Expected only bedlam when I first entered their tiny premises in a municipal building at Mulund (Mumbai) with “There is no great genius without a touch of madness” (Aristotle) ringing in my head.
Indian Council of Mental Health set up in 1953 within the iconic Eros theatre building in Mumbai, is witness to the innate ability of pupils termed ‘Mad’ by the society. The power of that word can be so severe, practitioners in the field of mental health shun it like plague. Born out of philanthropy of one Dr. Masani, who none of the current active managers have ever met, ICMH brews a near impossible concoction of therapy, counselling and education for children with psychological imbalance. ICMH today runs schools for children with limited development of faculties at two centres in Mumbai suburbs.
Unlike the rarefied conclave of eccentric wealthy, this is an organisation that dealt purely with imparting minimum social skills to this ultra-marginalized group. But why would people in their senses ever employ themselves in betterment of those who had none? Not a simple answer here. Every day, the lovely people who provide leadership to this organisation, live kind-hearted lives, shunning perfunctory act of kindness.The managing trustee, Zarir Merchant is one such kind soul who got hooked to this journey when after few cursory visits, students here came forward to hug him. For a globe trotter, Zarir never got such an innocent and loving welcome anywhere else in the world. That child and others who may have merely waved out to him touched him in unimaginable forms.
With people of high stature like finance wizard TNV Ayyar, who joined in later, ICMH today has evolved into the best school for students with developmental issues. Educationist like Reshma Mathew and Neetal along with a bevy of ladies run the organization providing care. For mainstream students and teachers, it would be unthinkable to converse in ‘love’ and this is a medium of instruction employed here to teach basic skills like lifting an empty mug. Fertile atmosphere for interaction with other students of similar disabilities enhances interest among students. They wish for greater interest in these children from ‘normal’ children.
Young teachers Manisha and Suman strongly believe the government could help in establishing modern tutoring tailormade for these children in mainstream schools and not just having them admitted under RTE. These very young teachers realise that being with fully developed kids is what might help her students achieve milestones earlier. She wished that the world and society were more sensitive and patient to these kids. Sanketa, another internationally experienced faculty member, finds it commonplace for these kids to be gifted in some skill or other. Of course, there are few who may never be able to fend for themselves due to irrecoverable birth defects. But a majority could be assets to the society had the world been more patient. Every child here has vast possibilities hidden in his untapped energies. If only we the normal knew to communicate.
A revelation to us but an everyday fact to their world is that about 20 percent of all kids suffer some form of mental stress which usually go untreated. Since their actions and conduct are within the tolerance level of students and teachers, the condition goes undetected. Which explains, probably, why some precocious children face burn out later in life – their psychological resilience being underdeveloped. It is, perhaps, some of these buried childhood traits that make for difficult adults. We have all had one or two very unreasonable bosses or colleagues. God knows I forgive them today. It was not their fault.
While the kids and their parents face untold challenges as their lives only certainty was an onerous task with doubtful out comes, the teachers in this field bear the brunt.
Very young girls, yes mostly females, have offered themselves to teach this category of children voluntarily, despite moderate pay. On 9th December 17’, about 200 children from such schools participated in the ‘Special and intellectually challenged students Sports’ at Navi Mumbai. Whatever inspired these teachers is not clearly known, but their stupendous involvement in bringing the challenged pupils to this event, spending hours under a blazing sun, was utterly admirable. Not one teacher (and there were about fifty teachers from various such schools of Mumbai) was impatient with the kids. They were stern but not once rude. Speaking to me, parent of a dyslexic teenager attributed her own sanity to her sons’ teachers. Other parents I spoke to, on that day had only words of effusive praise for the teachers.
None of the instructors and educationist for mental health may ever rise to be celebrated. None of them will receive a bouquet, years later, on Guru Poornima from the President or a Nobel laureate. They know not one from their class will ever make it to that height. Yet not a slight ever for any kid however difficult they were, never a sense of despair repeating a small lesson on holding a pencil for weeks to the same child or even toilet training them through their only medium of instruction – compassion. One can only imagine the tall intellectual ability of these teachers.
Aristotle only spoke of productive geniuses. A higher degree of endearing madness exists in the teachers here. We hear of people in their senses who deploy themselves in service of those without? In this world, we call them ‘angels’.
(The Writer is Chief Correspondent – India, for an American Channel)
Read all the issues of InnoHEALTH magazine:
InnoHEALTH Volume 1 Issue 1 (July to September 2016) – https://goo.gl/iWAwN2
InnoHEALTH Volume 1 Issue 2 (October to December 2016) – https://goo.gl/4GGMJz
InnoHEALTH Volume 2 Issue 1 (January to March 2017) – https://goo.gl/DEyKnw
InnoHEALTH Volume 2 Issue 2 (April to June 2017) – https://goo.gl/Nv3eev
InnoHEALTH Volume 2 Issue 3 (July to September 2017) – https://goo.gl/MCVjd6
InnoHEALTH Volume 2 Issue 4 (October to December 2017) – http://amzn.to/2B2UMLw
InnoHEALTH Volume 3 Issue 1 (January to March 2018) – https://goo.gl/fksdQx