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Archive for the ‘spiritual’ Category

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.


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


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.


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,


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

A Game of Marbles: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on July 26, 2010


Yeaaaaaah! It was a long bell. It meant we were free to go home 40 minutes before the usual time. The Sanskrit period got cut. Wow! That was good. I had an extra 40 minutes to play marbles with my buddies, till my dad came to pick me up from school. We rushed out of the classes shouting with joy, as if released from a prison. In few moments we were in the playground.

Sundar dug up small hole in the ground. That was the ‘home’ for the game of marbles. I drew a line 10 feet away. We threw our marbles towards the home and landed at different points. We all knew each other’s marbles. The marbles had a lot of similarities but had many differences as well. They were all of different colours and there were different designs inside the marbles, giving each one a distinctive appearance. The marbles had minor differences in size and mass, making them functionally different from each other too. Few marbles suffered scratches and cracks from long term use, but had sentimental values attached to them as being lucky etc.

Sundar had a beautiful blue marble. It was a delight to see the brilliantly transparent sphere which was perfect in every way. It was heavier and therefore difficult for other marbles to knock it off. We all knew it had a magical touch of luck because of which Sundar was always at command in the game.

My marble on the other hand was a simple light green marble which had bubbles of various sizes in it. It had a twisted yellowish leaf embedded in glass. It was not a heavy marble, not very attractive one because of its dull colours and scratches; it was prone to be knocked off to far distances from the home by other marbles, but it was mine for the previous one year. I liked it and endured it, though I knew that all other marbles were better than mine.

Sangram had a marble as brilliant as Sundar’s but of a different colour. Sangram’s marble was dark green, as green as a thick forest. He too did well at the game but he never liked to lose to anyone. He hated Sundar for his lucky marble. He always complained that Sundar’s victories were because of his marble and not his skill.

Darshan loved the game of marbles but never bought a marble. He watched us everyday as we played. He wished that he played. He went to the shopkeeper everyday and asked for a blue marble that was like that of Sundar. He prayed to God for the blue marble daily. He desperately wanted to play. He wanted to be in command if he played. He felt there was no point in being on losing side, even if the game were to be enjoyable. So, he waited for the blue marble.

Tejas was our class topper. He was our friend too. He was never interested in the game of marbles. He said, “What is the point in a game of marbles? You guys play trying to get to home and also keep knocking each other off from the home once you get there. The cycle goes on and on. So, playing marbles is just a waste of time. I can as well have a short nap till my mom comes to pick me up.”

I was usually a loser, as I always was trying to get back to home to get normal status rather than being in a commanding situation by knocking someone away. I never gave up, though. I always tried to get back to the home. It was difficult for me to say that I have lost or that I quit. May be that is the reason my daddy says that I would make a good scientist. It seems scientists fail many, many times before they succeed.

My friends teased me for I was a loser every day. As far as the game goes, it is true as most of the time I am in a sub-normal status. But, I am still a happy boy. Winning is fun. It is great, but playing is fun too. Trying to win is fun too. Status of being in command feels good for some time, but that status is lost as soon as someone knocks you far from home. So, it is a threatening situation. By being in losing side, I had nothing to lose. I defined success as ‘trying to get to home’ and not ‘getting to home’. In that way I was always succeeding. My friends defined success as ‘being in command’ near the home. On and off they were bound to fail, so felt irritated. To me the game was either fun or more fun, it could not be otherwise.

I was about to get to the ‘home’, I heard the horn of my daddy’s bike. One cannot miss that sound. It was time for me to say bye to my friends. I offered my marble to Darshan, if he wanted to play. He refused. On my way back, daddy asked me about what was going on. I told him everything I have told you.

He listened intently and paused for a few moments. Then he said, “Son, the game of marbles that you were playing is like living a life on this earth. We are all like marbles, different from each other in quite a number of ways, endowed with different innate abilities. When you threw the marbles, you all fell at different places from the ‘home’. The home in this world signifies – success. You were born to me and mummy. We are both educated. We can afford your English medium education in this Convent. The abilities that you were born with and the environment that you landed up in, puts you in an advantageous position to get higher education and ensure success. There are many who did not get this privilege. At the same time, we do not have resources to send you to an international school for education, which could have given you even greater exposure.”

I asked, “Isn’t that inequality in opportunities and abilities injustice?”

He replied, “We are not here to find why that difference exists. What we do with the privilege that is given to us is more important. You did the right thing, by not complaining about having a great marble like that of Sundar. You played with what you had. Though it looked as if you were losing, you did wonderful by enjoying every moment that you were playing. That is the point.”

“They were better in a way. Isn’t it, daddy?” I asked.

“Sure! Many were better. But were they enjoying it. I guess Sundar is feeling a false guilt because of attributing his successes to his marble rather than his skills. Many people want to do something great by themselves without the support of what the world has already offered to them. Noble as it may seem, it is an unending road in quest to prove oneself. It leads only to frustration. Enjoy what you have. Share it. Why bother about ‘why’ you have it?”

