Shrink's Views

ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Conversion Confusion: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on February 1, 2011

“Get the right mix before you get paint from your pallet to the paper”, I tell my students. This principle in watercolor painting applies to life as well. You may not be able to fully correct the things that you do in your life. Your acts always leave a mark behind. My days as a drug addict have left an indelible mark in my life. I am now clean. I search for meaning in my life teaching watercolor art to enthusiasts. I help them bring out their selves in their art. Letting others bring their thoughts and feelings emerge in colors, fuels me to live. My workshops are not expensive. So, I tour different countries, click photographs of subjects of my interest, convert them into paintings and sell those to cover my living expenses. This year I went to the incredible India.

India is too old, large and diverse for just an artist like me to understand in a month’s time. I stood amazed looking at the contrasts and the range of shades existing in India. After I landed in New Delhi, I went around in an auto rickshaw clicking photographs of the urban landscape. New Delhi had wide roads, big hotels, shopping malls that I never expected. When I traveled through their metro train, I saw silence. Passengers were all busy in their private world listening to their ipods or reading their newspaper. Globalized India has become so individualized and privatized like the west.

I randomly went to one of the lesser developed Indian states, after a week in New Delhi. I stayed in a small hotel in the corner room on the first floor. It provided good lighting for me to work on. I wanted to go into the villages nearby to shoot photographs. I needed help of someone to act as a guide. A large majority do not understand English in this part of the country. I found a man, in a tea shop. He helped me find some tourist spots nearby. I chartered a cab and visited those sites. On Saturday evening I met the same person again. I asked him if he could accompany me to some villages nearby to facilitate taking few photographs. He agreed to come the next day after 11 am. He gave me his home address.

I went to his house at 11 am. His family had come back from the Church. I had left the Church as a teenager. It was difficult for me to do it having come from a family of Lutheran ministers for five generations. I had to be faithful to my conviction. I could not believe in creation, virgin birth or resurrection. How could I stand the mumbo-jumbo of prayer and worship? I am happy in my atheistic existentialism, but I was happy to see this family happily engaged with religion.

We drank tea as he prepared to leave. The tea was served with warmth that was typical of eastern hospitality. His wife was dressed in sari, as any typical Indian woman of this region. His parents too looked no different. The only Christian marks of the house were a cross on the wall and a well used black Bible placed over the television set. I asked him for how many generations they had been Christians. I have always heard that religion is inherited in the east. He said he would share that story as we travel. I noted that New Delhi was secular and westernized, but this home was Christian and culturally very eastern.

He had a moped. It was good for rural roads. I offered to pay for four liters of petrol. It was a much more than needed for our travel, but I felt it would be good to give a small gift this way as he never asked to be paid for as a guide. As we travelled to the villages nearby, he told me his story.

His name is Harish. He works with an indigenous NGO. He lives with his wife, two daughters and his aged parents. He was from a Hindu family. From his childhood days he was interested in spiritual things. His father encouraged him to meet the holy men who frequented his village. Harish had few questions come to his mind time and again, “What is the truth? What is the way? What is life?” He attended many bhajans and meetings. He asked these questions to many holy men. They never answered him to his satisfaction. When he was 13 he told a sadhu, “If you are unaware of this yourself, how then can you guide us?” The sage blew up in rage. His disciples cooled him down. After all it was a village kid full of ignorance.

Few months later, Harish found a tract on a bus. It said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It was a statement made by Jesus Christ. His answer was found. Harish found his guru – Jesus Christ. When he announced that he became a disciple of Jesus, his father threw him out of the house. He was just 14 years old. His school teacher took pity on his condition and allowed him to stay in the verandah of his house. Harish did odd jobs for his teacher in return for the benevolence received. After he finished his tenth grade, he started giving tuitions for small children. With the money he earned, he managed an independent living. When he completed his M.Com degree, he joined an International NGO as an accountant.

Harish was a self made man. I feel so small, when I compare my life with his. In childhood he was searching for God and I ran away from God. In his teens he educated and fed himself shedding his sweat. I was addicted to drugs and was stealing to feed my habit. There was a strong, stable and intelligent man in the short, brown man that I saw. My respect for him grew within minutes.

I wondered how his Hindu family, which had opposed him, became Christian now. He told me the story after my enquiry. He said his father was a successful tantric, a black magician. People came to him for all sorts of problems. He enjoyed reputation in that region. He also had become an alcoholic. Harish’s mother fasted and prayed to all the goddesses she knew to change her husband’s alcoholism. Nothing worked.

One day Harish met his mother near the village’s water tank and told her to pray to Jesus and see the result. She followed her son’s advice. In a couple of days his father started encountering recurrent failures. So much so that even he was shocked. It was as if his power had come down. Harish’s mom advised her husband to turn to Jesus. When he prayed in Jesus’s name miracles happened. He stopped alcohol and became a Christian. These miracles became so famous that every Sunday around 40 people gathered in their house for prayer.

I could not believe my ears. All this is happening in 21st Century. I was so engrossed; I totally forgot to click photographs. I do not know how many good subjects I missed. The fact is I don’t care for it. What does that matter in comparison to a real life story like this? “How far from the town is your village?” I asked. He showed me a banyan tree few yards away and said his village was just five kilometers away towards the right. I made a suggestion to visit his village. He smiled and turned towards his village. It was a right turn in every sense.

He continued the story as he rode. His father had a property right adjacent to the road which led to the village. He wanted to construct a small house there so that they could pray and worship with people from nearby villages as well. The construction work began. By then, Harish had reunited with his family. He financed the construction as he was paid a handsome salary in the international NGO he worked with.

I noticed the approaching village as I could see a couple of houses about 100 meters away amidst the vast paddy fields. He slowed down and parked the moped at the first house. I could see from afar that the construction is incomplete. I walked closer and saw that nothing was done properly. The work had been abandoned for sometime. I could see dried cow dung in areas which were supposed to be indoors.

Aghast, I asked “Harish, what happened?” He smiled and said, “Our villagers were not happy with us praying to Jesus. They saw the miracles happening. They saw the transformation in my father. They did not want it for themselves. They felt we were converting people to Christianity. A political party and its outfits organized a mob of 500 people to come to our village. I had gone to the town on that Sunday. They demanded my father to forsake Christ and purify himself with drinking urine of a cow. When he rejected, they beat him up and forcibly fed him cow’s urine mixed with cow dung. My sister and mother went to his rescue and lay on him to shield him from blows from lathis. They did not want to injure women. So, they stopped. They left after they threatened to kill him if he was found praying to Jesus in the village again.”

