Sunday, April 3, 2016

Slice of Life

Memoirs of an Indian Social Work Educator

After two digressions I return to my educational background. After I passed out of Karnatak College –Karnataka University, 1st Batch with B.A. Special (i.e. Honors), I began to think what next? My father wanted me to be a lawyer - not work as an employee -to be on my own. There was no money left to pursue further P.G. or law course. My close friend at Karnatak College – senior by two years, had done LL.B at Belgaum. He told me that I could find some kind of temporary job, earn (working during the day) and study for LL.B at attending evening classes. I accepted his advice, went to Belgaum (Thalakwadi – a suburb) joined Raja Lachmen Gouda Law College (R.L.L.C) got admitted in the hostel, began searching for a job – for about a month, without success. Decided to discontinue and had a letter from Syndicate Bank, Dharwad that I could get some loan by mortgaging shares of Maharashtra Apex Bank – purchased by my father. I got the loan – enough for a year of P.G. study at Bombay.  I wrote to the Registrar Bombay University, seeking admission for M.A. in Economics, got a reply that admission closed for that year (1951-52). I could try next year. I was in touch with my close friend R.K. Hegde, (he later became Chief Minister of Karnataka (1983-88), Dy. Chairman planning commission and commerce minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s NDA government) who was then at Lucknow University, doing his M.A. Political Science 2nd year. He wrote, I could join Lucknow University even by late July, there were well known professors – he named some. I took a snap decision, went to Lucknow – never had travelled outside Karnataka, joined Lucknow University, Department of Economics and Sociology. Lucknow University had a composite P.G. Programme of Economics + Sociology. Common papers, Compulsory in the 1st year and specialization into one of the two streams - A (Economics) and B (sociology). I opted for B, and then changed to A­ much   against   the wish of the then Head of Department, Prof. D.P. Mukherjee- well known as one of the founders of Sociology in India. The other being Ghurye at Bombay University, M.S Gore's teacher. D.P as he was popularly known, was a double M. A (Economics and History) Gold medalist of Calcutta University.  He was a great and versatile scholar/ teacher, Novelist in Bengali, art critic, musicologist (Hindustani Thumri in particular). He had revamped the curriculum when he took over as HOD, which was outdated during his predecessor’s tenure – well known Radha Kamal Mukherjee. D.  P  had  introduced  a  new  paper  on  Economics  of Planning- note this,  1st  in India.   It was a compulsory 2nd year paper. There was an "Introduction to Sociology'' paper in the 1st year - which he taught. Also the paper on "Planning".  As part of stream A (Economics) there was an optional paper either Economic History or Social Anthropology. As I had done  Economic  History  as  part  of  my  B.A  at Dharwar,  I chose Social Anthropology- taught by another well-known scholar, H.O.D, Anthropology-  Dr.  (Prof)  D.  N.  Majumdar. Another teacher his former student and then a junior colleague - Mr. (Dr) Mathur also shared the course teaching. I passed M.A. (Lucknow) in 1953 with II Class - just made it. I came home - began to look for a job which I needed badly.  I had to take help by way of interest free loan to supplement my funds, to take care of my II year at Lucknow.