“Hmmm. I see it. What about Sangram?” I asked.

“Sangram was jealous and so he spoilt his own peace. Even if he won, he did not have Sundar’s marble. So, he would not be happy even on winning! On the other hand Darshan waited for the right marble, as if there is a ‘right’ marble that exists. Marbles are what you appropriate as yours and that is all. There is no ‘appropriate’ match or a ‘perfect’ marble. He should have taken a good marble from the shop and been content with it. Isn’t he missing all the fun, in anticipation of a ‘great fun’ in future?”

I enquired, “What about the brilliant boy Tejas, daddy?

“Tejas did not realize that when we played marbles, it is not to prove a point but to enjoy the game. That is it. We are out here in this world. We are free. We can as well live happily. Why worry over unanswerable questions?”

“I get you, daddy. I get you.” I said.

“Son, remember that the game can go on forever, but we might not be there till the very end. When daddy called you, you had to leave your game and come over. Isn’t it?”

“Yes, I did, Daddy.”

“Just like that we do not know when our Heavenly Daddy will call us home. We must be ready to leave our game of life at any time. We can enjoy our life. But we should play the game according to the rules. Do not forget that you should not let fellow players define the success in the game of life. Son, define it yourself, in a way you will be happy playing. Remember that after the game there is a banquet. Today mummy has made Payasam* for you. You deserve it after your success at the game of marbles. Don’t you?”

“Thank you, Daddy. I love you.”

Soon they reached home and enjoyed the Payasam. Payasam had a little less sugar than required. But they were all happy, for it was not the taste which made the dish successful, it was attitude of love with which it was made and served.

*Payasam- a south India sweet dish made with milk

Posted in education, emotion, fiction, psychotherapy, spiritual | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 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!


(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 »

Balancing the Marriage Equation

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on August 27, 2009

Let us assume that there is a  valid rating scale which rates all human beings in dimensions of their physical appearance (beauty),intelligence (brains) and economic strength (bank balance).The scale has scores ranging from 1- 10. A score of 1 or 2 in each dimension indicates ugliness, low intelligence and economic poverty. A score of 9 or 10 in each dimension indicates beauty, high intelligence and opulence.

I have a theory in my mind for the past few years regarding how people match up in marriages. It can be summarized in form an equation given below.

Beauty score (male) X Brain score (male) X Bank balance score (male) = Beauty score (female) X Brain score (female) X Bank balance score (female)

Let me translate that into plain English. Consider a very intelligent boy (brain score = 9) who is average looking (beauty score = 5), is working as a newspaper boy and lives hand to mouth (bank balance score = 2). His composite score is 9X 5 X 2 = 90. He can get a spouse with scores in any one of the following combination. My hypothesis is that though these scores can be in any dimension, the product of these in his wife would not exceed 90.

Examples of combination are 3 X 3 X 10/ 6 X 3 X 5/ 9 X 10 X 1/ 5 X 2 X 9 etc

I felt that this equation may not hold true for ones who were idealistic with socialistic and spiritual values. In my interactions with few spiritual Christians, I realized that my assumption was wrong. In fact they had a more complicated model. They had these following criteria as well. (I agree my personal observations could be biased and conclusions are not generalizable.)

Spirituality (male) = Spirituality (female)

(We could add a new Spirituality Score ranging from 1-10 for use in the above equation. This would complicate the equation even further.)

The following two are categorical variables which are supposed to match.

Calling/Vocation (male) = Calling/Vocation (female)

Religious background of family (male) = Religious background of family (female)

In addition to these the golden equation should also balance as equality on both sides for a marriage to fructify.

Beauty score (male) X Brain score (male) X Bank balance score (male) = Beauty score (female) X Brain score (female) X Bank balance score (female)

Oh my God! I thought life became simpler with faith in God, but equations governing life have gotten complex. So, I am probably missing something in my model. On deeper thought I refined my model recently.

Is there any perfect equation in behavioral/ social sciences? Probably there isn’t one. Equation of every marriage is an inequality. There is some miss-match between expectation and realization for everyone. Is it not? Whose score is objective? One might score himself 810 (9 X 9 X 10) but his wife may see him as a person with 216 (6 X 6 X 6)! So what can be done to resolve the problem…

I propose addition of a new variable LOVE on both sides.

Beauty score (male) X Brain score (male) X Bank balance score (male) +LOVE (of wife towards husband) =

Beauty score (female) X Brain score (female) X Bank balance score (female) + LOVE (of husband towards wife)

Lo behold! The equation becomes equality. Love does cover for a multitude of shortcomings.(1 peter 4:8)

What do you think about this new equation?

Posted in indian society, marriage, social, spiritual | 7 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.


1.In the name of God.