I was shocked. He continued, “My NGO did not support me when I wanted to take legal action against those who were behind the attack. They made me feel alienated inside my organization. They were afraid that their proximity with me might harm them. I resigned as I felt my team did not connect with me the way I expected. I had worked with a vision. I was not working for a salary. In joined this indigenous NGO which pays me lesser than 20 percent of what I had earned earlier. It is difficult to make ends meet, but I am lot happier at work.”

It is the persecution that made his parents move away to the town. I asked him if I could visit the place where they were living. He started the moped with a smile. I noticed that the foundation of new building was made but there were no metal supports for the pillars to be raised. When I pointed it to him, he said, “They sawed the rods at the base. The foundation now is useless. If I have to build here again, I have to break this foundation and lay it up again.” They made everything useless with just few strikes of a hacksaw. They were not an impulsive mob. They were men with a clear agenda- to spoil the dreams and lives of fellow men because they practiced a different religion.

When I saw his house I was even more shocked. It was a hut with mud walls and roof thatched with hay. The hut they lived in was epitome of weakness, their lives showed strength. How can people who live low like this have strength to sacrifice even this? Why should someone feel upset with faith of someone who lives in a hut? They did not possess any assets worthy enough to attract jealousy.

I clicked few more photographs and then decided it was too much for me to take. He understood me and took me back to my hotel. On the way back we hardly spoke, but the noise in my mind was deafening. As we neared the town I asked him, what he foresaw in the future. He said, “I hope to complete construction of the building that we had started. I hope it becomes a Church. I don’t have resources now. We pray everyday that God would do it in our lifetime.”

I did not go for any more trips after that. I painted from the photos that I had shot. In 20 days I completed about 25 paintings. This would suffice for my travel and next year’s expenses. I could not get Harish out of my mind. As I board the flight and leave today, I wondered if he got his mix right when he plunged into belief. His life has never been the same. He has lost much. He has suffered much. Things have not settled down well even now. He does not have regrets.

I do not know where these religious people get their strength from. I could understand that the popular explanation to explain conversion in terms of monetary or social benefits is reductionist and foolish. Harish is a living example. I only wish there was a God who really heard prayers. I wish he heard these people who believe in him. If he exists and does make mansions above for men, I am sure Harish and his family would have a fine one.

Bhajans-devotional songs

Sadhu- a holy man

Dedication:

This story is inspired by real life events involving persecution of Christians in India. This story is dedicated to countless people who suffer persecution because of their religious identity.

 

Posted in christian, distress, fiction, indian society, religion, social, stigma | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Truly Secular India

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on January 28, 2011

A week ago I was travelling in a train. After a night’s sleep and breakfast the passengers in the compartment started talking at first about the food served in Rajdhani trains and then about dirty politics, security threats and raising prices. Suddenly the talk shifted to the cost of taking care of likes of Ajmal Kasab, Pakistani terrorist accused in 2008 Mumbai attacks. One passenger was thankful for Kasab (albeit in a sarcastic manner). He said that many people in India owe their bread to Kasab, for there are so many security personnel involved in protecting him. Another bluntly pointed out, “It is because he is Muslim, he is alive. No party would like to loose votes. If you hang him Muslim votes are lost. If you do that Pakistan would most likely hang Sarabjit Singh. If that happens Sikh votes are lost. If it were a Hindu they would have gotten rid of him in a instant by hanging him.” I was shocked at the ease with which such a view was accepted by all others in the compartment. Somehow it indicated a hurt Hindu sentiment shared by the middle class Indians. It was appalling to see that no one thought of truth, guilt or justice. Everything was reduced to vote bank politics.

How can a party come to power with appeasement of minorities when it is the majority that needs to be wooed to form a Government in a Democracy? This question always haunted me. A couple of days ago my doubts have been answered. I am also happy that my co-passenger was wrong. Dara Singh, convicted for burning alive Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons in Orissa’s Koenjhar district in January 1999 was given a  life sentence. He was not hanged though it does look like was he did qualifies for being rarest of rare cases.  I am so happy India does not hang even Hindus, just as it does not hang Muslims etc. India is truly secular!

Posted in indian society, religion, social | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Pehle Hum Hindustani Hain: a poem

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on September 29, 2010

Background:

India awaits the judgment on Ayodhya’s controversial site on 30th September. Apparently the Moghul Emperor Babar demolished a temple and built a mosque. Fundamentalist Hindus demolished the mosque in 1992 wanting to erect a Ram temple in the site. Both parties Hindus and Muslims stake claim to the historical site wanting the structure of their choice to be erected there.

Do ordinary Hindus or Muslims have any stake in this decision and what comes after it? This poem is written from the perspective of Ali, a muslim Riskshaw puller. It also echoes sentiments of his childhood Hindu friend Shyam. Having lost close relatives in communal violence, both realize that more than religious identity what binds people together is basic needs or rather the lack of it. The poem ends with a patriotic note that Indian identity comes prior to all other identities of religion, caste, language and class.

Pehle hum Hindustani Hain

main hoon Ali, mera dost hai Shyam,

main Musalman, uska devta hai Ram,

Ayodhya mein hamara janam hua,

vahin par ham donon bade hue.

 

hamari yaari itni pakki thi,

log iski kasam khate the.

kisi ko agar kuch cahiye hota,

turant madat pahunch jata tha.

 

Hindu log jab Babri mazjid tode,

charon oor dange fasaad shuru hue.

Shyam ke saale ne mere bhai ko mara,

jis bhai ko maine bachpan se pala.

 

mere bête ne aatank machane ki tani,

bahana chaha khoon jaise ki pani.

Bomb banana kisi ne use sikhaya,

haivaniyat ka kharab rasta dikhaya.

 

Bomb ki durgatna mein bête ka haat kat gaya,

dange fasaad mein he Shyam ka saala mit gaya.

sab kuch lutakar, main aaj bhi hoon ek riskshawala,

mera yaar shyam bhi hai, ek sadharan paan wala.

