Monday, May 30, 2011

A rocky road called life

From childhood all the way to marriage, there are many problems in life that seem insurmountable. What aggravates the situation is the rapid social changes that are taking place in Kerala

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo: Dr. Varghese Pudussery

Dr. Varghese Pudussery, the director of the Kochi-based Santhwana Institute of Counselling and Psychotherapy rarely receives patients as young as three years of age. But this happened recently, when the parents told him that their child was not speaking.

“All babies have a socialisation process which is done through the mother,” he says. “In this case, the mother was depressed, and so there was no bonding between her and the child.”

If proper parenting does not take place, the problems with children continue. They can suffer from learning disability (LD) or dyslexia. “This can happen at any age,” he says. “It could be in kindergarten, in Class 3 or even in Class 9.”

Essentially, as the load in the curriculum increases, some children find it difficult to cope. What exacerbates the situation is the pressure imposed by parents.

“When parents place too much stress, there is a physical breakdown,” says Pudussery. “Children may suffer from headache, vomiting sensations, and stomach ache. Later, the teenager becomes depressed. They feel a tension, both in school and at home.”

Then a teenager will turn to things that will bring him pleasure, like sex, drugs, liquor, and the company of bad people. “In a gang, nobody asks about their studies,” says Pudussery. “Soon, they start drinking. By the time the parents realise what is happening, it is too late.”

Recently, a teenager, Roy George, was brought for counselling. The father worked in Dubai. The mother, who had fallen ill, had sent her son to stay in the boarding. “At that time the parents did not realise that he was suffering from a learning disability,” says Pudussery. “When a child has LD, individual attention should be given to help him cope with the studies.”

This was not available in the boarding. Roy began to do badly in class. In frustration, he joined some bad elements among the boarders and began drinking, smoking and stealing. Now the father has given up his job and returned because of the son.

In college, youngsters face other problems. Nearly all of them, boys and girls, have love affairs. “There are infatuations and crushes,” says Pudussery. “Some get rejected, and become depressed. This happens to both sexes. Girls have additional traumas like unwanted pregnancies.”

One reason for their promiscuous behaviour is the pervasive influence of the media. “Pre- and extra-marital incidents are shown often on TV,” says Pudussery. “Online pornography has a great impact on the youngsters.”

So what is the way forward for parents? “They should maintain lines of communication with their children from young,” says Pudussery. “Usually, both parents are working and do not have the time.”

Parents and their children are living on the surface level. Once the progeny become teenagers they do not want to talk to their parents. Because when they were children, the parents did not listen or play with them.

“Parents find it silly when the son or the daughter wants to talk about dragonflies,” says Pudussery. “So the children feel discouraged. Then they stop talking. When parents want to converse, it is too late. You have to start conversing and listening to your children from very young.”

Meanwhile, middle-aged parents are themselves in a rocky terrain. “A lot of married women suffer from frigidity,” says Pudussery. “In Kerala, after two children, a woman loses interest in sex. In fact, they have an abhorrence for it.”

One reason is that there are constant quarrels with the husband and because he drinks too much. “Women are afraid to walk out of the marriage because of social stigma,” he says. “So even though they dislike their husband, they will continue to live with him.”

But the public will not know that there is anything wrong in the marriage. The couple lives together and goes out for functions, both smiling happily. When friends and relatives come home, the husband and wife will talk to each other. “But as soon as they are alone, they become aloof and cold towards each other,” says Pudussery.

The complaint of the wives is that their husbands do not care about them or show any interest in them as persons. “My husband only comes to me for sex,” says Rekha Nair, a 38-year-old housewife. “I am not that interested in it. I can have sex once or twice a week, not every day.”

Pudussery puts this lack of interest to religion. “In most religions, sex has a negative connotation,” he says. “It is regarded like a sin if you enjoy it. This has gone deep into the subconscious of a woman. Hence, their inability to gain pleasure from it.”

As the society in Kerala changes, at a dizzying speed, more and more people are going to have a traumatic time, on the professional, the social, the home, and the parental fronts.

(Some names have been changed)

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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