Shrink's Views

ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

Archive for the ‘social’ Category

Psychiatrist as a Prostitute

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on August 1, 2011

A very admirable teacher of mine said, “Psychiatrists are emotional prostitutes. They make the client have a ‘good feeling’ and get paid for giving that experience.” It might sound very crass, but there is some truth to it.

A good psychiatrist maintains boundaries in his therapeutic relationship, so as to prevent hurt and damage to the client and the therapist herself. Is it not like a wise prostitute would want a barrier to prevent transmission of diseases?

A psychiatrist would do everything to avoid being physically involved with the patient. It goes against her professional interest. Would not a prostitute be afraid of being emotionally involved with her clients? Emotional involvement for a sex worker could mean free sex with the one involved, which is bad business!

Both need contacts to earn referrals. They manage the bulk of clients with social skills more than technical skills. However to retain top class clients technical expertise is a prerequisite.

Many end up in prostitution without their choice. It may be a good finding if psychiatrists chose their profession. Interestingly there is something that makes a psychiatrist worse than a prostitute. A prostitute sells her body to serve her client but many psychiatrists sell their soul to pharmaceutical companies without the knowledge of their clients.

Sadly both prostitutes and psychiatrists get stigmatized in society. Society wrongly thinks they are preoccupied with sex when they are actually preoccupied with their business!

Intentionally the gender of the psychiatrist used here is female so as to not let men appear intellectual as psychiatrists and women appear weak as prostitutes.

Posted in gender, psychiatry, social, stigma | 22 Comments »

Marital Dyads: Likes Vs Opposites

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on June 14, 2011

Statistically the ones at extremes are at the risk of being abnormal. At least they are worth studying, as they are definitely a different group compared to the rest. Marital dyads are as innumerable as the number of couples that exist. Let us take personalities of each individual in a dyad. In a random world there would be all sorts of combinations. Most people would share some aspects of personality with their spouse but would also differ equally in other aspects. A very few dyads would be absolutely identical or polar opposites. These special groups are worth looking at.

We could call the dyads in which the personalities of the couple are identical as mirrors. The partner in the mirror knows exactly what the other person likes because he likes it too. He does it and there is joy everywhere. What is disliked is disliked by both, so it would not figure in their lives. Mirror would be very happy.

The dyads in which the personalities are totally opposite, would understandably have friction. What is liked by someone for reasons arising from his/her personality could be disliked by the other person for very valid reasons. Even if the individuals alternate in decision making, one of them would be giving up every time. To avoid this giving up, they could choose to do their own thing independently. This would mean doing less stuff together. This could indicate a lesser quality in relationship. A level of unhappiness or decreased marital quality would be part and parcel of the marriage of opposites.

Is this the end of the story? Likes make happy couples and opposites only manage to pull on. In a hedonistic world, where pursuit of happiness is the ultimate thing, this could be true. One need not only be happy when his/her choice was THE choice. One could choose to be happy letting the other choose. Not that the choice induces happiness in him, but understanding that one is letting the spouse be happy with this, could induce happiness.

Sometimes choices are not simple. They could indicate different priorities, values and judgements. Here when one gives up, he/she gives up something more than a choice. It could be painful. Such adjustments have to be made for a marriage to remain healthy. That kind of giving up leads to maturity. This opportunity to grow in maturity does not occur in the mirrors. It is a consolation and positive externality in the marriage of the opposites.

A home with opposites covers  every perspective under the sun. As they relate to friends and society they can connect with a wide range of people because of their shared understanding. They can help people much more because of this. They would enjoy a much richer social life in this world. The mirrors on the other and would connect with their own kind. Their circle would reinforce their original behaviors. They may not change much in life. They can only enjoy life of a club.

An epicurean may feel that happiness is all that is needed. What is the benefit with maturity? Growing in maturity can be a reason for someone’s happiness. The idea that happiness is the measure of a person’s life is immature.

Whatever type your spouse is you have reasons to be happy. Don’t you?

Posted in challenge, love, marriage, social | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

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 »

What is so posh about being unfashionable?