 

kal mandir bane ya masjid bane,

kisi ko kya fark padta hai.

mere aur Shyam ki kaun sune,

dangon ke baad, zindgi sadta hai.

 

ho sakta hai ki kaum hamara chahta ho,

vahan Mandir ke badle masjid ho.

usi prakar shyam ka jo sangh hai,

manta hai ki Ram mandir he tik hai.

 

mandir se ya masjid se,

kya kisi ki pet bharta hai?

jise tand se kampan hota hai,

kya ent patharon ko od pata hai?

jiske ghar par chat nahin,

aaradhna ka jagah, vo chahe kahin?

 

hindu ho ya musalman, sabko yahi chahiye,

Ram ya Raheem ke pehle, Roti hame chahiye,

Mandir ya Masjid ke pehle, Makan hame chahiye,

Kafan our Kabr ke pehle, Kapde hame chahiye.

 

Jaanta hoon main aaj bhi ki,

Shyam ke vichar mujhse bhinn nahin.

Dharam, jaat, bhasha, varg halanki alag ho,

Pehle hum hindustani hain, Yahi baat hai sahi.

*****

Posted in distress, fiction, HINDI, indian society, poetry, religion, social | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Bollywood, Brothel and Being Born Again: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on September 25, 2010

This is a sequel to the story ‘A Dirty Job’ that I had written a couple of weeks ago. You can read it by clicking this.

It was the story of a girl who had very traumatic childhood. She landed in a brothel at an early age. She was rescued from there. She was given therapy to overcome her problems. She was also trained to live a decent life. She chased a dream to dance on film sets after she gained majority. She ended up having an affair and mothered a girl child. Hunger and desperation pushed her to the streets to solicit men.

The story was harshly realistic, reflecting lives of scores of women who land in brothels having chased a Bollywood dream. Is life over for them or is there any other way? Please read on…This story reflects a hope that I believe in.

Bollywood, Brothel and Being Born Again

Bollywood dream is over. I was not getting chances as expected. I made a new choice- to do the dirty job. I had detested it. I always had maintained that I would never do it. I was warned of this by few people. I wonder how they saw this possibility. I do not even want to think about where I went wrong. I always had prided in living in the present. No one knows what the future holds and no one can change the past. So why bother about these things which are not in one’s control. This is how I always thought. The doctor I had met used to advise me of being mindful, but my mind was full of ‘never mind’ philosophy. I think when one crosses boundaries and chooses to go far away from the previously set boundaries; it becomes easier as one moves along.

Having slept with a man once again to satisfy my hunger pangs, I was willing to continue this to sustain myself and my child decently. I went to Kamathipura and joined a brothel. I was given a small room. There were four others with me sharing the room. There were times when two of us were servicing our clients with only a cloth separating us. In the beginning I was a bit disturbed when I used to hear my daughter cry when I was engaged at work. I could see her through the diaphanous cloth which was to shield my shame. I have since gotten used to it. It is all right for a child to cry once in a while, especially if the tummy is getting filled thrice in a day.

I do not know why, but many of my clients come back to me for more. I had a record for this in our brothel. Mohammad Altaf was a local goonda who used to come for me frequently. He looked terrifying. He always carried his revolver with him. Another such regular client was Inspector Chogle. Chogle used to even bring biscuits and milk for my kid. Chogle had apparently recommended one of his bosses an IPS officer Mr Tripathi. He too came regularly. My status in brothel increased. I was given some freedom of movement. Moreover, I was voluntary here. Other girls who were trafficked from Nepal and Andhra had no contact with outside world except the clients.

One day Chogle came and told me to dress well for an outside engagement. He took me in a taxi to Bombay Orchid Hotel. He told me that it was one of the best hotels in India. The hotel looked astounding. He took me to a room more luxurious than the hotel. It did not require me to be an intelligence officer to know that I might have to service a big-shot.

I was shocked to see him. He was a minister. Everyone in the country knew him. Xavier Francis was his name. I had seen him debate on TV on issues of women like rights, dignity and self- reliance. He always wears Khadhi and speaks desi stuff. This is his real face- sleeping with young women in star hotels. After the job was done, he threw two bundles of Rs 100/- notes. I had earned Rs 20,000/- in one hour! I was thrilled. Suddenly he asked me to return the money. As I was giving him back, he tore few pages from a book that was placed near the table lamp. He wrapped the money in those papers. He then secured them with my rubber hair bands that I had left on the table and gave back the money to me with a smile. I liked his gesture.

When I went back to my brothel, I unwrapped the covers to take the money out. I was about to throw the papers, I thought I could as well read them. It was long since I read something in English. I might forget it fully if I did not read on and off. One sheet was the first page of a book. It had a seal stating ‘placed by Gideons International’. The other sheet had a story.

It went like this,

“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.””

I got shocked. There were many things that I did not understand in the story like what are olives, who was Moses, what is this trap thing for this man Jesus etc but I did understand one thing. I am like that woman. I could be caught by police and tried according to the law. This would not happen as people like Chogle sleep with me. This man Jesus was different. He could have condemned that woman but he did not do that. He did not use this position in any other way too. He just told her to go and leave the life of sin. “Go now and leave your life of sin”- that statement rang in my ears for few minutes. I was so lost in these thoughts that I did not even notice that brothel keeper and my co-workers came and took away my money.

When I came to senses, I did not even feel the loss of money. I was awakened. Something was new in me. May be like a sapling. It was alive and growing. I was beginning to see things a bit differently. I do not know how to explain this. I could no longer enjoy the services I rendered. I was lost in some other world. My regulars also noticed a difference. Many of them asked me if I was not well. In fact I was feeling more than well. I realized that there is a thirst in me that needed to be quenched.

A few days later I was on my way to a beauty parlour. I was on an over-bridge near railway tracks. A drunkard walking with a cup of tea on the bridge spilt some tea on my shoe. I looked around for some waste paper. I saw an old man stand in a corner of the over-bridge giving away some booklets. I took one and tore a sheet from it to wipe my shoes and threw the rest of the booklet away.  Just as I was about to throw the sheet off, I realized I could read some English like I did on and off.

The passage went like this:

“Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

I got excited as I read this. This is the same man Jesus. I had difficulties in understanding everything. Of course I was reading a passage out of a story book and I cannot get an understanding reading a small portion. I asked the man distributing for another copy. He gave piercing looks and looked at the booklet I had thrown away. It had landed open and face down on the railway tracks. I knew what I had to do. I ran as fast as I could and got there before a train came and destroyed it. I sat in the platform and read through this booklet. It was called ‘Gospel of John’. It was about Jesus. It says a lot of things about love.

