15 year old fatally stabs teacher in Chennai…a different perspective

It was hard to miss the news about a 15 year old allegedly fatally stabbing his teacher while at school. Even harder to miss was the outrage and shock at the incident and the outpouring of sympathy for the teacher and her family, the lamenting of loss of respect for the teachers, and  an increase in violent tendencies  among the youth.  While only a few people pointed out what really contributed towards this tragedy, namely the educational system along with pressure from parents demanding perfect performance, the attitude of the teachers and demands imposed by society may have driven the student to do what he did.

While this certainly is true, many if not most students do not try to take their lives or the lives of others in the process. So what pushes these  few kids over the edge. Could it be that he was evil ( translated to psychopath), I don’t think so, he was  a quiet kid, non disruptive, possibly no friends at all and was only seen in the company of his mother. Could it be because he was  a Muslim, no again because there is definitive proof that people from all religions have committed suicide or murder. His religion plays a part here only if it was used as a tool or discrimination against him or to humiliate him.

What bothers me is the so called experts who have now concluded that the students are becoming violent or are only now demanding that schools advise teachers to use “less harsh words” and to “not humiliate students” are not even entertaining the idea that this kid could be mentally ill. Now, I’m not saying that he is crazy but he could very well be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD .

PTSD is a  complex condition that develops after a person has been exposed to one or more instances of physical or emotional trauma. It affects a person’s memory and their behavior.

This is what the Encyclopedia of Mind Disorders says about PTSD.

Here’s some info on the condition from Mayo Clinic.

Click on the link to find out what the folks at the United States Department of Veteran Affairs have to say about it.

More importantly here  is a  link where we can learn about how  PTSD can sometimes lead to criminal behavior.

While many readers might argue that almost all the students are exposed to the same situations at home and school and they don’t commit murder or suicide, let me give you an analogy, while this may not be perfect, I think it works to drive home the point. Not all people who smoke get lung cancer. They may develop other symptoms which are curable but only a percentage go on to develop lung cancer. So while all students are stressed only few may go on to develop PTSD and it is also worth noting that not all people with PTSD turn violent.

Also, I am not attempting to justify murder. But if we are to seek justice and not revenge we need to look deeper and investigate further.  And sometimes that involves asking questions and looking for answers that could make us uncomfortable.

Was Hindi the only subject this kid did not do well in? There are no reports of him doing badly overall in his studies.

This kid supposedly scored zero in a Hindi test. Now I haven’t seen the test and the students responses to the test but what I want to know is and here’s how one way his religion plays a part. Most Muslims in Chennai speak either Tamil or Urdu at home and if this kid spoke Urdu at home, we all know that the spoken language differs very little from Hindi. So how did he score zero in a language he spoke at home.

If this kid did not speak Urdu at home and then I can see him failing, but still don’t see him scoring zero, because in most Anglo Indian Schools in Chennai, the second language is introduced in the 4th standard, so this kid had to have 5 yrs of Hindi in his bag by now.

If all of the above reasons don’t matter, then don’t 13 notes by the teacher indicate to the teacher and the parents that the kid  is unable to do well in Hindi and switch to another second language. I know schools these days offer a couple of other choices like french, sanskrit etc. Also isn’t a good teacher supposed to realize that there could be a deeper problem by the 4th or 5th note to the parent that may be the kid needed to be helped differently.  While the parents too share a huge part of the blame and I will come to that later, many ( even the educated ones) if not most parents aren’t even aware that they need to support their kids beyond sending them to school, paying fees, buying books and sending them off to tuitions  when they don’t study properly.

Was this kid treated differently because he did not take tuition from the teacher.  I have heard nothing but good things about the teacher, but we as a society first of all never speak ill of the dead. We are the kind of people who say “Poor guy he died, all he did was murder 50 people” or “He was a good guy only he used to beat up his wife every other day”. We feel sorry for people once they are dead, we feel death absolves people of all blame. While many teachers are kind, dedicated and themselves work under enormous pressure to produce results, there are many who use the power of their positions to abuse those under them. They are mean, narcissistic, harass and bully the kids under their care all under the pretext of teaching them and the universal excuse is that “it is for the students own good”.

So while there are reports of this teacher being good, could she have been mean to this boy. Could the 13 notes be considered as bullying, if they contained personal attacks on the student instead of recommendations or information on how to improve performance.