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on January 12, 2011

Being fashionable is about being influenced by the current popular trend or style. On the converse being unfashionable is not being influenced by a trend. The most fashionable ones are the people who set that trend. Isn’t it? They had dared to be different from the existing scheme of things and charted the path of their liking. Look at the unfashionable person. The unfashionable person dares to be different by being stuck to what he likes. He might be frozen in fashion of a bygone era or he might be failed trendsetter whose style did not take off.

It is not considered cool to dare to be different as you like. It is considered cool to follow the trend-setters early on before your other friends. For if something becomes very common it is no more a fashion. One has to hurry to live in that fashionable period for the longest. If you join late, then it is already time for the next fashion.

What does the current new world with its emphasis on choice promise us? – Freedom to choose. Unfortunately with its tools of advertising we choose what they choose for us. They choose what is new. If I were to choose what I like I become unfashionable. I think it is cool to be unfashionable if you still think and choose for yourself.  Are you with the tide or do you dare to be yourself?

 

Posted in bussiness, economics, social | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

New View, New Hope & New Life: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on January 9, 2011

“It was wonderful, Harsha. Your drives have improved a lot”, I said. I doubt if he heard it. He was running around with joy. Why not? He was the man of the match in his school cricket. I realized that it was this day five years ago, Savithri left this earth for me to live on alone. We had been together for more than 30 years. It had been tough for me. With both my sons being well settled abroad, I had no reason to live without Savithri.

It was then an accident happened. My friend Chakri, his wife Hamsa and his son Raman died in a bus accident. They had gone to attend a wedding in the neighbouring town. The bus collided head-on with another bus on the bridge and fell into the river. I was wallowing in my own grief after Savithri’s loss till the death of Chakri and his family shook me awake to reality of sufferings of many others.

Raman’s widow Sukku is young, beautiful and not so educated. How would she survive in this dirty world? After the funeral I invited her to bring her son and live in my home as my daughter. I suggested that she could give their home on rent to someone so that she could have some money for herself. She agreed. Some relatives did not like it. Is it not surprising that many invisible uncles and aunties become visible, when a dad or mom is found!

Harsha is Raman’s son. I teach him everything be it shlokas, cricket, school subjects or moral values. Being a retired civil engineer, I can handle many subjects. Harsha is from a good family though not an accomplished one. Chakri was not a great student. He dropped out from our school in class X. He became a watch-repair man. He was skilled in that trade. Raman too was not very good in studies. He too joined the trade and later found a job in HMT Company as a technician. They might not have been brilliant but they were always upright. One could always trust the work and word of Chakri and Raman. It is not difficult to bring up Harsha, in whose veins flows such good blood.

I have never felt as depressed after Sukku and Harsha joined me in my home. Good things cannot be limited or contained. They will find a way out to influence and affect others. About a year after Harsha and Sukku joined me at our home, I happened to visit Choklingam at his home. It was being moved. His son had sold the house. He needed capital for investment in Australia. So thought it was better to move his retired father and mother to a rented apartment and sell of the house. It was a decision worth praise in economic terms.

Chokli was a surgeon employed with the state Government. He had spent all his evenings in a busy private practice to make money to guarantee a good future for his children. His day began very early as he completed his operations of private practice before he reported for work in the Government Hospital. He sent his kids to the best tuitions available. His children studied well. He afforded post graduate education in engineering for one son, who is now in the US. He gave his daughter in marriage to an NRI based in UK. The youngest son, who had done an American MBA was setting up a business in Australia. It was he who decided to sell of the property of the father. I am glad I did not give away my property to my children before my time is done. Chokli is now dependent! He is the man who made most money among all friends.

I have seen him move from a palatial bungalow to a place which was more like a dungeon. I visited him about three months after the move. I was aghast when I found Chokli and his wife in an unconscious state. I called for an ambulance and got both of them admitted in a hospital. His wife had been having memory problems for few months now. She was diagnosed as having Dementia. Chokli had diabetes and hypertension which had led to a stroke. His children never came when told of that the parents were serious. They did give me all the possible contact numbers just in case the one I was contacting them with did not work. It was as if they did not want to miss the news of death of their parents.