It said that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  It also said, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

What I had read earlier was also in this booklet. I realized that I was living in dark. In reality brothels are dark places. Many of our clients want their visits to Kamathipura to be kept in dark. I was living in dark and I was doing evil. Do I have a choice? Can I make a living for my child and me in a way that is not evil? Even if it were to be possible, was I willing to come into the light?

I realized that if I could do it, it would mean plainly that I have done this through God. I prayed to God to help me know the right thing and do the right thing. I went back to my brothel. Life was never the same. I could not enjoy my work at all. It was seen by my clients and soon my brothel keeper would know it. I could fake being happy, but I could not bring myself to do it. There was a discomfort welling within me about being untruthful. I could not even fake it for my survival. I was happy acting in line with my feelings.

I decided I must leave this brothel and this life style. I can work as a maid servant and life a truthful life. I should not let my daughter enter this dirty world if I really love her. Usually the brothel keeper never lets me out with my daughter alone. I had to find the right reason to take her out. That very week Chogle gave two passes for an amusement park nearby. One was for an adult and one was for a child. I had the right reason to go with my daughter and no one else would be with us.

Where would I go with my kid in Mumbai? Whom could I trust? I just wondered. I remembered that things are possible with God. I phoned Mohammad Altaf from a phone booth. I knew Altaf was a goonda and was a ‘bad guy’. Anyway, I decided to trust him, as he was on the wrong side of the law and was faithful to people on the wrong side. Chogle, Tripathi, Xavier etc appear to be on the right side of the law and are unfaithful to the ones on their own side.

Altaf came in about 15 minutes. I told him, “Altaf, I want to leave this trade. I need money to leave this place. I know that you are a tough guy, but I also know you are a good guy. So I have trusted you. Please help me. I want to do the right thing.”

“Laila. Come let us go to ATM…How much do you want?” he asked. “How much ever you can offer”, I answered. He gave me Rs 10,000/- and said, “Leave Mumbai. It is not safe here. They will be able to get to you. Wait for a minute… I will buy you a burqa from the shop near the mosque. You can cover your face.”

He came within five minutes and gave me a burqua. He told me to go behind the pan shop to wear it. In the meantime he took my daughter behind a barber’s shop and cut off the hair of my daughter and dressed her up like a boy. I was so happy for his resourcefulness. We had a chance to escape in nice disguise. As we were about to leave, he got emotional, “Laila, I wish I was a good guy. I would have given you a new life. My life has no future and so I can never commit. I would always love you.”

I always had this intuition that Altaf was a good guy at core but had life had built this tough shell around him. What else can you expect? His mother was also a worker like me, who died of HIV few years ago. He never knew who his father was. I was glad at least he realized there is something called love. I prayed that he too understands God’s love and power to change our lives.

I took a train to the place where I was treated as a teen-ager. I still remember the doctor who cared so much for me and gave me so much of advice. I hoped that he was still there. The hospital had not changed much. Extensions had been made in existing buildings. I went to the room where he used to meet me. I peeped in. He was there. His hairs have greyed a bit and he has put in few kilos of weight. His assistant wanted me to show the appointment card, which I did not have. All of a sudden the doctor came out, probably to grab a cup of tea in between few sessions. I called out for him. He took a couple of seconds, but he recognized me by my name. I was so happy. I was Laila, Lovely or Darling to many men according to their choice, but to the doctor I was, who I really was. He told me to wait till he finished his appointments. He asked me if I had eaten before he went in and resumed his work. I knew I reached a place which had some concern for me.

The wait felt very short. I told my whole story to him. He was not amused. He took it in as if he knew it all. He made some phone calls and then told his assistant to take me to the destitute home. He told me this was a short term arrangement till we could work out a long term plan. The home had 20 destitute women who were old and infirm. They had been deserted by their families. I enjoyed work in the home. Those ladies took good care of my daughter as well. I began to learn their language. There was a nurse who visited us twice in a week. She used to sing songs of Jesus at the beginning and at the end of her work. I shared with her my story. She got excited. She started praying with me for future of me and my child. I began to realize that this place was not my long term home. I wanted to move back to the brothels and help rescue many little girls and young women who are forced in to this trade.

I discussed this with the doctor. He bore the same expression he had when I had shared about wanting to be a dancer in Bollywood. He was true in believing that sparks should be kept far away from fuels. He thought it was intrinsically risky with the promise of earning powerful enemies. There was also the risk of me falling back into the trade. He encouraged me to stay at destitute home to help in the daily chores. He also encouraged me to complete my schooling.

I found a new love for books. They told me about how the world operated, a world created by God. This love made me learn with enthusiasm unlike the way I studied earlier. In a couple of years, I finished my XII standard. I even appeared for the Nursing School Admission test in the hospital where I had got treated. I got selected. My doctor and his friends supported me by paying my fees. They were also supporting my daughter’s school education.

In five years I completed my Nursing course and accumulated two years of experience. My daughter finished her VIII standard. It was an easy choice for me to wait for four more years till my daughter finished her XII standard and secured a seat in Nursing School. I continued to feel the pull to go and rescue girls who were caught in the dirt of flesh trade. I discussed with my doctor. He felt I was a mature woman now. He had developed links with NGOs who are trying to rescue girls and women who were trafficked. He said he would put me in touch with one of those NGOs. I put my daughter in hostel attached to our destitute home. My daughter knew the importance of my work. She was glad to release me. There was a mobile in the home. I could contact her anytime in the evenings.

In the first one month of my job, we were off on a raid. My job was to provide support to the rescued girls. We had social workers, volunteers and police in the raid team. The vehicle’s windows were covered. When the door opened and we alighted, it was like a déjà vu for me. The scent was familiar, the landscape, the building…everything. In fact it was not a déjà vu-It was all real. We had come to the place where it whole thing had begun for me about 20 years ago.

We rescued 15 girls that day. On our way back, I had tears in my eyes. I too had been rescued once, but I had fallen back. I needed a saviour. I knew these girls need a lot of love and a lot of grace to make this rescue meaningful. In our journey back, I prayed for each of these girls as they slept around me in the van. Maybe I lacked someone’s prayers and therefore I got back into the mess. I would not let that happen to these children. I have received love and it is time I share it.

