Friday, 18 August 2017

Sasi, and my last attempt September 2016

June 2016 ... 

Village children forced into a poor quality, disconnected schooling causes many to get sacrificed along the way. 

And this child had fates ranged against him, a complicated and tragic series of events, including a father who was murdered, and a mother abandoning the children later, that left him and his sister effectively orphaned and care of an assetless grandmother. Eashwaramma. We were the neighbours, and we did what we could, in our best understanding.    

... Eashwaramma called up and told me Sasi refused to go to school today as well. All the village people Varalu, Anandanna, Sarojamma have all spoken, threatened and cajoled him. To no avail. Ten years ago, Surendra was in this same boat, and I also failed after using every carrot and every stick. And I know how he has ended up. Useless and drunk.

Sasi grew up with no role model, and no parental disciplining and as adolescence came on there was an deep seated rebellion that we never sensed. Also, a neighbor and a grandmother can only do so much disciplining and without our realizing it, his wilfulness had grown to vast dimensions.

A year ago we had put him into a  good government residential school, through a friend in the government, fearing his going astray in adolescence. But it was English medium and he could not cope. Having joined him we told him to just complete the year, given the trouble and expense we had all been put to. But he stopped simply eating, went on a hunger strike, and the headmaster fearing health consequences, sent him back. That was maybe his initiation into the power he could wield. The tired grandmother ran around to the old school and pleaded many times and got him readmitted there. By then we were not in the village all the time, being partly in Madras, and also missed the nuances.

Over the year he kept getting more difficult. But to all of us in the village, he was the small boy we had always known, and given an essential charm and innocence which also was uniquely his, we alternately upbraided and pampered him. Given his peculiarly deprived status, everyone in the village also had a softness towards him.

But then he also started raging against his grandmother. In anger he would hit her also. Maybe hidden anger and angst against life, and against abandonment by his parents, was getting focused on the only family member he saw around him. Then he stopped going to school. He ran away one day with the milk vendor and started
working in their center. He was promised 500/- a day.  There were some issues there that we have not got to the bottom of, and we were told by people of that village that the milk vendor’s family there needed a kidney transplant for their child and that was a motive in luring Sasi away. Anyway they were pampering him, and he switched loyalties to them totally. The grandmother finally went to that village with some people from our village, and after making no headway there, gave a police complaint about his having been taken away there. In return the boy, under guidance from them, gave a written letter to the police saying that he was there by choice, and did not want to return to his grandmother at all and that she beats him.


Aparna Krishnan I have no idea honestly. All was going well in the Kothapeta school, till this sudden deviency. If the van driver refuses him food and shelter, I suppose he will have to track his way back to Eashwaramma. How do we do that ? When i called up the van driver's family, the lady there went on the offensive saying that he has come of his own will claiming mistreatment by his grandmother. Given the reality of the police force, not sure that her giving a complaint will work. (After that maybe putting him in a welfare hostel far from the village/ van driver will force him into discipline. After the Gairampalle fiasco, and his hunger strike there, I actually am unable to say anything. Except that i wish we could somehow save him from deviency. Next will be drink.)
Sowmya Kidambi Then you need to get him out of the village scenario for a while and keep him away from those influences. Maybe get someone to home school him for a year while giving him skills. His situation is pathetic parents, old grandmother, no role models and abject poverty... What does he have to look forward to? I actually empathise with the kid...he is too young to understand the impact on his future.

When he was finally brought back to the village he was on full misbehavior, hitting his grandmother, demanding the best foods, and knocking down the food if he disliked it.  And kept threatening to go back to the milk centre. He had also picked up some unsavoury adult ways of talking back and playing up.

There was fear  that he would come go away to the milk centre and come to physical harm there, and Eashwaramma called up and told me to keep him in Chennai. So he came down with Varalu, and  had a good time for a week. With his essential charm he made friends with the neighbours, and the watchmen around. He went to the beach and with his talents ringed many toys. He helped me collect many medicinal herbs in the neighbourhood. As some women came from the village to learn screen printing, he joined them.  He had a good time, while other children were at school !

