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Social work teaching and reality, when preacher is a demon: My ordeal as a learner

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I remember when I completed my 12th standard; I was quite confused in choosing a career option. As many a people, in my locality, did not concentrate on higher studies, during my time, so I did not have many options where I can get guidance in this regard. Getting into social work was more like an accident for me as I was interested to pursue LLB whereas my father wanted me to get into social work. I had a discussion with one of the professors from social work department who suggested me many of the courses and social work was one of them. Since, I could not have had the courage to say no to my father; I was landed into this profession. So, I did graduation in social work.

After completing my graduation I took admission in the Department of Social Work, University of Delhi, one of the premier institutes of social work. I had seen that students are target in social work department at under-graduation level but yes some sort of dignity always remained there. The teachers over there never came to the lower level as they had come in the post-graduation level. Though, I did not get targeted in the first year of post-graduation but the second year was little problematic. There was an associate professor, who is the professor now, started targeting me even for the smallest issues. I was quite impressed with his oration skills, during my first year of Post-Graduation, and believed in his teachings.

I remember how the classroom discussions, during his classes, were mainly focused around Gujarat Riots and the role of the then Chief Minister of the state. I became an ardent believer of his classroom teachings. But things changed in second year of my PG, when I was getting targeted for no apparent reasons. I did not understand what went wrong, therefore, I went to him and asked about the problem. But he did not give me any reply.

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The most surprising thing came at a time when my final year’s exams got over and I had to choose an NGO, wherein I could complete my block field work, as part of the MSW course. I choose ‘Youth for Justice’ NGO, which was run by Mr. Kapil Mishra, former Tourist Minister, Government of Delhi and a senior of mine in graduation and post-graduation. This professor was the field work director at that point of time so he also has to agree with my decision. But instead of having discussion on my decision I was scolded like anything, as if I had committed a crime. I was told that I have committed forgery by choosing this organisation. I did not understand what he wanted to convey by this and neither he explained. Generally, no sane individual would behave like this even if he has any personal grudges against any other individual or the organisation. But his behaviour was unwarranted. I was even asked what relationship I have made with him. I feel social work department should have been the place of discussion and dispelling fear but unfortunately this professor was doing exactly opposite. However, I did not pay much attention to his misbehaviour during this period and followed his instructions.

After passing out of this department I worked with different organisations. Later, I joined a public sector Bank and got posted in Goa. But destiny has a different plan for me. My father was not keeping well since I joined the Bank services in Goa. For more than 2 years, I was unable to concentrate either on my job or my family and finally I quit the job. I returned back to Delhi to take care of my ailing father. Even after coming back to Delhi, my father’s condition did not improve. Therefore, the only thing that struck to my mind was that if I get into teaching job I would be able to takecare of my father and also do the job. So, I enrolled myself in PhD in the Department of Social Work, University of Delhi. But it seems that this faculty has got another chance to humiliate me.

I remember once this professor forced me to take the garbage bin to each and every scholar present in his room because I committed a small mistake of dropping the empty disposable glass, after finishing off my coffee, into the garbage bin kept in his room and used by him. And all this happened not under ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ but his ‘Humiliation Abhiyan’. I do not understand how shamelessly this professor accuses others of discrimination when he himself committing it. It is surprising that this professor talks a lot about non-discrimination and such other terminologies yet he does opposite to it. If a professor, who preaches like him and cannot tolerate even the dropping of disposable glass, into the dustbin used by him, by a research scholar, what value education would he give to the students? It’s better to compare him with the self-styled godman, who preaches about good things, yet behind the close doors, they do not leave the chance of exploiting people.

The major reason for me to not to get into any trouble with this professor was that my father was facing serious medical problems and this professor was very well aware of it and took full advantage of it. During this time, I realised how much difficult it is for an ordinary scholar to fight the oppression in a department like Social Work. On another occasion, when my left hand knuckle was broken and it was plastered, this professor, instead of asking me about it, sarcastically pointed out that the colour of my t-shirt was matching to the colour of bandage. I feel any sane person would first ask about the injury- how it had happened, whether I have consulted the doctor and taken medicines or not- but his obnoxious comment was hurting me.

Further, once I was asked by him about the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) and when I said I don’t know much about it, I was told ‘Tum Jhola Chap Doctor Banoge’. It was surprising to me as I am doing PhD on the topic of CSR and asking questions on AFSPA was out of context. Also, even if I complete my PhD, I cannot become an MBBS doctor. This incident also served his purpose of targeting me for no fault of mine. In yet another occasion, I was continuously asked for a month to change the frame of my spectacles, as these were not as per the likings of this professor. I still think what wrong I have done.

The most annoying thing was that this professor has no remorse for what he has done and yet he preaches about discrimination and oppression in Indian society. It is ironical that the people like him, who clamour about discrimination in the society, are generally perpetrators of such a crime. In my institute this professor is quite vocal about discrimination, equality and such other terminologies and advocated for brining equality in the society but his actions speak otherwise. He sets a perfect example that one’s action should be different from one’s words or in more precise terms be an opportunist.

It reminds me of the lines of Hitler, who once said “by the skilful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise”. The same has been the environment created by such people in the department. The sort of threatening environment created in my department actually desist students from speaking the truth.

My guide is my mentor in social work. He is the one who has guided me on many of the occasions, not only professionally but personally also. Whether it’s about leaving the job of Bank or family problem or joining the PhD, on all the occasions I sought his guidance and help. He was like a father figure for me. So, I discussed the incident of garbage bin with my research guide, who told me only two things that ‘I have taken a mature step by not getting into any sort of argument with this professor’ and ‘I should learn to forgive and forget’.

I understand why he said this because he does not want me to get into any problem that affects my future. But I feel at times, it is not the right step and remaining tolerant encourages such a professor, at Delhi University. I also feel that the teacher and the student relationship is two sided and both shall respect each other but if such professors are there then it would definitely reduce the respect for a teacher. Teachers are given the stature of God in Hinduism but professors like him demean the teachers’ status in the eyes of students.

In the social work department, where I am doing my PhD, I had learnt a lot about advocacy, discussion, debate and protests but on the ground it is difficult to apply it in my own department, which is supposedly be the place where such suffocating environment should not have been there. The unfortunate part is that a male member of general category does not have many options, when it comes to such humiliation. The only options that an individual like me can have are either to fight, if he is capable to do so, or remain silent if he is weak, as system does not consider them vulnerable. Such things remained hidden and even if I disclose such thing I don’t have any hope to get justice. This experience of mine have had affected my understanding of the terms equality, non-discrimination, communalism etc. and I developed a different understanding from what I have been taught because I feel that my oppressor’s ideology cannot be right.

Before writing this article, a closed friend of mine, with whom I have discussed the content of this article, have suggested me not write it otherwise I may get into trouble and it may affect my PhD but social work teaches me to speak against injustice and if it is happening with me in my own department than I must write about it. I told this friend of mine that either I will get the answer or I may face problems but it will at least have some effects.

I don’t have personal grudges against this professor but yes my education has no use if I am scared even at this level. Also, I think my education has no meaning if I do not speak up against injustice in my own department. In today’s time when people can clamour against the Prime Minister and make allegations that the freedom of expression and intolerance level is increasing in the entire country, then why should not I also speak against the intolerance in my own department by the professor who is also quite vocal in making such allegations at personal level, classroom level and on television debates as a spokesperson of a political party? Though I have written about my experience but I have the apprehensions that I may be subjected to further humiliation and it can jeopardise my PhD as well.

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