Chokli improved with treatment. He still has some weakness of his left side. We were told that his wife will become dependent in the future, but her general condition improved with treatment too. Where could I leave them? Leaving them in that dirty dungeon, without anyone to care for them would be cruel. I though I could take them into my custody. I asked Sukku about it. I honestly do not know what she thought. She did not refuse. Chokli and his wife moved into our home. Sukku had to cook for more people. Our expenses increased. I started giving consultations for the local builders. Chokli joined a private medical college nearby as a faculty. The college arranged him to be picked and dropped. Sukku managed the kitchen and helped care for Chokli’s wife.

Six months ago I went to the village we all hailed from. I had some land which I had given on lease. Usually the produce of land was sold and shared between the farmer and us. I did not want rice to be sold now. I thought we could consume part of it ourselves. It would cut our costs. It had also been long since I smelt our village. I needed a break badly too. As I was walking from the bus stand to the interior of the village, I wanted to drop into a shop for a cool drink. As I bowed down to clear my get my head through the thatched roof of the shop, I saw Lakshmi. I froze for a second.

Lakshmi was one of the brightest students in my class. She was the only daughter of a small farmer. Her mother died while giving birth to her. A rare man that he was, her father did not marry again. He took good care of Lakshmi. When we were in 8th standard, she had to drop out of school. Her father had taken a loan and was not able to repay. The Zamindar wanted to marry Lakshmi in return for the waiving off the loan. Lakshmi’s father had no choice. It was everyone’s knowledge that Lakshmi was abused badly by Zamindar. He father could not tolerate the pain of his daughter and committed suicide.

Lakshmi gave birth to a baby boy. She was of course never given the status of a wife in Zamindar’s household. She was like a slave in his haveli. Her social links were all cut off. Her world revolved around her son, Rajesh. As her son grew up, he was not unlike his father. He was impulsive, irritable and hot blooded. There was a feud in their home regarding property when Rajesh claimed a share equal to Zamindar’s other sons. There was an exchange of blows. In a fit of rage Rajesh stabbed his father to death. He realized his folly and surrendered to the police. The other sons of Zamindar got Rajesh killed in Police custody. Later the police showed it as suicide.

Lakshmi lost everything. She had lost her education, her father, her son, her so-called husband, her lands, her residence and livelihood. I knew she moved out of the haveli, but I did not know what she was doing for a living.

We recognized each other in an instant. I asked her, “How are you?” “Life is going on”, she said “I make pickles and sell them in few villages nearby. I sleep in the village school. I use space near the temple for making pickles. No one says anything. I am able to make ends meet.”

Then the shopkeeper said, “Sir, she makes excellent pickles. We have stopped the bottled pickles from the town. Everyone is buying her pickles only.” I wished her luck as she picked her bags to leave to the next village. I had my cool drink and then caught up with her when she was alone.

“Lakshmi!”, I cried and added “Why don’t you come to the town and make pickles on large scale? God has given you skills and you should use it appropriately. I always knew you were capable of great things. Life treats some of us very badly. Bad times need not last a life time. We all live in the same home- Chokli, his wife, Chakri’s daughter-in-law and grandson Harsha. Do you remember Chokli and Chakri? You could join us Lakshmi. It would be great. You would be an asset to our home. You will have a room to rest. More importantly, you will have fellowship and friendship. Come and see.”

Lakshmi thought for a while as she stared into the blue sky and smiled. I took her bags full of pickles and walked back to the bus stop. Lakshmi now lives with us in our home. She has started supplying pickles to few malls here. ‘Lakshmi pickles’ has become a local brand now. She does not think of expanding now as she is also helping Sukku in taking care of Chokli’s wife.

I am wondering how much life has changed since I stopped looking at myself and my own problems and looked at others and their problems. It is not that difficulties have all disappeared but we find strength from each other as we care for one another. We are quite like firewood in a stove. When removed from others our fire dies out. When we are in touch with one another despite the weak flame, we all keep burning.