Also, (I know I’m going to be the target of much hate mail for this ) we say that murder when one life is in danger meaning if its a kill or be killed situation is justified, when a home owner is allowed to kill an intruder who attempts to rob and kill his family. a soldier is allowed to or even required to shoot before being shot at. Then tell me this aren’t most of the students taught, brainwashed and even indoctrinated that good marks, sorry perfect marks are the only way. Failing is failure at life itself. While this is certainly not true, how many children know that. Isn’t there a chance that for many the failing in class or being detained can be a life and death situation.

There was a report saying that he feared that he will not be allowed to go to class X. Did he arrive at that conclusion himself or was it communicated to him by his teacher or was it used as a threat. If it was used as a threat, then could it be one of the factors that drove him to commit murder.  Individuals suffering from PTSD cannot rationalize certain thoughts and actions. He probably just saw her as an obstacle or threat  to his progress to class X and the only way out in his mind was to neutralize the threat posed by this teacher and that’s what he did.

Also I want everyone to imagine another way this would have played out, how would we be responding if he had stabbed himself in front of the teacher instead of stabbing her. What would everyone say about the teacher then.

What pains me the most is this student who is still a child probably has been sending out non verbal cries for help for who knows how long. Either his parents, teachers, school authorities and friends ignored those cries or were not trained to recognize them, leading to this horrific tragedy. There are multiple victims here the teacher who actually lost her life, her two daughter who have to grow up without their mother, the student’s family who forever will be branded as being ” a killer’s family” along with being harassed and shunned from society and even the student himself( yes he’s a victim too everyone).

I cried when I read that this kid just sat looking at the floor the entire time at the hospital and did not want to even meet his parents. Just think for one moment its not the loss of life both the teachers and his that worries him but that he let down his parents. Such is the pressure we put on our kids today.

We are parents need to take a cold hard look at ourselves, do we want children to love and enjoy or do we want pint size powerhouses of performance who can go on like a Duracell battery. For many if not most families getting into a good school or college might be way to a better life, but as parents isn’t it our responsibility to make sure that our kid is cut out for this ardrous journey.

Above all why do we value certain jobs over others. Why is it better to be an engineer and not a clerk at the DMV. Not everyone is cut out to be an engineer and a clerk at the DMV can have better integrity and work harder than an engineer too. Why do we value professions over people. Or, is it because an engineer earns more than a clerk at the DMV and money is what, ultimately we as parents, want our kids to make?

Do we really want our kids to be happy or is our kids success some how a way for us to piggy back our way into getting society to respect us. “His son is in IIT” or “Her daughter is a doctor” or “Their son lives in America”.

Also, why is it absolutely necessary to respect all teachers. I know for us desis teachers rank next to parents on the respect list, but there have been cases of parents who are bad or who have made not the best decisions for their kids, why can’t the same rules apply to the teachers as well. I am not advocating disruptive behavior in class by the student , but enough procedures in place so that teachers cannot get away when they physically, sexually or emotionally maim children under their care.

Also, there are multiple reports about this teacher and her family( and I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any coverage) but the very next a day not far from her school a Class X student committed suicide by hanging himself because he could no longer take the pressure and constant nagging to improve his already good scores. Why is there no outcry for him.  Why this hypocrisy. Is it because a student’s life is less valuable than a teacher’s ( I know she was killed).

In both these situations it was these young boys who actually wielded the weapon namely knife and bedsheet, but who put the weapon in their hands figuratively. If the schools and parents take credit for a students success then aren’t they responsible for bad outcomes too.

Lastly, I wish there was a well informed agency to conduct an impartial inquiry and see that justice is served. Justice may not be hanging or 20 years in prison, but treatment for the student’s mental health condition. Reading reports about his behavior after in juvenile hall and at the hospital leads me to believe that he is severely depressed and in shock. He could even be a threat to himself now.

And above all we need to learn our lesson now and instead of checking for knives and guns or installing metal detectors at schools, lets all change our attitudes towards what is success, expectations from our  children, teachers and schools, have procedures in place to train and retrain those we entrust our kids to, in the right way to behave with them. This is one of the ways we can avoid incidents like these from becoming commonplace.


Desi women and male doctors

So, what is the deal with desi women and male gynecologists. A reader recently asked me  what should be done if a husband did not like his wife visiting a male gynecologist.  The post can be found here.  I gave her the best answer I could provide stating that he may not like his wife visiting one, but he should in no way prevent her from getting necessary medial services.

So, why exactly do we shun the  medical personal in this category. Is it modesty or shame, fear or religion or is it altogether something else.

