Komal Kaur considers herself “lucky” for holding on to her teaching job at a school in Ranchi, after seeing how her husband is continuing to struggle for work. He was fired, along with 20 more employees, two months ago, from a data collection company because his company is running into loss. Komal, mother of two, believes that school paying her merely Rs 15,000 is better than any genre of job insecurity at all.
With Rs 15,000 only, except the woes like fuel price hike and inflation rate observed in the ‘free’ market, Komal is planning to do stitching work or any other decent work that comes her way. She tells me that “…finding it difficult to manage lecture-from-home as it’s taking a toll on her mental health”. She can’t raise the issue at her school because she feels she “will be professionally ostracised for speaking up” so she finds silence to be quite golden.
She has to manage fees for school-going kids and other expenses, till she heaves a sigh of relief once her husband gets any job opportunity. She shared her number with me on twitter if I come across any job opportunities for her and her husband.
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When the lockdown (March 2020) was surprisingly announced, just like the demonetization (2016), none of us anticipated any proactive steps to be taken for mental health. The reason: in this land of Kamasutra, like sex, mental health as a topic and practice continues to be stigmatic and also expensive.
We don’t think about its importance, we don’t care either. The ‘culture’ of our society is such that we are more curious to produce successful people than peaceful people, even at the cost of mental health.
On par with ‘per capita income’ of Indians, not more than 10% of total population (130 crore) can afford mental health assistance. When the annual health expenditure of India’s GDP is 1.15%, despite the staggering rate of suicide rates in the world, Indians are respectively eligible for .33 paisa (less than one dollar) in the space of mental health assistance.
The amount spent on mental health assistance is comparable with what Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani makes in just 3 hours, or a day’s expense of a trip abroad by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India is home to an estimated 56 million people suffering from depression and 38 million more from anxiety disorders, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2015–16. To add woes, in this lockdown period since March 2020, there’s an increment of 20% sufferers (other than the cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse and suicidal rates) but however the predicament has always been persisting before the covid-19 outbreak.
India currently has 9000 psychiatrists, 2000 psychiatric nurses, 1000 clinical psychologists, and 1000 psychiatric social workers. The country would need an additional 30,000 psychiatrists, 37,000 psychiatric nurses, 38,000 psychiatric social workers and 38,000 clinical psychologists.
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, it will take 42 years to meet the requirement for psychiatrists, 74 years for psychiatric nurses, 76 years for the psychiatric social worker, and 76 years for clinical psychologists, for providing care for the total population. The same goes for the hospital beds as well.
The lecture-from-home sessions for the teachers has been mentally taxing and very much exhausting, especially for the females who survive in patriarchal families. As expected in such a toxic environment, a female is “supposed to cook, nurse the homely members and also work/earn” while the male is entitled to only earn the bread.
A female colleague teaching a biology subject in a school at Nashik tells me on a call that she and her colleagues are finding it very difficult to draw the line between work and personal life. When they were working/teaching offline, they were able to manage work life and social life. But “any time meeting” calls for designing and amending lecture plans, academic plans, general meetings, etc. leaves little time for her personal life.
She is of the view that lecture-from-home has conveniently exploited women’s agency in her individual space a lot, in this ‘already a patriarchal society’.
When I asked her if she was finding it ‘alright’ to subscribe to such a ‘hustling culture’, she jokingly replied back with the F-word. Hustling culture, as largely promoted on social media (especially on LinkedIn), is one of the most exploitative cultures I know. You can relate too.
The ‘hustling culture’ goes to the extent of making us believe that a fish can actually climb a tree despite knowing that a fish has its own intrinsic characteristics and biological limits. If one day we attempt to procrastinate, we feel useless. How badly are we conditioned to believe in such a culture?
Thanks to ‘hustling culture’ which has been brutally breeding ‘predatory capitalism’ at the cost of social empathy, individuality and mental health. It appears in the form of peer pressure and social anxiety, too.
Hustling culture ‘okays’ that it’s important to compromise on mental health, sleep cycle, diet and rest, if one has to grow in life; as if resources on this planet are infinite like stupidity?
Our nation operates through a ‘scarcity mindset’ because we’re economically not so strong and thus ‘hustling culture’ gets easily normalized in this ‘rat cycle’. All those “mann ki baat” or “chai pe charcha” on economy are simply hogwash.
Often, we believe that education means one is empathetic, wise and intelligent. But it’s not actually true. Mark Twain, a novelist, has perfectly put “education ruins common-sense”.
Education has become a visa to the job industry and it does not mean a very qualified/educated person necessarily be humane enough to understand. In fact, the world saw how ‘educated’ scientists or engineers joined Hitler in his holocaust politics.
A high-school teacher in Surat, Gujarat, on this point, tells me that the dearth of moral compass amongst the teaching fraternity is backfiring at the noble cause of education. Having taught international languages at an esteemed school, she tells me that “kindness should become the social language and amidst pandemic, we teachers are almost lacking it.”
She is unhappy at how the school’s management expropriates her weekend too and bombards the tasks, leaving little room for her to breathe even on holidays. She tried saying ‘No’ many times, but culture is non-consensual enough to not digest the meaning of ‘NO’.
On the other hand, Dr Anil Tambe, assistant professor of Sociology, working on ad hoc basis in Mumbai, fears of losing his ‘extension of contract’ this year. He gets sleepless nights by overthinking about his job. After his institute stalling the deferred payment for almost 14 months, he panics whether he will ever receive them if he were to leave the work tomorrow.
He discovered that his institute collected full fees from the students and yet deferred the salary by 60% for workers like him and others. Teaching, like health and other essential public services, is necessary too.
Education can’t wait in India’s so-called developing story. When the system is failing our teachers today, who will design the future of the nation?