I have toyed with the idea of marrying Lakshmi. If things had gone the way I desired as a teenager, I would have married her in my youth. Things did not go that way. This was my opportunity. She was never loved in the real sense. She was always betrayed. I know she respects me. There is no reason why she should reject me. At the same time, I also think of Sukku. She is young. She has a son. If I were to think of companionship at my age, how much should she be concerned of her own needs? If she were to think of her own life, what would happen to Harsha. But anyway, her problem is different from mine. In fact if she were to get a decent young man who would accept her as she is and also the responsibilities that come with marrying her, we would be happy to get her married again. Isn’t it? So it is not wrong for me to consider marrying Lakshmi.

I mustered courage and went to Lakshmi’s room yesterday evening. I called, “Lakshmi, Do you have a minute?” Lakshmi came out and asked with a gentle smile, ‘What is the matter?” I swallowed saliva from my parched throat and said, “Nothing…nothing special…just that your pickles are very nice.”

Shloka: Verses in Sanskrit

Zamindar: Landlord

Haveli: Private Mansion

Posted in children, fiction, indian society, love, marriage, social | 1 Comment »

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 »

Love – Feeling, Reason and Choice: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on September 19, 2010

Background:

This is continuation of the story “Rights and Love”. If you have not read it, you could find it by clicking this. It was a story about a lawyer called James. His wife Agnes suffered with Schizophrenia. Under the influence of some delusions she attempted to murder him. He recovered and then took care of her. Despite all care she had not improved much. He continued to care for her despite the risk of harm that he could suffer. He surprised everyone with his love.

Love: feeling, reason and choice

It was nearly six months since Tab Clozapine was started. James reported that Agnes was doing well. She was not suspicious as before. She had started working again two weeks ago. She had put on some weight, but she got back the smile that she always had. As Agnes waited in the queue to get her medicines from the Pharmacy, James was called back by Dr Manas to the consultation room.

Dr Manas said “Mr James, I was glad to hear that Agnes is doing well. I wanted to tell you something. Do you have few minutes?” James was so happy that Agnes has improved so much. His eyes filled with tears as he said, “Of course doctor, you are always there for us. Please go ahead.”

“I have resigned my job here and I am moving to Kolkata. So I have transferred the care of Mrs Agnes to Dr Gurupreet Kaur. You have seen her during the in-patient stay. She is a fine doctor”, Dr Manas said as he looked away from James and stared into the empty sky through the window. He did not notice the crushed look on James’s face, as he nodded his head. James liked Dr Manas. He was a good doctor.

Suffering is not new to Dr Manas. He saw it every day. He was used to it. Despite his heroic efforts, his patients continue to succeed in suicidal attempts; they go off medications and relapse into full blown illness episodes. This was part of his life, but there was some suffering different about the case of Agnes and James that touched him.

“Mr James, I have seen many families with mental illness. They all care. If they did not care, the patients would not have been brought here or the family member would not have come here. I have seen people get beaten in episodes of rage. I have seen domestic violence exist in chronic form, but I have never seen one who had a brush with death because of an attempted homicide by a wife, care for his assaulter with so much of dedication and persistence. I admire you, Mr James. How do you do it? Is your marriage a love marriage?” Dr Manas inquired.

James smiled and replied, “I do not know if you could call it a love marriage. I guess you could. Agnes and I went to the same Church in Bangalore. Her parents had passed away in a road accident in her childhood. Her grandfather brought her up. He was a retired railway employee. They lived on his pension. He had multiple strokes and developed dementia. Agnes took good care of him. She used to bring him for the mass regularly. She was also active in the Sunday school.

I liked the way she behaved with children and elderly people. She was simple and had a simple lifestyle. I was interested in providing legal aid to poor people in Mumbai. I wanted to marry a girl who could fit in. I reasoned Agnes could be the right girl. I discussed this with the Church father. He was very happy. Agnes agreed to marry me. We got married after she finished her graduation. In the meantime her grandfather passed away. Then we moved to Mumbai.”

“Oh I see. Looks like you took a logical decision. Isn’t it?” Dr Manas asked.

James replied, “Yes sir. It was a 100% rational decision. I never had any flutter in my heart seeing Agnes nor did I miss sleep. In fact I have not had the feelings for Agnes that I once had for a girl…(smiles)

I had this feeling of being in love when I was in my 3rd year in the Law College. Permit me to leave her unnamed. She was the only daughter of a top criminal lawyer in Bangalore. She was obviously going to take over her father’s practice. Her father defends crimes done by politicians and their goons. She would have to do the same.

