Monday, March 9, 2009

That repressive thing called family name

A mother whose son was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was a teen, recently sent me stuff that he had written about his experiences in life and in mental health institutions. She wanted my opinion on the quality of the writing and its publishability. I found the writing fascinating and advised her to show it to a couple of publishers who specialise in first person accounts of this kind.

A few days ago I heard back from her. One of the two publishers she had approached, had shown an interest in publishing the book. I said I was happy to hear that. She said she would call me again to discuss something else.

She called me yesterday. After some hesitation she revealed that the family was against the book being published in the son's name. The furthest they were willing to go was to allow him to use his first name only. She asked me what I thought they should do.
I asked her what she thought they should do. She said they could publish it under his first name. I asked her what he thought of this idea. She said he was keen to have his full name on it.

Then she went into a monologue. Why should the family object to that? It is his name, the only one he has and he has a complete right over it. The monologue stopped on a longish pause. Then she said quietly, "I suppose I'll have to fight this one out with my family. It is nobody's fault that he turned out the way he is. Not ours, but certainly not his."

Her voice was strong as she said this. But it broke when she told me that even her doctor daughter, settled in the US, did not support her on this. Not too many years ago the mother had fought bitterly with the family for this daughter's right to marry the man of her choice. And all she could say now to her mother was, "I'm against his using the family name. But do as you like. I'm not concerned. I carry another family's name now."


parotechnics said...

That's just a very heartbreaking story - and one that makes me feel very angry. Why is it that people are never proud of courage and honesty and want to live slavishly in fear all the time. It has so much to do with class too - because when I lived with working class people, the thing they'd always say was - vo mereko khilata hai kya? Some things do come from being too well fed maybe. (so i better watch it - or start eating less!)

shanta said...

Sad when it's just one person's story; tragic when it's the story of millions of us. Give us cowardice any time against perceived dishonour to the family name.

Anonymous said...

Came here by chance following links on a Sunday evening.

Sometimes one can be too politically correct. You are aware yourself that there is a perceived bias against mental illness. The family has gone through a struggle. Just as it it is not the boy's fault, it isn't theirs either.

Perhaps they wish to avoid the problem of intrusive strangers asking them what it means to have a "deranged" boy or such. (This is what a TV anchor said in a program about autistic kids.)

shanta said...

Hi dubiousmove. This is not about political correctness at all. It's about loving and accepting your child for what he is. You do it by first informing yourself fully about the condition he suffers from. You know then that it is nobody's fault, just a quirk of nature. So there's no need to feel ashamed. Some families go one step further. They join a support group which helps them deal with their emotional trauma and society's insensitivity. This particular family hasn't rid itself of shame. Their strategy has been to put the boy away in an institution and forget that he exists. So the mother has had to fight society as well as her husband and his family single-handed. It's really tough on her.

Shraddha - श्रद्धा said...

Poor mother... she must have felt so ashamed of her daughter, who does not understand her own brother.

I wonder why does it become so difficult for people to love their own people without any conditions. Families like these need to visit a psychologist. The boy is really fortunate to have such a balanced mother.

Secondly, education does not necessarily brings wisdom in a person. It has to be earned by oneself. It's just by probability law, an educated person has more chance to be wise earlier than an uneducated one. But that's certainly not a fact, it's just a possibility. I am not at all surprised a doctor behaving so shamelessly. One can always find such ill-mentality in any society.

shanta said...

Hi Shraddha, you're right. In this case the father is very highly educated. The mother is not.