I used to come to Sirsi Tehsil town once every week from Banavasi my village to read the advertisement in Times of India (T.O.I).   I came across one advertisement for a post of T. B. Social Worker by the Govt. of Bombay. Being eligible, I applied  for  it;  was  called for  interview,  was  finally selected; received an appointment letter which said that I would be sent to T.I.S.S for two year study, stipend paid and only after that I would be appointed. Stipend took care of approximately 50 percent of my monthly expenditure at T.I.S.S ­staying in the hostel. Further debt from C. C. Mulgund - my well-wisher from Banawasi. I later learnt that the two persons who interviewed me were Dr. B. B. Dixit, Surgeon-General, (Dr. B.B.D Dixit later became the first Director of all India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi) Govt of Bombay (now the designation would be Director Medical Services) and Dr. G. R. Banerjee of T.I.S.S. Thus I landed accidentally at T.I.S.S and professional social Work both of which I had not heard. At T.I.S.S it was compulsory for me that I should take Medical and psychiatric Social Work (M.P.S.W) as my II year specialization. Dr. Banerjee was my field work supervisor during the I term), 1st year Field work at family Welfare Agency founded by her and Dr. Mhasker (read MSG's autobiography).   II term was "Group Work" Placement at BDD Chowls, Worli- just organizing and playing with children not group work really. Mrs. Alvares - T.I.S.S Alumini was Field work supervisor. Prof.  N. F. Kaikobad was in-charge of Group Work placement and also the Worli centre run by T.I.S.S (I was at T.I.S.S from 1953 July to 1955 May. I missed narrowly K.D.Gangrade as my Group Work Supervisor.   He left T.I.S.S in January 1954 to join Delhi School of Social Work (D.S.S.W).  I joined (D.S.S.W in July 1955). I should mention only a few things about my study at T.I.S.S. Other students used to say "poor Pathak" referring to the course I would be doing during II year (M.P.S.W) under Dr. Banerjee.  She had rather a 'negative" image among students especially boy students of other specializations. Dr. G R Banerjee was considered  to  be  very  strict  as  a  supervisor-  very  punctual  herself demanding students also to be punctual. Part of the image was that "she was insensitive to the point of being cruel". There were stories doing the round. As was my nature, I decided to keep an open mind, do my best, "judge" her by my experience. That proved very helpful. I was punctual- I always am, did my work conscientiously, honestly shared the difficulties in field work.  I became her "favorite" student. In those years there were hardly any books to· read on Social Work.   We had to depend on class notes of teachers who taught.  As part of M.P.S.W. GRB taught "Advanced case work and Counselling' during the II year. All other students were women I, the only boy. T.I.S.S was then not a university. Internal assessment & grades were by course teachers / field work supervisors. GRB had followed a practice of giving farewell to her students after the II year exam but before the results –at a good restaurant in Bombay. When our group’s farewell party was over GRB managed to get me away from other students, in whispers almost, said “Mr. Pathak you have done well in Advanced Case Work. Where did you find all that you wrote about Authority Factors in Case Work?” I replied Eliott Studt in “Federal Probation”, U.S. Journal which I had read in the library.   She hadn't read it! She questioned me because, I had written what she had not taught yet relevant and more than what she had said-. I say this for two reasons, one the way I used to study. More than that the humility of GRB, implicitly admitting I had read what she hadn't read. Great quality in a teacher! Very few teachers have the courage and integrity to admit that the student is ahead of –them in reading.

Here I quote another incident from a colleague at D.S.S.W.  Two  bright Students - Dr. Vinay Bhaskar and Mr. Datta (son of S.C. Datta referred to by MSG), knowing that the teacher only lecturers from notes taken years ago- did not do any fresh reading, played this prank. ·"Sir you said this but so and so in their book have said differently''. Fictitious authors!-. The teacher said “I have read that book but ...". The two had a hearty laugh sharing this with friends and one of them spoke to a teacher who was a relation and this student was my student close to me and ·she told me. She retired as H.O.D.  Contrast this teacher with GRB.  Though no student tried this on me “I would have said - I am not aware of that book. Give me the details, I will read it".

Briefly about Dr. B. H. Mehta. He was a Ph.D in Sociology from Bombay University (also Dr. M. V. Moorthy)- at a time sociology was a new discipline in India; He had joined in the first few years of the establishment of T. I.S.S, was teaching C.O and Child welfare- his own ideas- not to be found in books- if there were books. He had the habit of referring to himself as "we". Interesting and to some, even inspiring teacher. The problem was when exam came students were worried- if class notes did not make sense. I don't know how word got around that I have "good" notes of Dr. Mehta. My notes were borrowed, copies were made after getting them typed and circulated remember- 'Xerox' was not there. Dr. Mehta was also intensely disliked by some of his students. I was the 'in between' category. There is an amusing end to this - a few who read my notes, got good grades, but I did not! I got C in C. 0 and in Child welfare. To end this part.  After B. H. Mehta passed away- funds were collected by the T.I.S.S staff/ Alumni and B. H. Mehta Memorial Prize for the best research based article in I. J.S.W. When it was to be implemented- 1st award, I was a member of the Award­ choosing committee, and Dr. Tellis Nayak of (Roshni Nilaya) Mangalore, Dr. N. A. Gokarn of T. I. S. S were the other members.   When I wrote to the Director, T.I.S.S- Dr. A. Desai, her reply- "The committee members may frame the rules and guidelines!   It fell to my lot to draft the rules, after circulation to other members through T.I.S.S, and finally approved.   Consider the problem, 3 of us located at different places - I in Delhi, Dr. Gokarn at Bombay and Dr. Tellis Nayak at Mangalore.  Suppose, each one of us chose- 3 different authors. I had to bear in mind all these potential difficulties and frame, workable rules. Note also that- most of the articles - nearly 75 percent are from Non- Social Work authors - from other Social sciences. A few years later, I was again chosen a member of B.H.Mehta Research Award. In both the years, I am happy to say that the names chosen by me were the final awardees. This meant that at least one other member, if not two had made the same choice. We did not communicate between ourselves. We sent directly 3 names by rank to T.I.S.S and based on guidelines, T.I.S.S finalized the choice.

