Meeting Kapil Dev, my childhood hero.

Kapil Dev on cricket, parenting and handling success

 

Today was a great day for me. I was invited by DSK School for inauguration ceremony of their annual sports meet, DSK Karandak. Mr. Kapil Dev, a legendary all rounder, was chief guest and Major General Mattoo, Chief Engineer, Southern command, presided over the function.

It was great joy to hear both of them talk to children and parents from the dais. I had a chance to share breakfast table with both of them and spent almost 20 minutes chatting.

Mr. Kapil Dev in his smiling, disarming and generous way was easy to talk to. He put me at ease within a minute with his firm handshake, warm smile and a sincere attention to my questions.

He talked about many things about cricketing days and childhood. Some of them are summarized here –

  1. Kapil’s parents did not pester him for studies. They always encouraged him to play a lot and once they realized that he spends lot of time working hard while other kids are just having fun, they encouraged him even more. He says that probably his family’s business background helped as there was not a lot of anxiety about his future all the time. Parents were concerned but did not play into their anxiety. Kapil also agreed that families with salary income and educational background tend to be very anxious and push their kids relentlessly. He observed that parents believe they missed out on many opportunities and want to make everything available to kids so that kids can have a better future. Though very noble, this mindset makes it difficult for kids.
  2. When he was growing up, Kapil spent long hours practicing and playing. Other kids went to movies, lazed around and had fun while he worked hard and had lot of fun playing cricket. He loved the game so much that hard work was his own drive and did not feel like a burden.
  3. When I asked him about how he handled the pressure of success, he had some gems to share. Kapil said that though the whole world is praising you, it must be put aside when you are with family and close friends. If your close ones start treating you like a hero then you are at a great loss. Your skill and achievements are restricted to the field of game and you must never falsely believe that no one should criticize you. There are smarter people outside the ground and one must be very careful. He also went on to praise his wife and siblings as source of genuine criticism and praise too. He told me that he will hear his today’s speech analysed by his close ones and they will give him suggestions. “As long as I listen to them and give them the right to be transparent to me, I am safe.”

One thing that came across again and again is how lightly he wears his success and fame. He was talking to the waiter, fans and all the people fussing over him with the same warmth. He was playing down 1983 Prudential Cup win as just one thing of his sporting career and was eager to point out that he is more comfortable when people talk to him as their “peer”.

I came away feeling that his real success is in staying grounded and being aware of the real perspective of life. All done with that famous big smile and a very warm heart. Good man indeed.

With Kapil Dev and Maj. Gen. Mattoo

Crowd cheering " Kapil...Kapil"

Understanding Sexual Minorities

Understanding Sexual Minorities

 

Today, Supreme Court of India reversed a decision by Delhi High Court that de-criminalised homosexuality. So now, In India, homosexuality is a crime till Parliament comes up with an amended law.

Section 377 of Indian Penal Code gives a description of criminal sexual acts. It calls them “unnatural sex”. It includes sex with animals, same sex humans, oral sex, anal sex and many other things. So by this law a husband and wife indulging in oral sex are criminals and they can be prosecuted and punished!!

This law was written by colonial rulers in 1890. The British themselves reeling under Victorian ideas of what is proper and moral, made many mistakes. IPC section 377 is one of them. They amended their own law to decriminalize sexual minorities many decades ago but that news has not reached Indian Parliamentarians yet.

Indian culture has a 2000 yr history of celebrating various forms of sexuality. That was lost in foreign invasions. After independence, we never really got back on our own feet as far as art, culture and humanities are concerned. So this law is actually in contrast to our culture and history.

 

As a psychiatrist trained in India and UK, I know that homosexuality is a natural variation in human sexuality. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong with it. It is not a disease/medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated. The way we have different colours of skin, hair and eyes, so does our sexuality.

This is very difficult to understand and assimilate if you, like me, are heterosexual, married, middle class Indians brought up in traditional ways by heterosexual, married, middle class traditional Indian parents.

Let me explain –

(Following is an oversimplified version for easy understanding.)

Our sexuality (expression of sexual being) is a multi layered, complex neuro-behavioural expression. Various levels are –

  1. Chromosomal level – XX pair designated you as female and XY as male. There are many variations like XXX, XXY, XYY, XO, etc occurring naturally. This is the most fundamental level of differentiation.
  2. Gene Expression – genes on sex chromosomes direct the way our bodies develop. Gene expression is affected by chemical environment in which they develop. This in turn is affected by physical, psychological effects as well!
  3. Gonads – these are ovaries in females and testis in males. Naturally there can be one or more, ambiguous, absent or under developed gonads
  4. External genitalia / sex organs – penis in males and vagina and breasts in females
  5. Internal genitalia – prostate in males and uterus, fallopian tubes in females
  6. Gender – this is how a child develops a certain socially accepted and enforced role as man or woman. ( e.g. boys don’t cry)
  7. Sexual identity – how do you see yourself externally and/or psychologically – man, woman or third gender?
  8. Sexually preferred partner – what is your preference of sexual partner on the basis of external genitalia, gender and identity?
  9. Sexual role preference – how do you participate in a sexual activity as male (inserting/ dominating) or female ( receiving/ submissive). And what role you prefer for your partner?
  10. Flexibility – are you fixed permanently in each of the above parameters or they can change for you as per your age, opportunity, willingness, surgical and hormonal intervention, etc.