Epilogue:

I became 50 years old few weeks ago. My daughter has become a nurse. She is a nursing tutor in the hospital that took care of us. Her husband is a Physiotherapist. They have a beautiful daughter Raksha.

I chose not to marry again though I had few proposals. I dedicated my life to a mission to rescue girls and I did not want any other engagement in my mind.

I have had my own share of problems too. I have been assaulted numerous times during the raids. I have had fractures a couple of times. Once I had a gunshot wound in my thigh and I lost a lot of blood. I was reminded of my saviours shed blood for me. Without sacrifice of some body, no good would come to this world.

I have been part of numerous rescue operations. Hundreds of girls have got rescued under my eyes. I do not know what has happened to each. I am sure there may be quite a few who have gotten back to the trade. I also know of numerous examples of those who get a new life after a rescue. I have seen them marry and establish homes and families. It is such stories which keep me moving forward. God has been faithful. He always gave me the needed strength. I would carry this on till my death. That is what I am called for.

******

Goonda- Ruffian/ Hooligan

Khadi- Indian fabric usually made employing rural populace

Desi-Refers to people, cultures and products of Indian subcontinent

Burqa- is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies in public places which includes woman’s loose body-covering, head-covering and the face-veil.

Posted in children, christian, distress, education, emotion, fiction, gender, indian society, love, marriage, parenting, personality, prayer, psychiatry, psychotherapy, religion, social, spiritual, stigma, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Hell’s View on Mind, Mentally Ill and Mental Illness: Satan writes to Screwtape

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on August 31, 2010

Prologue:

The Screwtape Letters is a Christian apologetics novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as “the Patient”.

One must know this background to understand the following post. The following is a letter written to Screwtape by the father below Satan himself. It addresses issues of the mental illness and mind.

Letter:

Depths of Hell

21st Century. Year of the Enemy

Dear Screwtape,

I bring greetings from the depths of our eternal home. I have heard of your progress from your junior aid Wormwood. He gave me the news that you have been active in trying to understand and use the interface of spiritual and mental realms for our purpose.

I must warn you of the dire consequences of making yourself too obvious. Our success lies in our subtlety. You know it clearly that the ones who are obsessed with us and the ones who do not even believe in our existence are not our threat. In fact they are safe in our hands. I use the word safe only for sarcasm. You know the truth that they are actually unsafe in our hands 🙂

Many of our Enemy’s children are slowly coming into our camp. They are quite obsessed with us. Many of them do not even realize it. They know us. They can drive us out of our subjects with the authority of the Enemy. What is good for us is that they see us in everything. What our Enemy intended for them is to know Him more deeply. We can keep them preoccupied with us and distract them from Him. We can make them hate us more, thus filling their heart with more hatred. This distracts them from showing love for their brothers through their actions.

I see you have done a good job in the area of mental ill-health. Of course, I cannot credit you with making people mentally ill. I know some of this is beyond our capacity. We can only hurt those subjects as much as we are allowed by the enemy. You have quite nicely convinced many that mental illness is caused by us. It is a great lie. I love it. It is useful in quite a number of ways.

One, it keeps people in search of a magical-spiritual cure, which we can use for drawing them closer to us by involving them in rituals that are not pleasing to Him. Secondly, this preoccupation helps them keep away from medical attention. This makes the subject live in a psychotic state, away from reality. This makes him lose contact with the world that the enemy has created and makes them live in a world of lies. Remember our job is to steal, kill and destroy. We steal, kill and destroy the time of our subjects through this.

When we encounter any illness, we can use it for our purpose. We can use mental illness, even more. Our weapon of lies is very powerful. You are using it well. People fear mentally ill. They think that mentally ill subjects are violent and dangerous. Those of them who fear us also think we are causing these patients to do their behaviors. What a joke! We can laugh at this even in hell! The subjects who seem to be walking around normally and living their life successfully could probably be much more in our control. In fact they could be much more dangerous than subjects with mental illness.

We must realize that every bad thing that happens to His children is a good thing-gone wrong. For example when a man works hard in his business, he is doing what our enemy intended him to do i.e. to provide for his family and share with others. This good can be made to be bad when he works hard to make more and more money to the point of neglecting his family. It can be made to be bad in another way, when he earns for his family only and does not give out to anybody else. I am sure you have been using these distraction tactics to deviate our Enemy’s children.

Basically evil is qualitatively only slightly different from what is good. It is at times quantitatively only a changed proportion. Now why do I say this, we cannot take credit for the evil in the world too. We have not created it from anything. Evil is only the deviation from what our enemy meant in this world. We love it though.

If a person takes cocaine, he will get a high. Cocaine works in his brain and alters the chemicals in different areas. If a person takes Diazepam, he will get sleep, as Diazepam acts on certain areas in the brain which induce sleep. Did you or I create these substances? No! Can you or I control that effect? No! It is bound to happen in a world created by our enemy. In fact all of the day to day functions are regulated by chemicals in the body.

Our enemy has created certain chemicals, when present in right quantities make subjects happy. If these are not present in right quantities or if their proportions deviate then the subject loses his happiness and become depressed. If this is severe he may become suicidal and may even end his life. We love imbalance. We want his subjects to die if they are depressed. We can rejoice in death of a human subject, but we do not earn points. What extra have we done? It may be more like a person with cardiac failure dying with a cardiac arrest. Would I give you any points for it? Absolutely not!

These guys with mental illness lose capacity. Even the earthly Courts of Law give them some immunity by considering them not criminally responsible if they were to do a murder under specific circumstances. Our Enemy loves them much more. How much more he would be gracious towards these mentally ill on the day of judgment!  These people might get away with much of what they do due to their illness. Remember to not take credit for what bad happens to them and do not feel happy when they do something bad.

Mind is a good playground for us to demonstrate our skills. You and I cannot know exactly what our subjects are thinking in their mind, but we can input thoughts in their mind. I am not speaking of the thought insertion seen in what the humans call Schizophrenia or the intrusive thoughts seen in what they call Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These phenomena as I said earlier are not out doing. If I hear of you take any credit for this kind of phenomena seen in your assigned subjects, you would be demoted in the hierarchy of Hell.

