Counsellors are human
I just read the review of our film 68 Pages (1) and would like to thank you for considering the film to be reviewed in the esteemed journal and your positive comments on the film. I would like to respond to a couple of questions raised by the reviewer.
- Nowhere does 68 Pages claim that the epidemic of HIV is not affecting the common man. Every communication around HIV in the country is targeted at general populations. As this film originated within marginalised communities we felt that a film could be done that would bring marginalised communities on centre stage. In fact, your referring to them as stereotypical groups is at best ridiculing them and denying them space.
- We have a panel of experts under whose guidance the film was developed and we were informed that it would not be considered against ethical practice that in extreme situations the counsellor can touch the person being counselled; the touch can be from shoulder to elbow of the counselee to comfort him or her.
- Kiran is not Mansi’s “counselee” but his friend and they work together in the same organisation. Kiran takes a HIV test every three months. When his report tests positive Mansi is faced with the dilemma of having to differentiate between the personal and professional. Therein lies her failure as a person and a professional. She faces the consequence of her human failure as Kiran disappears without a trace. I think it was clearly expressed in the film that she could not handle the situation. The question is asked: are counsellors not human beings? Can they not fail?
- The film is seen from the 68 pages of a counsellor’s personal diary (to which she refers as her “worry tree” and the place where she vents all her concerns) so that audiences get to learn of her personal views on her professional conduct and the people with whom she interacts in the course of her work. There are some people whom she cannot leave behind in the counselling room and they come home with her and become part of her diary. Nowhere has the film indicated that she is getting personal with Umrao, Nishit or Paayal, or that she tells them how she feels about them. The scene with all four characters coming together to say their goodbyes when Mansi leaves for the USA was a bit of creative licence that we took in order to close the film on a positive note.
Counsellors are human beings. If they are not sensitive human beings, they cannot be good counsellors. This is my experience in my work in the Humsafar Trust that has connected with more than 60,000 gay men and transgenders in the last decade. Even today I have not become immune to the suffering around me. The day I become immune to all the suffering is the day I will stop working with human beings.
Vivek Anand,Chief Executive, The Humsafar Trust Centre for Excellence 3rd Floor, Transit Building, Old Vakola BMC Market, Nehru Road, Santacruz (East), Mumbai 400055 INDIA email: [email protected]
- Chandrasekhar A. Where do you draw the line? Indian J Med Ethics. 2009 Apr-Jun; 7(2): 113.