I end this part of my academic life- connected with T.I.S.S with a non-­ academic part of my life at T.I.S.S. T.I.S.S used to have election to the students union every term and I was elected a member of Students Union in the first year- I term. I was made in charge of picnic! There was a dominant group with some political association which won the elections­ each term. I was with this group to begin with. Later I quietly prepared to break away and organize a "challenge" to this group. It was a very difficult task. I had to unite a coalition of 3 different sub-groups- those openly opposed  to the  Ruling  group-  Songadwala was the  leader  of  the  opposite group.   A section of the ruling group was not quite happy with the "ruling'' group.  But chose to align with them as they felt that the opposition was playing in the hands of the Director- Prof. A R Wadia- a person with long administrative experience.    He was Director of Education in Mysore State was Pro Vice Chancellor of Baroda University.  I was part of the section that was not happy with the ruling group, but aligned with them. Then there were the neutral/ indifferent students. P. L. Govil was the original candidate as President by Songadwala group.   But the dissident group insisted that they would break away from the ruling group, if only I were the candidate for President, Students Union.   I was not keen. But I was determined to break the stranglehold of the ruling group. Songadwal realized that we needed that "dissident" group support to win. He called me for a "confidential" chat in a restaurant (EROS) away from T.I.S.S He changed his opinion of me - that I would not be controlled by the 'Ruling' group and decided to support me as the candidate for President of student’s Union. As a compromise my classmate and friend P.L.Govil was accepted as Vice-Presidential candidate. We won with a big margin to the shock of the Ruling group- who were very sure that their candidate Miss. Asha Mehta of my class would win hands down. But the aftermath of this was not happy. The T.I.S.S students became divided into two hostile groups. I decided once again to change this bitter, antagonist two groups - into a broadly cordial students of T.I.S.S. Once again I had to work hard- now with my group to get them to agree to the candidature of Asha Mehta in the 3rd term (2nd Year) without contest. I finally succeeded. Alas, Asha Mehta did not play her role- as unanimously elected president of student union. To cut this part short-  though  it  is  worth  telling  in  some  detail,  I once  again  swung  into  action and succeeded in overthrowing Asha Mehta through  a No- Confidence motion.  Late J.J. Panakal used to remark to others later that I was a "hero" who became a "statesman", changed the T.I.S.S, student’s union election in the years to come in a significant way. I am happy to accept this description of myself.

I may conclude by saying that my political background in my college days (I was closely associated with the communist party of India, before it split and when it was banned in 1948 by government of India, the milit phase. B T Ranadive as the new secretary of C.P.I. I had also participated at the age of 12 years in the Quit India Movement) and my roles at T.I.S.S in 1953-55 students union elections all these experiences were very useful when I had to deal with the second major strike at D.S.S.W in 1971.  I succeeded - with the help from student (Dr. Vinay Bhaskar and Dr. Aruna Khasgiwala played a major role) with me and quiet support of Principal S N Ranade, in breaking the strike and also breaking two more subsequent strikes.  I think D.S.S.W is free from this virus- for many years to come.

Now I turn to my evolution as a “good’, “scholarly”, “influential” teacher at D.S.S.W.