What you would be given credit for is, when you can instill a normal human with automatic negative thoughts. By this you trigger a volley of negative thoughts. These affect the subject’s mood making him anxious, angry, bitter or depressed. I agree that this is more pronounced when he is mentally ill. You would get no points for that. You would score if you use this on normal people, happy people, loving people, and obedient people and successfully make them lose contact with what our enemy intended them to keep in touch with, by painting a darker picture of reality even if it lasts for a short while. I would be happy if you could do this long enough to make thought patterns freeze. They should ultimately submit and react to thoughts that arise in the minds without questioning it rationally. This would ensure the subject’s drift away from the Enemy.

By the way I liked your letters to Wormwood. I have asked new recruits and slow learners to read the letters to improve their performance. Wishing you all the very best in accomplishing our task.

Hail Me!

Your Father below,

Satan

Posted in christian, depression, fiction, humour, OCD, philosophy, psychiatry, religion, schizophrenia, science, spiritual, stigma | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Processes, Outcomes and God

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on March 15, 2010

I heard a person share about how importance of persistence in prayer. He shared a testimony with great enthusiasm. He spoke of a Christian family. Their marriage was arranged. They were from a different religious background. Before they got married, they had been praying to get married to a person with their new faith. They could not tell this to their families for some reason, but they were persistent in their prayer. After marriage, when it was time to consummate, one of them wanted some time for prayer. The other got excited on hearing that. Lo behold! They realized that they both had Christian faith and that God had miraculously united them. Wow! That was a great story. I smiled but something was sticking out like a sore thumb in my mind. It required deeper thought.

Firstly, can we thank God in a situation like this? Of course one could. It makes sense to thank God for any positive outcome for which no wrongful means was used. (Obviously one cannot thank God for the driving licence if a bribe was paid in the transport office.) It requires greater faith to thank God for bad outcomes like being diagnosed of a bad disease, death of a loved one etc. Putting the thanking God aspect aside, let us examine the case described. We have educated persons who profess to have strong convictions. They do not tell that publicly. They are afraid of the consequences. So, they prayed regularly for a miracle! They go through a wedding with all its rituals in a manner that may not be acceptable to them personally, but privately want to pray just before consummating a marriage!

 So, what is the big deal? What is wrong with that? Why can’t it be God’s way of doing things? Is it not amazing to see such a coincidence? Let us consider a girl of similar profile, similar faith, who prayed similar prayers, who obeyed parents similarly but had a different marital experience with a violent, debauched alcoholic husband. What would people say? They would say that this happened because she did not ‘take a stand’. They would say that God is punishing her for her sin of disobeying God in being unequally yoked.

Let us take the case of another girl, who told her family exactly what her convictions were about whom to marry. Her parents do not get a proper match as they do not have many contacts in a faith community from their own. Assume this lady remained single and has a tough life in her fifties. What would people say? They would say that God plans singleness for few and would give them His grace for handling loneliness. The worse among the lot would say, ‘She was too choosy. God does not help choosy people.’

What does this leave us with? It looks like we reason things about life from the outcomes and not through the processes. In the first case, it was absolutely irrational for educated people to engage in marriage without discussing faith issues especially if faith was an important issue to them. But we would praise God as somehow it worked out well. In the second case the process adopted was similar to first case, but the outcome was bad. We are quick to pick the mistake of one responsible- namely the suffering individual. In our objectivity we highlight reasons and forget to give needed support. In the third case, the process probably was right but outcome was not desirable. We conveniently put the responsibility on God himself!

Lessons:

(From the perspective of sufferers) Do whatever you want. If it works out, say ‘Praise God’. People will resonate with you. If it does not work out, repent if you were wrong. God will forgive you, don’t worry. If you were right, it is indeed painful. Cry out to God. God comforts us too. Just one thing-don’t bother about what people say. They either don’t know stuff or they don’t care. This is not a view I personally would endorse but I see it in practice, quite successfully.

(From perspective of ‘others’) Don’t judge people with what happens to them. It is hardly any evidence for what they are and what they deserve. Don’t judge God based on what his people say. We thank him and blame him indiscriminately.

Posted in christian, indian society, marriage, philosophy, prayer, religion, spiritual | 5 Comments »

Lover or Prostitute?

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on November 1, 2009

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of teaching at a school of ministry. My students were hungry for God, and I was constantly searching for ways to challenge them to fall more in love with Jesus and to become voices for revival in the Church. I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe. It is a short version of the history of Christianity, and it goes like this:

Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship;

it moved to Greece and became a philosophy;

it moved to Italy and became an institution;

it moved to Europe and became a culture;

it came to America and became an enterprise.

Some of the students were only 18 or 19 years old–barely out of diapers–and I wanted them to understand and appreciate the import of the last line, so I clarified it by adding, “An enterprise. That’s a business.” After a few moments Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand. I could not imagine what her question might be. I thought the little vignette was self-explanatory, and that I had performed it brilliantly.

Nevertheless, I acknowledged Martha’s raised hand, “Yes, Martha.” She asked such a simple question, “A business? But isn’t it supposed to be a body?” I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was, “Yes.” She continued, “But when a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?” The room went dead silent.

For several seconds no one moved or spoke. We were stunned, afraid to make a sound because the presence of God had flooded into the room, and we knew we were on holy ground. All I could think in those sacred moments was, “Wow, I wish I’d thought of that.” I didn’t dare express that thought aloud. God had taken over the class. Martha’s question changed my life. For six months, I thought about her question at least once every day. “When a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?” There is only one answer to her question. The answer is “Yes.”

The Church today, tragically, is heavily populated by people who do not love God. How can we love Him? We don’t even know Him; and I mean really know Him. This should not be. We are commanded to love God, and are called to be the Bride of Christ—that’ s pretty intimate stuff. We are supposed to be His lovers. How can we love someone we don’t even know? And even if we do know someone, is that a guarantee that we truly love them? Are we lovers or prostitutes?

I was pondering Martha’s question again one day, and considered the question, “What’s the difference between a lover and a prostitute?” I realized that both do many of the same things, but a lover does what she does because she loves. A prostitute pretends to love, but only as long as you pay. Then I asked the question, “What would happen if God stopped paying me?” For the next several months, I allowed God to search me to uncover my motives for loving and serving Him. Was I really a true lover of God? What would happen if He stopped blessing me? What if He never did another thing for me? Would I still love Him?