I desired a just society. If I married her, I would be aligning myself with enemies of truth and justice. I knew she was not the right girl for me.

Trust me; this knowledge did not help me lose feelings for her. I would get energized as if I had two cups of chai, if she were to just say a hello. I just cannot explain it. This ‘love’ seemed real, as I could feel it strongly. It lasted a year till she started going around with a minister’s son.” He smiled and added, “Thank God for that match! My emotions left. ”

“You said that you never had strong feelings for Agnes, but you seem to demonstrate love that I have not seen before. How is that?” Dr Manas asked inquisitively.

“Dr Manas, I have decided to love my wife Agnes. However she is, whatever she does, I will love her. I mean I would act in her interest. I might not have feelings like I had in college. I might not be as rational as when I had decided to marry Agnes. Love here is a choice I make.

In College years my feelings of love were not even in line with reason. They felt most real, but they were most deceptive. These feelings just evaporated. Imagine trusting those feelings and taking life decisions. My reason was stronger than my feeling when I decided to marry Agnes. If the situations did not change, reason would have been sufficient cause for a lasting marriage.

But things changed. You know it. I could have started a new life without her. Getting her out of prison and living with her in the same house with no one else, when she was still suspicious of me goes against sound reason. It was a choice I made to love Agnes that mattered. I thought in her interest. I had risk. I had fear. I faced it. It was ultimately a choice I made.”

“Mr James, I like the choice you made. I respect it. I appreciate it. In fact, you have inspired me to make such a choice. I normally don’t discuss my personal life with patients or their families, but I think you are different and I thought I could share this with you.

Let me first tell you that I hate Kolkata. I am a Bengali .I believe anyone who wants to work hard and grow cannot do so in Bengal. So, I always wanted to move out of Bengal.

I was involved in research which was being done in collaboration with the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata. I fell in love with a mathematician there. She was beautiful, brilliant and a Bengali. I had all reasons and all the feelings to get married. We married and were happy for few months. I then noticed that she was drawing closer and closer to her equations and was distancing herself from me. I do not suspect her for having an affair or any thing, but I felt she was not contributing to our relationship. I felt she was not valuing our relationship. Her equation was not an equality.

I got an opening here in Mumbai. I came here thinking that the distance would make her realize my absence and seek me. It did not work out. A couple of months ago I sent a divorce notice to her. Then I saw you. I saw what you were giving after having tasted what you had received. I knew this transcended reason and feelings. I thought I too should choose to love my wife.

Last month I called her and asked her forgiveness. I told her that though I hate Kolkata, I am willing to join her in Kolkata because I choose to love her. To my surprise, she wept. She felt sorry. She felt ashamed to call me and was desperately waiting for me to call. She too asked for my forgiveness as she had not been concerned for me.

She has requested a transfer to Indian Statistical Institute in Bangalore, with the idea that I can join NIMHANS. It is a matter of time that this would come through. I am glad I made the right choice. If I chose freedom as a right, we both would have lost. As I chose love, we both have gained.”

“I am so glad for you, sir. May God bless your marriage.” James blessed as a matter of fact.

Dr Manas held the hands of James and thanked him. Agnes came to the door after buying her medicines. They bid good bye to the doctor. Wiping his tears, the psychiatrist wondered when love as a choice is so beautiful and worthy, why we humans are so reluctant to choose it.

Posted in challenge, distress, drug therapy, emotion, ethics, fiction, love, marriage, psychiatry, schizophrenia, social, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Rights and Love: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on September 7, 2010

He was a tall man. Dark and young, his name was James. He came for a full cup Chai* five years ago. He never stopped coming. To him, Chai was like petrol. It kept his engine running. He made friends easily. He became friends with Rafique on the very first day. Rafique was here to buy his bundle of beedis. The minute James realized that Rafique has just discontinued studies; he spent an hour with him to get him back to school. He failed. Of course! Who can convince a thug in the making. I have been hearing Rafique’s mother Salma begging him to study properly for the past 10 years now. It was of no avail. Rafique played the fool throughout his school life. He was no different from most of the guys in Dharavi. Honestly, at his age I was like that too. I left my home in Allepy when I was younger than Rafique. My original name is Abdullah. People now call me Nair. When I came to Mumbai, I wanted to be a hero, a star.  Fate had its way. I became a chaiwala*. I work hard and earn my roti*. That is a decent life. Isn’t it? At least I did not do crime.

