(by extra curricular activities I mean taking the kids to piano classes, swimming classes, etc on weekends)
The other set of relatives live in Bangalore, India; both parents are highly literate, both are working and  have two children of whom one has ADHD but much milder level than the 2 children in USA; this child has average or slightly above average intelligence, is managing to get between 60 and 85% and this child loses marks due to careless mistakes caused by inattentiveness.
Both sets of parents agree that their children are inattentive and hyperactive. But both sets of parents also:
1)refuse to go to a peadtrician/doctor/psychiatrist to get a diagnosis
2) will never consider medication, even if the child gets a diagnosis and is prescribed medication.
3) all 4 parents involved are in varying levels of denial about the ADHD of their children.
Before you, my dear reader wonder, whether these 3 kid relatives of mine are truly ADHD or it is only my theory, let me explain.  I have seen less symptomatic kids than these three kid relatives of mine, getting a diagnosis and treatment in Canada.
I can sort of understand the denial of the problem of the parents whose ADHD is only mild but it’s difficult to understand the denial of the parents whose child’s ADHD is so obvious and severe.

The denial can be of two types: (1) they truly do not believe that their child has a problem; (2) they know the child has a problem but will not admit it.
I have seen so many cases where 'love is so blind' that people live in denial about issues which are so obvious to any outsider.
There are so many possible outcomes for these three kids.
aThe children do not get treated but the parents continue to handle them with their best efforts until they outgrow these symptoms or develop coping strategies to improve their attention and channelize their energy.
bThe children do not get treated but as they grow older and the subjects at school need greater attention and focus, they deteriorate in studies
cThe children get treatment when their parents finally accept and they get better because of the treatment.
dThe children get treatment but do not respond to the medication.
The type of outcome I see in other children with the same disorder such as dropping out of school, developing conduct disorders, etc seems pretty remote in these two families as the parents have a pretty tight grip on their kids.
What fascinates me as I observe these 3 kids is that family, education of parents, the culture(Indian-Hindu culture) to which they belong are playing a role which is far stronger than the biological effects of whatever is causing the ADHD!
The high levels of education in the parents (two PhDs, one Masters and one Bachelors) should ideally indicate that the parents are more open to acceptance and treatment. Instead it is the opposite! Greater the education, greater the denial! Higher level of education correlated with stronger denial of a  diagnosis such as DD, ADHD, Autism is another strange thing I see among the Indians I know.
Theoretically the  prognosis would be poor for kids with severe ADHD but, touch wood, the two siblings growing in USA, are toppers at school, thanks to diligent parents and the protectively high IQ they have.
There is no chance that the kids will even think of dropping out of school…they are surrounded by families and neighbours and other kids who are doing well in school; they have not come across anyone dropping out of school in their lives and so the idea will not cross their minds. Every adult they know is some sort of professional and from  a young age, they aim to similar education and futures.
Both sets of parents are typical south east Asian in their attitudes: both have relatively high academic expectations from their children and giving up academically is not even an option for these parents. The truth is that  if a child considers studying a non-science subject in University, the child is considered as an academic failure! Therefore, I cannot imagine, any of these kids dropping out of school.
As far as I know,  all three kids seem pretty happy, enjoy playing, watching television and show no signs of anxiety, depression, etc. One of these three, a boy, shows slight conduct problems at home. Except for this,  I do not perceive them as having any other  major issues due to the ADHD.
I would like bring in here  two other kids, who had ADHD as children  but were not treated. One was a child in the late 50s or early 60s and people did not know of ADHD in India then…he was simply considered very naughty and beaten when his behaviour got out of hand. He went on to complete his Masters, get a job, but unfortunately committed suicide in his 20s. As an adult, he was, until his suicide, doing well at  University and at his job.To what extent, there is a connection between his adult-age depression & suicide to his childhood ADHD, I cannot comment.

The other did receive a diagnosis but his mother refused medication and he is now studying medicine in an Ivy League college in USA.
Thinking about these two non-medicated ADHD kids-current adults, I am wondering if these kids would have done better if they had had medication in childhood; OR

 if they would have done worse in some ways as the medication affects their brains negatively in the long run; OR

 if there would have been no difference at all, even if they had been medicated; I am fascinated by the idea of people who deny the diagnosis(of their children) and keep struggling and manage to achieve their goals.
 Does acceptance of a diagnosis, somehow, make one fight less ?

Can qualities like will power, determination, never give up attitude,

 overcome the effects of receiving  these psychiatric diagnosis? This

 is one thought which I often mull about. If diagnosis did not exist,

would people, have continued to carry on with their lives? If there

is no available treatment, then would absence of a diagnosis be

more helpful & less harmful than giving a diagnosis and no help?