Please understand– -I believe in the promises and blessings of God. The issue here is not whether God blesses His children; the issue is the condition of my heart. Why do I serve Him? Are His blessings in my life the gifts of a loving Father, or are they a wage that I have earned or a bribe/payment to love Him? Do I love God without any conditions? It took several months to work through these questions.

Even now I wonder if my desire to love God is always matched by my attitude and behavior. I still catch myself being disappointed with God and angry that He has not met some perceived need in my life. I suspect this is something which is never fully resolved, but I want more than anything else to be a true lover of God.

So what is it going to be? Which are we—lover or prostitute? There are no prostitutes in heaven, or in the Kingdom of God for that matter, but there are plenty of former prostitutes in both places. Take it from a recovering prostitute when I say there is no substitute for unconditional, intimate relationship with God. And I mean there is no palatable substitute available to us.

(Dr David Ryser)

Posted in christian, devotional, love, religion, spiritual | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Cultures of Depression

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on October 21, 2009

Here is an article written by my teacher Prof KS Jacob. It is a well articulated argument for need for a wider perspective on depressive illness.This article appeared in newspaper “The Hindu” on the 18th of October 2009.Here is the link and the article follows:-

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Diverse models of depression have been proposed and debated. Much of the confusion that exists in this area is because of disputes about the nature of mental illness. The confusion is compounded by the fact that core depressive symptoms, such as sadness and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, are also found in medical diseases, as reactions to stress and as part of normal mood.

Medical model: The medical model considers psychiatric disorders as diseases, supposes brain pathology, documents signs and symptoms and recommends treatments. The disease halo reserved for the more severe forms of depression is also conferred on people with depressive symptoms secondary to stress and poor coping skills. The focus for diagnosis of depression centres on symptom counts without assessment of context, stress and coping skills. The provision of support by health professionals mandates the need for medical models, labels and treatments to justify their input. Insurance reimbursement also necessitates the use of disease labels. Consequently, psychiatric culture now tends to view all depression and distress through the disease/medical lens.

Perceptions in primary care: Patients visit general practitioners (GPs) when they are disturbed or distressed, when they are in pain or are worried about the implication of their symptoms. Bereavement, marital discord, inability to cope at work and financial problems also lead people to seek help from their doctors. In this context, the major challenge is to distinguish between distress and depression. Depression in patients encountered by GPs is often viewed as a result of personal and social stress, lifestyle choices or a product of habitual maladaptive patterns of behaviour. Consequently, GPs often subscribe to psychological and social models of depression.

Population perspectives: Social adversity is often seen as a cause of depression by the general population. Under such circumstances, people are reluctant to consult their GPs, counseling is the preferred treatment and antidepressants are viewed with suspicion by patients as they are considered addictive. Religious models are also popular. The general population seems to simultaneously hold multiple (and often contradictory) models of illness. They seek diverse treatments from assorted centres offering healing. The protracted course of depression secondary to chronic stress, lifestyle and poor coping results in people shopping for varied solutions.

Pharmaceutical approach: The pharmaceutical industry has espoused the cause of the medical model for depression. It has aided and abetted the medicalisation of personal and social distress to its advantage. Sponsoring educational activities and professional psychiatric and user meetings and conferences have helped shape medical and patient opinions. While pharmaceutical companies play a major role in the development and testing of new treatments firmly rooted in the medical model, in actual practice theirs is a culture driven by profit rather than by science.

Competing cultures: The medical model is defended by the powerful biological psychiatry movement within the specialty of psychiatry and by the pharmaceutical industry. But the other models and cultures of depression emphasising psychological and social issues are equally valid in the contexts of primary care and the community, but lack the academic clout and financial resources to present their points of view. The different ‘cultures of depression’ and the pressures from these divergent perspectives need to be acknowledged.

The issues which need to be re-examined include: (i) the heterogeneity of the concept of depression, (ii) the (in)adequacy of a single label of depression, relying solely on symptoms counts, to describe the diverse human context of distress, (iii) the need for clinical formulations which clearly state the context, personality factors, presence or absence of acute and chronic stress and extent of coping, (iv) the fact that antidepressant medication is not the solution to mild and moderate depression and should be reserved for severe forms of the condition, (v) re-emphasising the need to manage stress and alter coping strategies, using psychological treatment for people with such presentations, (vi) de-emphasising medicalisation of personal and social distress and, (vii) focusing on other underlying causes of human misery including poverty, unmet needs and lack of rights.

Clinical presentations: The syndrome of depression includes depressed mood, loss of pleasure in almost all activities, poor concentration, fatigue, medically unexplained symptoms, insomnia, guilt and suicidal ideation. Three categories of depression can be identified from a clinical and treatment point of view. The first, called adjustment disorder, is a normal reaction to acute and severe stress in people with a past record of good coping. The magnitude of the stress would temporarily destabilise many people with good coping strategies. By definition, the condition is time-limited and people usually settle back to normal lives within a few weeks or months. There is an absence of a family history of depression or suicide. The self-limiting nature of the condition means that support is all that is usually required and results in good outcome.

The second type of depression is characterised by its chronic nature (called dysthymia). Stressors, usually mild and multiple, precipitate, exacerbate and maintain the symptoms. The onset of such depression is usually in early adult life and such people usually have a long history of depressive symptoms. Their moods fluctuate and are usually responsive to changes in the environment. They also have a history of maladjustment and poor coping in response to past stress. The mainstay of treatment is psychological interventions which focus on improved coping, changes in personality, attitude, philosophy and life style.

The third category is called melancholia. In addition to the basic syndrome of depression, symptoms of melancholia include a pervasive depressed mood with minimal response to environmental change, global insomnia, early morning awakening with low mood worse in the mornings, significant loss of weight and restlessness, agitation or slowed movements. Melancholia usually occurs later in life and there may be a family history of similar depression or suicide. Such presentations may be also part of a bipolar disorder (manic depression), which has extreme mood swings, or may be due to medical, neurological and endocrine disease. The treatment of choice is antidepressant medication, management of the underlying medical causes and hospitalisation.