Even though Rafique did not take advice, he realized that James was his well wisher. He became his friend and partner in his work. James was like a student who was interested in finding out our problems. He wanted to know about our lives. He wanted to find how we decided what was right and what was wrong. He wanted to know what we did when we perceived injustice. Rafique helped him meet up people in the slum. James came twice a week and did his job. He never missed his full cup special chai in my shop.

In about a year, James started educating us about our rights. He told us about how the real system ought to work. We knew how it worked. The constable on beat was the symbol of all authority to us. Give him a free cup of chai, he would not bother you for the day. The other symbol of power we know is the neta*. His ilk come here before the elections and would never show up again. The bigger guys here keep in touch with the netas. James taught us that these fellows are there to serve us and not get served by us. He also told us about the court system. In fact, that year Police picked Zuber and locked him up. They had suspected him in some bomb-blast case. We knew Zuber as a hard working tailor. He was cool and liberal. He could have no such links. James came to our rescue. It was then that we came to know that he was a lawyer. It seems he had studied in one of the best law colleges in India. I heard it is in Banglore. To us he was like God. Zuber was back. We learnt we could fight.

He fought few other court cases for our slum people. One was a divorce of Janaki and Kadam. Kadam’s drinking was routine. He beat his Janaki black and blue. One night she fell on a doorpost and bled from her scalp. It required 4 stitches to control that bleeding. Next weekday was the day James usually came to our slum. He spoke to Janaki and other neighbors and reported to the police. Police laughed at the issue. They said domestic fights between husband and wife are normal and they should be sorted at home and not police station. With James around they anyway had to register the case. James tried counseling Kadam. I would not have even tried. Some people won’t change. Atrocities on Janaki increased. Janaki decided to leave Kadam. Where would she go in Mumbai? How would she feed herself and her little five year old son Babul? She was concerned as Babul too was getting beaten regularly. She was also afraid that he could become like his father.

James fought for her and got her a divorce and also the custody of the child. Guys like Rafique too were not very happy with the divorce thing happening. Why? Aren’t other women adjusting with alcoholic men? Aren’t other women tolerating few beatings received from their husbands? James reasoned that we all have basic rights common to all mankind. One such thing is a right to life, liberty and security. He said our liberty should end one foot away from his neighbor. Here we had Kadam always violating his wife’s right to security and exercising his pseudo-liberty. He also felt Janaki could leave her husband exercising her right to liberty. I can very well understand that. Marriage should be based on mutual continual nurturing relationship. I was sort of convinced that she had a right to break the marriage. James also found Janaki a house maid’s job in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, which is not too far from Dharavi. Kadam has died two years ago in a train traffic accident. Obviously, he should. He was totally drunk and was crossing the railway tracks. I wonder how he had survived 40 years on those tracks.

During last year’s elections most of our area’s people had gone to election campaign programs for money. There was very little business. I could have some personal time with James. I asked him about how he spent rest of the time. He said that he visited slums in Thane and Pune on a regular basis. He was doing the same thing that he has been doing to us, providing legal aid. I asked him how he managed to live. He smiled and said that few friends support him. Many of them were from a  network of Lawyers. There were others who also contributed. A dozen of them gave about Rs 1000/- each per month. That probably washed their conscience of the guilt of not doing anything for the poor. Many of those lawyers had monthly income running into Lakhs*. His wife Agnes was a teacher in a school and she earned another Rs 5000/-. They managed their livelihood in Mumbai with that money. It was difficult to imagine the kind of place that he was staying. He probably was not too better off than us.

