July 2021

INTO THAT HEAVEN OF FREEDOM, MY FATHER…

Dr. Bharat Vatwani

(The author is Founder Trustee of the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation and
recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, 2018)

While the Covid pandemic has been raging for a full year or more, so has the deluge of articles about the psychological implications of the same. Scores of articles have appeared in almost all media. Many of them have psychiatric textbook technical jargon embedded in them which is Greek to the untutored innocent minds. To add one more to it would be adding fuel to the flames. So I thought of going about this task differently.

To the constitution of a human being’s personality, ego and self-confidence, goes a lot of stability in the outer environment of that human being. From birth through childhood, this stability continues in the majority of us. The Indian child is closeted, buffered, cushioned, buttressed and ensconced against all anxieties by parents and in rural India by the joint Indian family system. Childhood in a country like India lasts almost till a person is 23 to 25 years old. There is giving of psychological-emotional strokes and receiving of the same. By the time we have grown into true adults, innate maturity has developed and we somehow survive the rest of our lives on our own steam. But we still continue to receive stable, positive emotional strokes. Starting from the immediate family circle, going on to distant relatives, friends, the workplace, the society at large, our teachers, mentors, our heroes, we continue to receive all psychological strokes from just about everyone who matters to our psyche as human beings, to make us believe that life was worth the living and that we had a special place under the sun.

It is this stability and sense of self which has taken a major hit because of Covid.

No longer is the world surrounding us the same. People are afraid to touch one another, to hug one another, to give physical comfort to one another. Young children are not just getting separated from their parents when the parent is critical and admitted, the young are often losing the parent as well to the Covid illness. Many families have lost their earning member, many individuals have lost jobs, many are unable to cope with EMIs, many have been downgraded in their pay scale, many are morbidly scared (a real possibility) of contracting the Covid virus during their travel to and back from work. Work from home has become a nightmare. Others have no social outings, with parks, playgrounds and beaches closed to the public. Physical isolation, an unheard-of entity earlier, has become the norm. The TV is incessantly showing negative (albeit realistic) news and seemingly focusing relentlessly on Covid. Children studying (supposedly) online has become akin to reaching the moon, given the technicalities and the glitches in internet services involved.

All in all, just about everything that went into the development and consolid

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