I had been looking desperately for a school where he could settle down, where there was also a good work component along with studies. There was nothing working out in AP, and a good friend running an excellent rural school in TN was recommended to us by many as the ideal place for him. Language would be an issue, but there were Telugu teachers there, and as the school had many strengths whereby he could pursue his interests even apart from studies, we sent him there to try. I made the mistake maybe, of telling him that I would send him and he could see if he liked it and stay on if he did. Giving him such a liberal offer was obviously in retrospect foolish.

Sasi came to Chennai again. The next day our friend Saravana Perumal came with two new sets of clothes as gifts for him to make his going more cheerful. I ran around late at night buying him odds and ends – a watch, toiletries etc. Vignesh, our friend, and who had also become his great friend, offered to go with him on the overnight trip to help him get adjusted. There my friend who runs the school took him on with complete commitment. On the first day Sasi called me up and informed me that he did not like it and would return. I told him that he would not, and would stay for a week. He started shouting at me demanding to know if I had not promised him that he could decide after a day. I told him that I now demanded a week, and given the time and money I had invested in him he could do this. He refused and told me he would run away. I told him to do what he pleased and hung up. My friend who runs the school put him with the art teacher who spoke Telugu and asked him to stay with him. She said he need not study and could simply do painting and modeling.

He kept saying he would return with Vignesh who had accompanied him, and Vignesh  actually extended his stay by another few days to help Sasi acclimatize. My friend, a seasoned educationist, tried everything. Gentleness and persuation, and also an iron hand. Sasi started his hunger strike, and she put him in a room and said he would be unlocked when he wished to eat. He started breaking the door, and was given a hard slap. Then he was given food and sent with kind words and  advice to work with the art teacher.

Then he was told that Vignesh would need to leave the next day, and he could stay till I went down in the weekend. Thet night he slinked down to Vignesh’s side and took money to enable his running away. At that my friend caught him and confisicated his bags, thinking that that would retain him. The next day to test him, she told him that Vignesh would leave shortly, and before people could respond, he ran away to the main road and thumbed a lift and left to the town, penniless.

I was informed on phone, and was frozen. I told Nagesh who was also stunned into immobility. But the police there was alerted, and I called up Piyush in Salem for help, and also Sridhar also who was there then by a stroke of luck. Sridhar left for the busstop immediately. Sasi was nabbed at the busstop where he seems to have spun a story of having come with his father and lost him when they were changeing buses. And he had even  got ticket money from the kind police constable who believed him. 

At the police station, into the might, Sasi despite all entreties refused to return to the school, maybe sure that we would never let him out again. Nagesh  called him up and promised that he would leave Chennai shortly and come there, and for him to please go to the school. He refused. As a police station cannot retain a child at night, he was moved into a neighbouring girls hostel for the night. The girls there took care of him well and fed him pooris and potatoes ! Nagesh took a car and left on an overnight drive to there. When I called him up I could hear Sasi chattering with someone in the background unfazed. The police station then demanded that the family come to claim him.  Eashwaramma was called and told to make the 8 hour trip down from the village, and Chandra was asked to accompany her. They reached late night yesterday, and after he was released the drive down to Chennai happened.

Sasis was unfazed by the infinite troubles he caused, the vast expenses that have been incurred, the stress a  school has been put to. He simply sees it from his point that we demanded he stay on for a week when the initial ‘agreement’ was that he will stay for a day and decide. He probably sees the police stay as a success story, that he came out with little trouble.

-   He then asked me for some porcelean dolls he had ringed in the beach as he was leaving. When yelled at him asking if he understood what he had us all through, he said, 'But it was my money I used.' He was completely self absorbed.

My friend, with her vast experience with children, sees him at utterly hellbent on only having his way. I have realized that he has scant regard for anyone putting themselves out for him. Sridhar has advised me to lay off, saying that handling , this is not within my capability, and for my sake, and also for Sasi’s, to lay off. I know, and yet.

A child is on the verge of ruin. Eashwaramma has lived thro’ her son’s murder, brought up the two grandchildren singly, and now faces losing her grandson this way. 

Aug 2017 

Eashwaramma as grandmother, never gave up. She took him to all the vaids. She send him on the Sabarimalai pilgrimage at impossible expenses. She continues showering love. But he is currently lost to us. He is simply hanging around. Neither going to school, nor to work.

I simply watch ...

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