I shall try to be very brief. Earlier  I  had written, on  my  own volition,  of  my  experience as a young  teacher  teaching  Social Case  work  and Medical Social Work, originally given to Prof. R. R. Singh, arising out of his questions which  I had  answered  briefly through  an Inland  letter. They were thrown way without reading by the D.S.S.W teacher who was my student!!.  These were mistaken, as my "case work class notes" by the teacher whom they given by R R Singh) - they were not. I did not have much by way of class notes for any course.  I taught, in view of my very good memory, without class notes,   what I had   were jottings- like "teaching points" with occasional quotes necessary to aid my memory.   In my first 2 or 3 years- I was  "teacher  is  a  student  24  hours  ahead  of  the  class"  definition. What I read, what notes I had from T.I.S.S student days, standing in front of the podium- straight talk, ending with "any questions".  There were very few, if asked I answered them frankly, with confidence. I remember, as part of four lectures  of  introduction  to  the  Field  on  Medical  Social  Work  to  the  I year students- entire class in the II term of my first year of teaching i.e. Jan ­ March 1956.  This question was asked by a student by the name Ahuja, I think innocently- not mischievously. "Sir, what is your salary “? I could have answered in such a way- that it would have been a 'snub' or a “rebuke". I chose to reply candidly- "Rs. 200+ Rs. 50 D.A- total Rs. 250.00. Any further questions? Many students were aghast.  They thought that the Question should not have been asked:- perhaps some did speak disapprovingly  to Ahuja.  They were also very surprised- stunned, that I chose to answer, with a straight face, unemotionally - no anger, no embarrassment.   After I took over teaching of Social Case Work in July 1956 from Miss V.  Sharma, who had taught the course since 1953 and had resigned to go to the University of California to do her Ph.D. Students asked questions to test me- if I could be needled, if I could be made to lose my temper. (I learnt these later from some of my students). When they failed I rose in their esteem- an unflappable, well-read, confident teacher. From then onwards I had no difficulty in handling any group of students, in any class I taught.

Miss. Sharma used to lose her temper when questions were asked - could not handle them. Knowing this, some students deliberately asked questions to provoke her. I remember that Miss. V.Sharma used to say she had a headache either before going to the full class for teaching or after coming out.

There was paucity of available Social Work Literature even in U.S.A, much less in India around 1953 or so.  Even T.I.S.S library was ill-equipped, D.S.S.W more so. E.g. for social case work there was only text-  Gordon Hamilton’s – Theory and  Practice of  Social Case Work;  Annette   Garett's  “Principles of  Interviewing”. Only in 1957-58, Helen H. Perlman's   pathbreaking Social Case work - A problem solving process - Person, Place and Process in Social Work, came out.  Initially I relied on Hamilton (1958 I was in U.S.A) for about two academic years.  From 1959-60 I followed Perlman. 1st book from a British author (Noel Timms) came in late 1960's or early 1970's.   I used it in Combination with Perlman. For Medical Social Work, there was a book recommended by G.R.B- Harriett Bartlett's book.  Later, on the suggestion of GRB, with great difficulty, I managed to get two volumes of compiled articles (published by Chicago University) of GRB's teacher Dora Goldstine - at Chicago University. I always ordered/ purchased copies for my personal "library" out of my small salary of Rs. 250/-I had to save some money to pay off my debt.

