The school he had served for over two decades stopped his salary and even made him pay back some of it from his provident fund. He was ridiculed by his colleagues, who called him “crazy”. But the unkindest cut of all came from his doctors, who were clueless about the tumour in his brain, and pushed Jaideb Gharai to see a psychiatrist.
The 58-year-old teacher’s problems started in 1998, after he had completed 24 years in Kamrabad High School, near Garia. He started suffering sudden blackouts, he would lose his cool frequently and would even doze off at work.
The teacher of Bengali ignored the problem for several weeks, before finally telling son Arnab about it. Arnab took his father to a diagnostic centre on Loudon Street. A psychiatrist put down Gharai’s case as “distortion of the dopaminergic system of the brain”. He was put on psychiatric medication for more than a year. “Gharai’s case, in which a brain-tumour patient has been mistaken to be a psychiatric patient, is not isolated,” warns neurosurgeon Ajay Agarwal. “More and more such cases are cropping up, leading to families being devastated.”
In school, the fact that he was consulting a psychiatrist became the subject of class and staff-room talk. The authorities, “noticing his medical condition” and irked by the irregular attendance, stopped his salary.
Worse, they discovered that Gharai had exhausted his leave and had “mistakenly” been paid a salary for some months. “My father was forced to take a loan from his provident fund to return the ‘dues’,” said Arnab.
In 2002, Gharai suffered a heart attack and his condition took a turn for the worse. It was then that Arnab decided to consult a neurosurgeon at the National Neurosciences Centre. Neurosurgeon Milind Deogaonkar told Arnab that his father was suffering from a “small brain tumour” and his case had nothing to do with psychiatry.
Gharai’s tumour has been operated upon, but his travails refuse to end. Recuperating at his Maniktala residence, he is yet to receive his salary since 2001 and the lone bread-winner’s application to the institution for granting special leave with pay for 18 months has been gathering dust at the school office.
Teacher-in-charge Arun Chakraborty said the school would “try to send the papers to the (school) district inspector’s office in a week”. Former headmaster Tushar Kanti Sinha said Gharai had been “on psychiatric treatment and we did not know about this brain tumour then…”