Monday, 30th October 2017

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Partho needs care, empathy

My wife and I know Partho De as he happened to be our classmate (BTech in radio physics at Calcutta University, 1993-95).

By Jaideep Das
  • Published 20.06.15
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My wife and I know Partho De as he happened to be our classmate (BTech in radio physics at Calcutta University, 1993-95).

Quite often we would see this tall, serious-looking, well-dressed guy walking down the corridors of the (Rajabazar) science college. He was bright in academics but did not have too many friends because of his introvert nature - I cannot recall him joining us in our addas. In fact I never saw him spending time on anything other than academics.

We had heard that Partho's family was well off. So it was natural that he would come to class in business-casual and have a polished nature. Conversations with Partho were mostly in English, I recall his Bangla had an accent probably because of early schooling outside Bengal.

With all the right qualities and credentials Partho would have an unstoppable corporate career. Which he did. He joined a multinational software company after graduating. I remember a few years after we had graduated, sometime in the late '90s, Partho came to see me in my office in Salt Lake. We chatted, mostly on work. That was the last time I saw him.

We were shocked with the revelations about what had been going on with the family since the death of Partho's mother and then his father. The news is disturbing but we are more aghast at the way the tragedy has been turned into a social spectacle.

He is being projected as a dangerous villain and his name is appearing alongside Norman Bates, a perverted criminal in Alfred Hitchcock's movie Psycho. Partho as we know him has none of these "qualities", yet he is being portrayed as Calcutta's Psycho.

Can you imagine how difficult will be his return to normal life once he recovers and is discharged from the mental hospital?

By no means am I saying that the actions of Partho are normal - they are not. But it is an illness that requires care and attention like all other illnesses do. However, we as a society have failed to respond with the empathy the situation demands. It is not Partho's fault that he is mentally unstable - just like it is not someone's fault that he has cancer or TB.

It is definitely a lapse on our part that we have failed to demonstrate cognitive ability to deal with the situation. Yet we identify ourselves as "modern" and live in a digital era with wealth of information available at our fingertips.

Partho's unfortunate incident teaches me to be more sensitive to social spectacles. We are modern but not yet mature.

Jaideep Das works at a multinational technology company in San Francisco, US. He is also the founder of Dishari Foundation that promotes the spread of education