More than the paucity of literature, the irrelevance of these to Indian conditions troubled me a great deal. Gradually, I succeeded in weeding out the "irrelevant”, sifting and selecting the relevant and "blending" the relevant to the Indian "knowledge"- drawn from my own observation, experience as a field work supervisor, selected Indian Social science literature. My social science background helped   me and my students through their social work field reports  though problematic due to translating quickly spoken Hindi/ Hindustani /Punjabi/ Urdu/marwadi etc., into English- students varied in their academic background and of languages.  Translation is not easy to scholars of book- translation. What to speak of D. S.S.W students- not the "elite"s of students coming out of the Universities- with under-graduate (degrees compounded by the problem of “Medium of Instructions" - Hindi, Marathi etc). With all these problems by and  large  my  social work  students were  honest, did  not  write  "fictional"  reports,  struggled to  convey  what  they  heard,  saw and tried to understand- the problems of people in distress.  The harsh Reality of Indian Society, as seen in Delhi's underbelly- lower stratum living in slums; visiting public hospitals, when ill. But with all the difficulties/ defeats, VERY RICH TREASURE OF RAW Knowledge, Unknown to them- my social work students were generating a treasure of knowledge that I liberally soaked in, polished them- selecting the useful, ignoring trivia/insignificant details. In other words, I realized the need of developing- Indian Social Work Literature for use in India.   I can say I did play my small part, already begun by B. H. Mehta, G. R. Banerjee, Dr. M. V. Moorthy- and later M S Gore.  MSG was of little help to me at the time I was a young teacher.  BHM, MVM provided the "perspective" limited though it was, GRB pioneered the practice­ oriented knowledge- by way of establishing the field centers/  agencies, and directly  practicing  by  taking  a  few  cases  to  be  handled  by  her  at  the  Family Welfare Agency, B.D.D. Chawls, Delisle Road and Child Guidance Clinic, Bai Jorbai Wadia Hospital, Parel. I may mention, in a small way, followed GRB. Initiated efforts to establish Child Guidance Centre, at D.S.S.W nurtured it for some years (excellent work by Aruna Jain/ now Khasgiwala, Dean, Faculty of Social work, M.S. University, Baroda 2nd Tenure). Handled, initially, a few cases at the Silver Jubilee (now R.B) T.B. Hospital- OPD and ward, rather successfully- thus demonstrating what Medical Social  work  is  to  the  Superintendent  Dr. Krishna  and  OPD  Dr.  Maqbool.  Revamped  field work placements  at the S.J.T.B  Hospital  from  Recreational center  based  approach-  to  patients’ problem- oriented  approach. A very difficult case handled by me referred directly by Dr. Krishna was a Gandhian T. B. Patient who had begun to fast unto death protesting against corrupt and insensitive administration. No case work theory helped me to tackle this. I relied on my "instincts" based on my knowledge-  including  some  knowledge  of  Gandhian  technique  of  fast. When the patient broke his fast, it was as though I had done a miracle!  My stock went up among the top administration (Dr.  Krishna) and some his colleagues. Similarly Dr. Maqbool at the OPD- I used to sit in the OPD, on the OPD/field work day in the morning. Dr. Maqbool was surprised, when he saw I  succeeded,  when  he  had  failed  to  persuade  a woman  T.B.  Patient - poor family- not to discontinue the treatment. He asked me what I did in amazement. He was a good doctor. Years later when Mrs. V Bala was working as T.B. Social worker, told me that one day an old patient came to enquire about me (without my name) and he gave sufficient details to her­ she could make out it was 'I' and I could make out it  was the "fasting Gandhian patient". Two more interventions- I did not handle the full cases, one at Irwin Hospital (now LNJP) case handled by Girija Venkatraman­ mental illness case, the other at Lady Hardinge Medical College Hospital, handled by Ahluwalia. Both the student said- “no progress”, even when they followed my suggestions. I  asked  them  to  make  appointments  on  a field work day with prior intimation to me and I would talk to the patients.  I did so, succeeded in making the patients take the steps “movement in the case" as it was called. It should be remembered, my own proficiency to communicate in Hindi- "Khadi Boli" as the local spoken language was called was very limited. Two years at Lucknow for my M.A, two years at Bombay for my field work plus one or two years at Delhi.  One more detail about my "direct" practice, GRB, Hon. Director Child G. Clinic (run by T.I.S.S.) asked me to work as a part time Psychiatric Social Worker on non-field work days, when Mr. M. G. Shah P.S.W resigned, until the post could be filled by regular recruitment. So for 3 months, I was a paid part time­ Psychiatric Social Worker at C.G.C. It conveys what GRB thought of me, as a student-practitioner, my potentials.