Last year, he started coming less frequently. I was busy with pregnancy of my wife. I did not notice that I did not see him for six months. He came two weeks ago. He looked tired and worn out. His head was low as he walked past my shop.  I shouted for him, “ Saab. Chai?”  He pulled himself to the bench in my shop and sat down. I gave him his usual -special full cup Chai. He looked at me as he sipped and smiled. He looked older and mature. His dynamic force was gone. He was sober but looked to be in control. He finished his cup and went to meet others in the slum. I got busy with my work.

That evening I met Rafique. I told him that James had come that morning. I also shared my observations and expressed my wonder at the change. Rafique smiled and said, “You will never believe what he has gone through. He appears different, but this is what he really was- all the time that we saw him.” “Why? What happened? Tell me what you know”, I asked knowing very well that Rafique being close to James would know more.

Rafique narrated this story, “ Agnes, the wife of  James Sir had been suspecting him of having an affair with someone. She put strictures on where he could go, when he would be back, whom he would talk to and so on. She also felt that he was trying to kill her. Six months ago she stabbed James in his stomach with a knife. James was lucky; the knife pierced his bowels but spared his blood vessels. His neighbors heard the shriek and rescued him. They took him to Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General, Hopital in Sion. They did an operation and saved him. In the meantime his wife Agnes was arrested for attempted murder.”

“Oh! My God. It should be tough on James to go through all this”, I asked “What happened next?” Rafique said, “I am still shocked at what James has done. After his discharge, he fought for release of Agnes and won the case. He then got her treated in a psychiatric facility. They gave her shock treatment and medicines.” Rafique added, “She had not responded well to treatment. She is now on the best medicine in the world for her problem. James Sir takes her for blood tests every week. She still has not improved. She is suspicious of him even now. James Sir still lives with her, though he had to change the locality. The locals requested him to vacate. Our great lawyer chose not to fight.” I felt numbed. I could not say anything. Rafique had his cup of chai and left.

I could not sleep well that night. How can James live with his wife after what she did to him? How can he continue to be with her when she still poses a threat on his life? How can he share home with such a dangerous woman? Why can’t he divorce her and start a new life? He has helped so many people start afresh.

When he came today, I asked him, “Saab, Can I ask you something personal?” He agreed with his usual smile. “Saab, I heard what has been happening in your life from Rafique. I feel very bad about it. I want to know why you want to continue living with a person who is suspicious of you and has tried to even murder you? Can’t you choose a life of liberty that you want us to have? Why…?”

James then said, “Nair, we all have rights. Don’t you realize, if we all had our rights then nothing will be left. We all give up our rights for those we love. Don’t we? You have every right to eat from what you earn. Would you spend it eating Chicken Biryani alone or would you spend money to eat normal food with others in family? I have a right to liberty. I can divorce her as she would not allow me to be close with her, but I also have a duty to care for her. I have made a promise to be together in health and in disease, in happiness and in suffering. I will keep my promise even if it means to give up some of my freedom.

“But…You fight for our freedom”, I asked. He said, “Yes, I do fight for freedom and so many other rights. Many of our friends are unaware of their rights. If they are aware they would like to claim them. I help in raising awareness and helping fight to claim it. If someone does not want to claim a right for a different purpose, it is absolutely acceptable. It would be nice if that purpose is rational. Do you remember, last year Shinde joined BSc in Maths though he got a quota seat in Engineering. It is rare for someone to get to college level from Dharavi. Everyone scolded him. I knew he had a higher agenda. He wants to prove himself. A person who can run does not need crutches. Shinde will come up in life. He will live with self respect. Watch him. Anyway coming back to the point, rights give people a chance to make their life beautiful. Giving up your rights too can make life beautiful. In the case of me and Agnes, it is not yet beautiful. I agree I do not know what can happen to me, but that is alright. In a grand plan of people caring for their family, it is already beautiful.”

As I saw him walk away, I wondered James did give up much to be with us and has made life more beautiful for us. I found a new definition of love: That which makes the subject give up his/her rights to make life more beautiful for the object of his love.

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*Chaiwala- One who deals with Tea.

*Roti- Pancake made from wheat. Contextual translation- bread.

*Neta– Leader, usually political.

*Lakh- 100,000.

*Saab– Sir

PS:( added on 25th September 2010) A sequel to this story “Love: Feeling, Reason and Choice” can be found here.

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