 

As you can see this is very complex and I have barely scratched the surface here. It really is a miracle that majority of us have unified expression on all 10 (or more) parameters .e.g. I haven’t written about culture and hormones.

There are more than 3 variations possible on each parameter and they are all NATURAL variations. Parenting has NOTHING to do with it at all!!

Traditional narrow view of homosexuality says that it is sex between same sex partners. With our better understanding of sexuality that narrow view is clearly unscientific.

What most people overlook is that sexuality is only a small part of who we are. When we talk about each of us being a unique human being and we celebrate this diversity of human talent and achievements, how is sexuality any different?

 

I meet many adolescents and their families who are struggling with their sexuality and expression. It is NOT a western phenomenon, it is very human so very Indian too.

I have travelled this long road from being ignorant and unconcerned about this subject to being uncomfortable with homosexuality to understanding and accepting human sexual variations in all its glory. It has been a really long journey. I was lucky to have enlightened teachers and colleagues in India and in the UK. I am friends with many “sexual minorities” and I am thankful to them for enriching my life by sharing their life journeys with me.

 

If you are one of the lucky majority where your sexuality at all levels conforms with most other people, you had a smooth ride so far.

As a parent, you may be challenged. Up to 10% people belong to sexual minority in one way or the other. If your child belongs to this minority, it is not your fault, it is not anybody’s fault, and it is not a fault at all. Because this natural expression of sexuality is built-in and un-changeable. There are no treatments to seek. There can only be acceptance of this natural variation.

 

Let’s hope for sake of our kids and 10% of our fellow humans that Indian Parliament shows the guts to do the right thing by passing a law to de-criminalize sexual minorities and to criminalize forced/coerced treatments directed at changing sexual expression.

My Impressions of Psychiatry in India

My impressions of Psychiatry in India

( Guest post by Sarah Orr, Medical Student, Kings College, London)

 

I am a medical student from London; having spent four weeks shadowing psychiatrists in Pune I would like to share my thoughts on the experience.

 

I compared my visit to the Trimiti Clinic with my experience of the National Health Service (NHS) and psychiatry in the UK. The social and cultural observations I made are likewise based from a background of the familial and social structures present in the United Kingdom. This article will cover similarities and differences between these perspectives, without intending to criticise or judge either one.

 

On arrival to the clinic I saw that the furnishing had more character and warmth than UK clinics; I am more used to clinical shades of white and blue. The informality of the setting was also new to me; comfy sofa chairs with a coffee table instead of a desk and upright chairs. The former may help people to share more of their feelings and concerns as they feel more comfortable.

 

The way the clinic was run is also different. In India there appear to be few waiting lists; patients are seen when they wish to be seen. The doctors work much longer hours to accommodate this. These doctors see far more patients than their UK colleagues. They also have far less paperwork. This may reflect the lack of litigation; everything British doctors do is scrutinised by colleagues and I think that the patients might be more likely to sue their carers.

 

The patients themselves differ from what I would expect. On the first day I saw patients ranging from the ages of seven to early twenties. This meant that the child psychiatrist would see their patient from their early years up to adulthood and beyond if they wished – providing a great continuity of care. In the UK, psychiatric patients are moved to adult services at the age of about 18 regardless of what they would prefer. This may entail longer waiting lists with a difficult transition to an unfamiliar service. Many patients are likely to be lost in this system; this has cost some families dearly as their children struggle without treatment.

 

Children are seen with a variety of problems in India, not all of them psychiatric. This gave me the impression that the psychiatrist is seen as a well of knowledge and source of advice for all areas of life; more than just a doctor to prescribe treatments. In England patients are only seen by the psychiatrist after having seen a range of other professionals (social workers, GP, mental health nurses) – the doctor is made relatively inaccessible through a network of referrals.

 

The family in India is much more involved in treatment – I have rarely seen a psychiatric patient on their own. Most often they are accompanied by at least two relatives, sometimes three or four. These family members are enlisted to help aid the recovery of the patient through education about their condition and its management alongside more practical help (such as ensuring the patient completes tasks and takes medication).  This support network is much more extensive than in the UK where “nuclear” families with few children or single parents are becoming more common. It seems we may suffer from this; our psychiatric patients are often alone and struggling to manage their illnesses. Few are in employment. However, the family involvement seen in India may come at a cost; it seems to be difficult to maintain privacy in this setting. Parents are aware of relationships and information shared with the doctor – this may cause them to make their own decisions based on their beliefs of what is best for the child. For this reason the child’s own choice may be at risk. On the other hand this may mean that they are kept safe from the impulsive decisions young adults sometimes make.

 

Overall I had a lovely experience; all the staff were friendly and kind, the work was interesting and I have learnt a great deal. India is a fascinating country as are its people.