One more experience during the emergency- post emergency of 1975- 77 at Trilokpuri. The D.S.S.W field staff was divided on the suitability of placing students in Trilokpuri- resettled (tent living) former slum dwellers.  We faced a serious problem (I was then Director Field Work) of slums having gone from Delhi/ N.  Delhi. Where to send students for Group Work/ C.O placements? I argued “where the people have gone, we go. They need us, even more than before.” I shall skip the details- I managed to persuade the colleagues - a variety of major problems- for students (and people, transport). Lack of basic amenities, water supply, roads, schools for children. I had personally visited several times Trilokpuri (later Jahangir Puri was also chosen SN Ranade as supervisor), I met the Officers-in-charge of those new colonies- tried to find out the blocks- that we should choose for field work of students and selected them.  I believed in leading from the front as they say in the army and cricket, demonstrating as a field work supervisor and Director of Field Work. One  such  block  was  the  South  Indian  Tamilian  weavers originally from Kollegal in Mysore district- later migrating to Tamil Nadu- near Dindigul- finally to Delhi. They spoke a language that sound  like Tamil, but as my student discovered- by the name of Thirunarayan, it was  a mixture of Kannada + Tamil- more of Kannada.  Thirunarayan told me "Sir I cannot communicate with them.  They speak some kind of Kannada". Once again I asked  Thirunarayan to  schedule  a  meeting  of  the  people  on  a Sunday- both of  us would go.   We did- I spoke to them.  Their demands-   insistent- we need a Murugan Temple, a Tamil school, and cremation ground for our use! The officials could not grasp these as their basic needs- important demands- they were dubbed as "extremely un-cooperative".    I told these people- I agree with your demands.  I would/my students would do their best to get you these facilities! It was  my  firm  grounding  in  South  Indian culture   that   helped me  to  say  what I said and we strove to keep  our promises. Both of us, Thirunarayan  and I together worked,  even  going on non-field  work days or late evenings,  meeting  people who were  in distress, meeting officials at several levels  (Mrs. V.Bala and her husband  V.  Sriram were very helpful- through their Andhra Political contacts- Mr.  Ram Rao who was Chairman Khadi and Village Industries Board.   Post emergency era­ Janata government phase-one such intervention was to meet Laila Fernandez  (later  estranged),  wife  of  George  Fernandes-  then  Minister  of Industries at the Government  of India with Morarji Desai as Prime Minister. To use political/ high level official influence the officials who were "exploiting" the ignorant ex-slum dwellers- now at Trilokpuri. All these, could be called C.O. Indian way.

I may mention for 5 years or more I was Supervisor,  of  students placed in Jhandewalon slum (now invisible), as part of their group work/ C.O 1st year placements. A "case work specialist" supervising Group work/ C.O placements!!    I had to educate myself about Group Work, and C.O - the right way the Indian approach.   I did- Mr. M.C. Nanavatty, Head of Field work Department and Group Work/ C.O teacher was appreciative of my work.

Similarly, I had to learn a good deal about Research Methods- sampling, a variety of tests significance (chi. Square etc.)-the hard way, so that I could guide the then required, research dissertations of M.A (Social Work) D.S.S.W students.


I had not thought of writing my autobiography. I was surprised when two prominent persons from the field of performing arts suggested that I should write it. One of them repeatedly urged me to write. Perhaps influenced by this, on an impulse I started writing not my autography but my Memories as a teacher at DSSW Delhi University, in December 2010. I wrote on these three days 13, 15 and 16 Dec) and then stopped writing, realizing the practical problem of converting my hand written drafts into computer prints and revising the drafts etc. It is exactly three years since I wrote (13th Dec 2013, as I write this). Having pondered over what to do. with what I wrote, including destroying it, finally I managed to salvage a part approximately 50% into computer print of the first draft, without any major improvements retaining my abbreviations e.g. S.W.K for social work, shd for should etc, Thanks to Malathi,   my close relative who has helped me immensely by handling my drafts of the last chapter of the book- Social Policy, Social Development and Social Welfare: I cannot make any more demands on her time. No more writing! Year-end resolution.                                                                                                 

Autographies are a good source of historical accounts, written carefully with minimum of subjectivity. M. N. Srinivas wrote an autobiographical essay which was published into International social Science Journal. I. P. Desai made autobiographical references in his essay on Craft of Sociology. Among economists V.K.R. V Rao’s incomplete autobiography was edited and published posthumously by S.L. Rao. P.N. Dhar who was professor at Delhi School of Economics and last served as assistant secretary general of U.N. Development programmes (also secretary to the P.M. Indira Gandhi) published his autobiography. Among professional secretaries only M.S. Gore has published his autobiography “Memories that Linger” (about 400 pages) in which there are chapters dealing with his student days at T.I.S.S. and his years as Principal D.S.S.W and Director T.I.S.S. and also his role as a co-founder of Indian Conference of social work, now Indian council of social Welfare. (B. Chatterjee was the other founder - major role).

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