Saturday, June 4, 2016

Incredible India....

It was a regular OPD. Not too busy, but enough patients to keep all of us occupied. As we were coming to the end of the morning clinic, this man came in to check the report of his daughter. She was an epileptic and also had hypothyroidism. He had come to collect the Thyroid function tests. Not being too complex a patient, I told him everything is fine, let her continue treatment. He got up to go and then paused for second. Will she be okay, he asked? I responded in the affirmative, yes, she should be okay, but she will have to continue drugs lifelong or at least 5 years. He again paused for a second and said, her marriage is fixed. And almost within a few minutes one of the OPD helpers walked in and said, sir, this patient’s marriage is fixed! Not too common for a patient in the middle of a busy OPD to bring up such personal issues, nor an OPD helper to get these details from a relative.

We asked him to sit down, or he was already sitting down by then, and I asked him a question – I hope you have told the boys side that she is on treatment. He looked at me with surprise and said – how can I tell, I cannot. The conversation started off from there. The reason he could not share the information was because if they come to know they will not marry her. And no one might ever come to marry her. And the challenge of an unmarried girl in their context, the social repercussions are much, he has to get her married of. The family cannot live with the dishonour of having an unmarried girl at home!

I asked, suppose she gets married and the family comes to know that she is on treatment, what would happen. He did not want to say anything, though I suppose he knew the potential complications. So I offered the answer – she might be abused, beaten up or even destroyed or thrown out. He will have to face the wrath of the in-laws. He agreed that this was true. We continued the conversation. I asked him what do you think you should do. He said, I do not have much choice than getting her married of. And if something happens then I will see. I pursued the issue of communicating the illness to the boy. He said, the marriage will be called off. He was willing to sacrifice the life of his daughter for an unforeseen and potentially difficult future, for the sake of the honour of the family.

But after thinking for a few minutes he said, may be a boy will come who is willing?  Was a change happening in his attitude – I was not sure. He left soon, promising to think about this.

Why is life so complex for the poor? A decision to marry the daughter linked to many other social issues. The stigmatizing illnesses, the social pressures of unmarried girl at home, the fear of girl being abused or thrown out, the fear of in-laws fighting for dowry and other issues. All complicated by the honour of the family in the society. Is there not another way of looking at these issues? A simpler and easy solution? Or will family honour over rule all decisions’….

When family is more important than values, honour and shame is more important than truth…. When members of family and their life can be sacrificed for the honour of the family…. The “familyism” which is destroying families in our Nation…. Can this world view of “familyism” be changed…? How long would it take for our nation’s world views to be changed….?


What would I do, if I was in the father’s shoes…? Would I stand for God given values more than honour….

Thursday, June 2, 2016

How shall one lead….

Every institution and or movements and its leaders have to ask this question – every now and then – what is our vision? What is that Big picture towards which we are steering the institution or movement towards? Unless this is consistently asked and time is set aside to pro actively reflect on this, as frequently as possible, we will lose our focus. We will lose the sense of direction and will become complacent in our daily tasks. Maintaining and running institutions and movements will become an end in itself. And this vision has to be relevant and contextual and defined and redefined based on emerging context and situations. (Clarifying vision)

If the question of vision is asked and clarified, the next task is to get the staff and other stakeholders to align themselves to this greater vision. This is not an easy task. This will need a core group of leaders who understand what the vision is, and are able to articulate the same in a way every staff under him or her can understand. And this also will mean that the leaders who are leading has to become servants to those whom under their care, come along side and help them to see significance of this vision, in the midst of the mundane tasks each staff is involved with. (Communicating vision)

Then comes the question of building people in line with this greater vision and creating communities of caring within the institutional frame work, an alive and living community, which will be more like a living organism, caring for each other, challenging each other to move towards the greater vision. Much will have to be done in building such communities of caring and communities which are willing to move ahead together. Groups will have to be formed in larger institutions where by no one is left out. Consistent thinking and planning has to happen how these processes can be institutionalised without losing the spirit of the same. (Community building)

But any such movement together needs systems and processes to support. Before we create process and systems, it is important to be clear about what values will guide these processes and systems. If these are not defined, there might be a conflict between the vision and systems.  Values which are in line with the overall vision has to be clearly put down and staff and the community has to be challenged to be true to these values. Again like the vision, these values have to be made succinct and clear and leaders should have the ability to communicate in a way this is understood. And leaders should be “living role models” of these values. (Values and role modelling)

Once the values are clarified, the systems and processes will have to be redefined and restructured to be in line with these values and the vision. There might be systems which need to be completely redone, new systems and process set up. This is important to that the managers who manage systems and the leaders who lead against the vision (who are keepers of the clarity of vision and values,) are pulling together in the same direction – in the direction of the vision. (Pulling together and aligning)

But this vision driven institution or movement have a few pre-requisites.

One – leaders who do not allow positions and roles to define them but use positions and roles to move the institution or movement ahead in line with the vision.

Two – a group of leaders who have the ability or willingness to see the greater vision.

Three – courage to change wineskin's for the new wine. Willingness to change even so called “Cast in stone” systems and processes if required! Our role is not to protect the old wineskin, and in the process destroy the new vine…but create new wineskin's filled with new wine…


Four – process of constant reflection, realigning and repositioning, which the leadership has to be committed to…. Supported by prayer…. Let Thy Kingdom come…

Stations on the Road to Freedom

Dietrich Bonhoeffer(1906-1945) Discipline If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things to govern your soul and your sense...