People's reactions to diagnosis, people's acceptance of diagnosis, people's rejection of diagnosis has always facinated me. The cultural factors in play is amazingly unpredictable. Here is one example of  a quirky reaction to diagnosis. When I was working in India, in a general hospital, my collegue communicated to a low-literate patient that he was HIV positive. She explained the possible symptoms, possible course of HIV, the precautions he had to take and so on. He was relaxed, calm and almost cocky during her talk. He said, "Dont worry Doctor. I know I am going to be fine." He and several other patients who were HIV positive and of  low literacy level & lower economic status showed a similar unfazed and  cocky attitude, when given this diagnosis and information. The reaction of  college educated  HIV positive patients to being given this diagnosis  was that of severe depression and a sense of devastation. The cocky attitide of the low literate HIV positives continued for years after the diagnosis, i.e. even after they had plenty of time to absorb the information.
 I remember how upset my collegue would be to see a HIV positive report for either  a very young or a newly married patient. It almost broke her heart to see the report and break the news to the patient. However, if these guys happened to be of low literacy, they had that cocky, 'dont worry doctor' attitude! She seemed to be more upset by the HIV diagnosis than the patient! Illiteracy/ignorence can surely be a blessing at times. The less you know, the less you worry. The thought that people who dont know are happier and sleep better than the knowers and worriers is something to think about.


Why do I feel differently to the same news from different people?

While walking towards the bus stop, I bumped into an old friend and colleague of mine. No sooner had I asked about her daughter, she said,   “ ABC is doing fine. She just got a diagnosis of ADHD, Giftedness and Dyslexia. The doctor started her on a medicine and she’s doing just great. She is now at the top of her class and no longer getting into fights with other kids”.
ABC is six and half years old and in first grade. My friend, her mother is a Caucasian Canadian, living in Toronto for several years, working in the mental health field and either has or does not have an undergrad degree.
Maybe because she told me all this in one breath and we parted within seconds after this brief talk, I did not feel much emotion. Before I could even feel any emotion in reaction to what she was saying, she had left. Processing it later, I realized that there was both good and bad news. ADHD & Dyslexia were the bad news but Giftedness and doing excellently after start of medication was good news.
I am wondering now if my reaction was different because she was a Caucasian or because she was so upbeat about this issue. I am trying to analyze my reaction to her because I reacted so differently when I heard similar news from someone else.
One of my relatives(…so he is Indian) told me that his child in his early teens has been diagnosed with dyslexia and reported to have above average intelligence. When I heard about the dyslexia, I felt so devastated and depressed. For some reason, I could not bear the thought of this child having dyslexia…I felt such a strong sense of hopelessness and helplessness. I had really no logical reason to feel this. This child is studying in USA, where the school is funding his special classes for treating dyslexia. He has above average intelligence, he is not having ADHD, he has a  highly educated father, he has absolutely no emotional or economic or any sort of problems at home or school. Yet I felt so overcome with emotion.
I am trying to understand why my reaction was so different. I am equally close to both my friend and my relative. I love both the kids and do not feel a greater love for one of the two. Yet, I did not feel so helpless and depressed when my friend told me of her child’s diagnosis. I felt very confident about her child and my friend’s abilities to deal with her dyslexia. When my relative told me of his child’s dyslexia, for a brief moment I felt so crushed and hopeless.
My analysis of myself:  I felt that sadness because I assume all middleclass Indians(at least urban, south Indians) are pinning  their hopes about their children’s future on their academic success and nothing else. If the child fails academically, then he or she is doomed. But I do not perceive Caucasians in this manner. I perceive them as resilient, versatile and they are the type who does not focus on academics to the exclusion of other areas.
Whether my perception is based on reality or based on a biased, erroneous judgemental thinking of mine, I do not know. But it is so difficult for me to ‘be cool’ when I see or hear about an Indian child having problems like this dyslexia; I have doubts about the Indian parents capacity to cope with a child getting diagnosed with something like this…a diagnosis which is  definitely not life threatening. Yet the parents feel so devastated. (Thankfully, my relative was not devastated and he is cheerful and pragmatic…I was the one who felt devastated!)
I hope I get to read the research about people’s reactions to bad news such as receiving a diagnosis and see what factors influence people’s acceptance, people’s reactions such as denial, anger, sadness, etc. I strongly believe that apart from personality factors such as resilience and coping styles, factors such as education, socio-economic status, family background, etc influence people’s acceptance of bad news.
Higher education level, higher socioeconomic status can make people accept certain bad news poorly compared to those with lower education, IQ, socio-economic status…because of the difference in expectation levels. Certain countries and cultures also have a more negative attitude and stigma towards issues. I have observed this in my work but as I have not systematically studied, I cannot really make any assertions.

Last walk at Sunnybrook park by the stables

Last walk because I can't take the mosquitoes.  I found this tree unusual... I dont know what these red berries are but th...