A patient came to me once, she was referred from another doctor to rule out if she required glasses. She had headaches quite often.
She spoke to me in Kannada, she didn’t look affluent but didn’t look very poor either. She was 28 years old, wore a saree, a few bangles, maybe a ‘mangalsutra’ . She had sturdy footwear too. She came with her brother, or I would rather say, she was brought by her brother.
I turned on the Kannada chart to test her vision, she said she couldn’t read. No problem. I turned on the number chart, but she said she couldn’t read that either! I was shocked, I also felt so so sad to hear that. She was almost my age, just a few years younger.
I felt frustrated too, I wanted to help her but had no clue how to.
It turned out she never went to school. She lived in a city, free schooling was available near where she lived, but her parents didn’t think it worthwhile to send her. (But her brother did go to school, no questions there). She was made to accompany her mother to the vegetable market daily to sell their produce. “But if you were selling vegetables, you were dealing with money. Then you SHOULD know how to count, or read numbers.” She said they just had to rely on the ‘better’ nature of their customers to give them the correct amount. ( I didn’t ask her how she managed to give the right change).
The brother joins in. “She was married off at a young age”. She doesn’t work now. There was something fishy about the husband, they evaded the question when I asked about him.
There was nothing wrong with her vision or her eyes, that could cause headache. Finally I sent them off with the advice that 28 is not too old an age to learn something new; and made the brother promise that he would help her.