Management: Clinicians and psychiatrists managing patients with depression should be able to hold multiple models of depression. They should be able to appreciate the diverse cultures of depression and choose appropriate treatment strategies. Clinically, there is a need to look beyond symptoms and explore personality, situational difficulties and coping strategies in order to comprehensively evaluate biological vulnerability, personality factors and stress. The treatment package for such presentations should include psychological support, general stress reduction strategies (for example, yoga, meditation, physical exercise, leisure, hobbies) and problem-solving techniques (for example, cognitive therapy) for subjects presenting with ‘depression’. Antidepressant medication should be reserved for the severe forms of depression with hospitalisation and electroconvulsive therapy for those with high risk of harm to themselves and to others. People can present with a mixture of clinical presentations requiring a combination of approaches. A psychosocial formulation of the clinical presentation, background and context will put issues in perspective.

The progressive medicalisation of distress has lowered thresholds for the tolerance of mild symptoms and for seeking medical attention for such complaints. Patients visit physicians when they are disturbed or distressed. Grief at loss, frustration at failure, the apathy of disillusionment, the demoralisation of long suffering and the cynical outlook of pessimism usually resolve spontaneously without specific psychiatric intervention. Distress and emotions should not be mistaken for pathology; fear and apprehension should not be labeled as anxiety, or sadness as depression.

The failure of individual models and cultures to explain all aspects of depression seen in diverse settings has led to the development and use of multiple models, which argue for the need to accept the many perceptions as partial truths. These models should be viewed as complementary rather than competitive, with some being more valid in a specific context than others. Patients present to physicians with their illnesses while doctors diagnose and manage disease concepts. The failure to bridge the gap between disease and illness and healing and cure is a major cause for the contemporary confusion in the diagnosis and management of depression. There is a need for more pragmatic approaches which move beyond the specific models of depression and narrow ‘cultural’ perspectives.

( K.S. Jacob is Professor of Psychiatry at the Christian Medical College, Vellore.)

Posted in adjustment disorder, depression, Diagnosis, mood disorders, psychiatry, psychotherapy, religion, social, suicide | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Religion,Depression and Suicide:an Observation

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on July 26, 2009

Kandhamal district of Orissa is stunningly beautiful. In the peak of winter there is a place here where it snows. It is surrounded by mountains and is covered with thick forests. The air is pleasantly cold. The canvas of it’s beauty was marred by violence that struck its heart in August 2008.You may read about what happened here.

It is sad that I have not seen Kandhamal in its best of times. I have been there on two occasions.Once it was as a Medical Officer from Red Cross to look into health issues in Nuagam Relief Camp in November 2008. Recently I went with a team of other doctors and conducted camps in four different sites in the district.

A carpenter looks for nails everywhere. I, a novice carpenter of the mind looked for stress related mental disorders. I expected to see PTSD, Severe Depression, Anxiety disorders, Insomnias, complicated grief and suicidal ideation. What else do we expect in a group of people who have lost all their assets and have no clue what the future had in store for them?

I was wrong.I did not find even one PTSD case in about 1000 consultations that I had in the Relief Camp. Of course people were concerned about their future and were sad about the persecution they faced,but they had enormous faith in their God,who they felt allows suffering but is in control. I found that they had tent prayers everyday.

Situations have changed. The situation now is not at all as bloody as it had been. There may be tensions. There may be animosity, but the situation is now in control.The Governments are trying their best. In this state of peace, I recently went to Kandhamal again.

In this visit I  saw about 250-300 patients. I did find people with depression. I found a couple of them quite severely depressed. When we mental health workers probe about very personal thoughts and behaviors, we usually ask open ended broad questions and slowly zero-into specific areas.

In case of depression,we usually enquire if the patient feels himself to be useless & worthless, then ask if he feels lonely and helpless, then ask if he thinks that things are going to improve in future. If he says yes to these then we tell him,”when life feels so difficult many people feel it is better to die,have you ever felt like that?” If patient says yes, then we ask regarding suicidal intent,which will have a bearing on how we would manage the patient by asking ” Have you ever felt like killing yourself?”

I have seen a many people in Tamil Nadu, easily consider the thought of killing themselves when overwhelmed with stress. In a study in Vellore,the average annual suicide rate was 95 per 100 000 for the years 1994-99. The rates in adolescent males and females and those over 55 years were 148, 58 and 189 per 100 000 respectively.(The British Journal of Psychiatry (2006) 188: 86.)

In Kandhamal I had a shock.I did not find even one person consider suicide despite overwhelming adverse life events and financial distress.Individual cases were depressed clinically, but they were not feeling ‘hopeless’.Many reflected their view to be like,”Yes I feel bad.I have nothing left.I do not know what I will happen tomorrow.I wish to go back to my village to start a new life.I hope they allow me to start again.I feel sad,but I know God is there.He has helped us till now.If it were not him,I would not be here today.He will continue to take care of me and my family.Why would I kill myself and hurt God?Things will improve.We are praying.”

The pattern forced me to think if indeed religion and faith protected people from suicide and mental illness in general. Why is it that I did not find a single case of PTSD in a relief camp after a spate of bloody violence?What makes them stronger than American war veterans from Vietnam!!?

Harold G Koenig’s review in Candian Journal of Psychiatry 2009;54(5): 283–291  concludes stating that “In general, studies of subjects in different settings (such as medical, psychiatric, and the general population), from different ethnic backgrounds (such as Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Native American), in different age groups (young, middle-aged, and elderly), and in different locations (such as the United States and Canada, Europe, and countries in the East) find that religious involvement is related to better coping with stress and less depression, suicide, anxiety, and substance abuse.”

Considering suicidality in specific, an article in Journal of Affective Disorders reports that its results suggest that religious attendance is associated with decreased suicide attempts in the general population and in those with a mental illness independent of the effects of social supports.

Indeed, research validates my observation that religion does help in coping stress and prevent mental illness and decrease suicidality.

References:

1.In the name of God.

(http://www.tehelka.comstory_main40.asp?filename=Ne130908CoverStory.asp)

2. Manoranjitham et al.Suicide in India.

(http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/188/1/86)

3.Harold G.Koenig.Research on Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health:
A Review

(http://publications.cpa-apc.org/media.php?mid=793&xwm=true)

4.Daniel T.Rasic et al.Spirituality,religion and suicidal behaviour in a nationally representative sample.

(http://www.jad-journal.com/article/S0165-0327(08)00344-3/abstract)

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