There are some cultures/ religions which practice segregation of sexes and contact between males and females who are not family is discouraged even prohibited. But, I also know,   in that those cultures or religions there is an exception for medical services and/or situations where loss of life or limb could result  due to refusing the help of a man.

Are we as women so ashamed of our bodies and refuse to let a male see us at our most vulnerable.  If  the reason is this, then why don’t we discriminate when we need a doctor to treat breast or cervical cancer or don’t mind being treated by a male doctor for fractures  in the hip or thigh or even a cardiologist. I don’t think women actively seek doctors of the same sex to treat these conditions, just the best  in their respective areas of practice.

Is it  our fear of exploitation  then, that prevents us. Sure, like everyone else I’ve read stories of male doctors molesting their patients, and I cannot even begin to imagine the plight of women who have experienced something like that, especially at the hands of someone they trusted with their life and limb.

But perverts and creeps are everywhere, is shunning the entire male gynecologist community the answer to keeping women safe. Wouldn’t it be better if doctor patient laws are strengthened and people are actually educated about the proper code of conduct for doctors and patients. It would  also be of tremendous  help if victims were encouraged to come forward and harsher punishments meted out to those found guilty.

So, if the reason isn’t any of the above, then what is it that makes us hesitate, stop or even coil at the thought of visiting a male gynecologist.

Life for the wife left behind

Hello everyone,

This post is about the lives and difficulties faced by those women left behind by their husbands who work abroad, most of the time with the guy’s parents.

There was a time when I was growing up that to get a groom for one’s daughter who was working abroad ( at least in my community) was considered the ultimate parental achievement. Everyone would congratulate the parents of the girl on finding the ultimate match.

This was because it was believed that the men who worked abroad would make more money than the men who lived and worked in India.  Now this wouldn’t have been too bad a thing if only these men could take their wives with them. But often they were left behind, as the man either did not make enough to support two families meaning his wife and future kids abroad and his parents and possibly siblings back in India. Sometimes, even if he had the  so called “family status” and could afford to live with his wife where he worked, she wasn’t allowed to accompany him. The reason for this being someone had to take care of the saas and sasur. So the bride would have to stay back with her in-laws while her husband went back to work after the 3 or 4 week vacation came to an end.

Day to day life for these women consisted of taking care of their in-laws and house hold chores. Since, I’m talking about times before email, social networks, mobile phones, the only communication they would have with their husbands would be a monthly letter addressed to his parents, or a phone call for 10 minutes at neighbors house. The in-laws would read the letter and inform the wife that the husband had written and that he was doing well. The MIL or which ever in-law accompanied her to the neighbor’s to take the phone call would admonish her saying that she was wasting her husband’s hard earned money (which  he supposedly could save for her and their kids) if she talked to her husband beyond the allotted time.

 A woman I know, who lives in India with her two kids, while her husband works abroad once told me that, when she was newly married, her husband once wrote a letter to her and when her MIL got a hold of it while she was visiting her parents, all hell broke loose. She was asked by her MIL to not return, it took her father a few trips to the in-laws home and her begging for forgiveness after which her MIL relented and allowed her to return home.

These women were never considered as human by the in-laws. They were  just free laborers. They had to cook, clean, wash all the in-laws’s clothes, be the first to wake up and the last to eat and sleep. If they did anything else apart from this  it was to wait for the 3 weeks of vacation  time when the husbands would visit.

Now this time too was not a happy peaceful time for the poor woman either, the man when not out visiting relatives or friends was supposed to spend quality time with his parents first. The wife would have to wait until it was time for bed, to spend time with her husband. If the husband wanted to visit his buddies, he could just leave, but if he had to take her out to the movies, then the in-laws would have to be notified and permission sought well in advance.

Another side effect of the husbands visiting every year would be the wives getting pregnant, so many of these women would have kids every year or so until the in-laws decided that she had had enough and put an to her reproductive capacity. Now if she did not get pregant, especially if there were no kids yet and it had been a couple of years since the wedding, or if she had a girl before she would be taunted and harassed.  Intimate details  about the possible working and non working parts of her reproductive system would be freely discussed with neighbors, relatives and anyone willing to listen.  New reasons will be conceived for her not conceiving and the poor woman many times will face threats of being replaced.

In short, these women lead lives like pseudo widows. The worst part is that this still happens in 2012 in some parts.

So, what do you think is the fascination with grooms who work abroad? Would really appreciate perspectives from those who’ve come across women/ situations  like this.