2. Manoranjitham et al.Suicide in India.


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


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


Posted in anxiety, depression, distress, grief, mood disorders, philosophy, psychiatry, religion, spiritual, substance abuse, suicide, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Loss and Meaning

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on May 31, 2009


A friend of mine chided me for my previous post saying that it comforts people wrongly in finding refuge in chance. She also felt that though the post assumed the existence of God and our human response of thankfulness was well placed, the post had hinted that God created ‘chance’ and sat distantly as world operated according to His laws of probability. This post argues from a ‘more spiritual’ vantage point.

Let us first see the following two cases:-

Case 1

A senior advised me to spend more time with one of my patients who was a brilliant engineering student from one of the IITs. My friend said “His intelligence is a risk factor for him committing suicide. Support him well and instill hope or …”

I followed this advice. The last I knew of this boy, he was doing well.

Case 2

Another therapist started his patient on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on an out-patient basis. This patient got admitted in a general hospital the very next day following a high- intention and high- lethality suicide attempt.


Loss in life is real. We might deny it, rationalize it or laugh at it, using the innumerable defenses that we have. There is another chance for some things but there are none for few. What happens, if a person fails his IAS exam in his final attempt? His years of hard work in preparing for such an exam do not find too many alternative uses. Rationally speaking those years of preparation are ‘wasted years’.

My senior friend’s point is that an IITian appraises major mental illness in himself and its repercussions on his future life more catastrophically. The difference between having an illness and not having one is huge for him. This difference might not be much for a line worker in a factory. A line worker might not have aspirations which get shattered so badly, as he might not really know what he has lost or might lose because of his illness.

A purely rational appraisal of loss might be very painful in reality. So what is the option? Do we encourage by being/keeping in dark? Do we down-play the loss? Do we offer empty hope?


Coming to terms with loss involves cognitive and emotional aspects. Coming to terms cognitively might worsen ‘pain’ as discussed above. Coming to terms emotionally by definition eases that pain. Victor Frankl said “Suffering ceases to be suffering as soon as it finds meaning”. Such a concept is not of the realm of cognition or emotion but is of a deeper level.

victor frankl

Victor Frankl

He says further “For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment”.  He suggests between stimulus of life event and the human response to it there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In that response lies our growth and our freedom.

We all have our own specific vocation or mission in life; we must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. We cannot be replaced, nor can our life be repeated, thus, our task is unique as our specific opportunity to implement it. I might call it God’s will for my life. But whatever, such view which is sometimes beyond reason, buffers us from major losses and helps us live better.

Posted in challenge, distress, emotion, psychotherapy, spiritual | 1 Comment »

Being caught on one side of the ‘cut-off’

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on May 26, 2009

Have you wondered how marks of an exam are distributed? Normal Curve? Skewed to right? or left? Ok. All answers are accepted. But wait…

Who are the ones who fail? The ones below a “cut off” point.

If the examiner feels only 50 % of the people should pass, the median would be the ‘cut off’ point. At different cut off points the percentage of people who pass and fail differs.

In Life, aren’t cut off points arbitrary? How is the person just above the cut-off better than the one just below it? Let us leave this for the moment and consider a cut-off point such that 40 students of a class of 100 students failed an exam as they got less than 30 marks.

Good news is that the school has ‘supplementary exams’. The exam can be taken again in 2 weeks time and people are given a chance to move on or they would have to repeat the course.

Hey!!! A naughty fellow is taking them for a 10 day trek into the woods. What do you think would happen, if this bunch of 40 students NEVER touched the book in 2 weeks and re-appear for the exam? Would all of them fail again? Remember, they were ‘failures’ in the first place and they wasted the time they got by enjoying themselves. They all ought to fail. Right?

Nope!!! Many of them passed. 35 of them! Only 5 failed again. How is that????

Let us confess that our performance is not stable at all times. We have our peaks and dips. In any exam the bright ones, whose dip would always be higher than the cut-off would always clear. Many average ones, when caught in the peak manage to clear the cut-off and when caught in the dip fail to do so.

Few of the ones who fail to do so, if given another chance through a supplementary exam would clear the cut-off. This happens by pure chance. It need not be due to preparation. If all 100 had re-written the exam may be a different set of 40 would have failed. The ones, who fail repeatedly, show that their preparation was inadequate that even in their peak moments they are not clearing the cut off.

Now if you have failed in your life. Don’t worry. Chance had caught you on the wrong side. There are many on the other side, who aren’t significantly different from you. They are there by chance alone. You will get to that side in a short-time with more trials. Don’t worry. Be patient.

If you have failed repeatedly, friend…you have to work harder. Your peak should go higher.

If you have passed this time and you think you are lucky, thank God. He is the one who made uncertainty a certainty. He favored you blindly as you played dice this time.

If you always pass, thank God again. You are too favored, my friend. You are on the extreme of normal curve of capability. You are here not by chance; you were designed to be here. Also be careful. Life is like a tennis match with many sets and many games. As you play more games, you will encounter dips…you might get caught below the cut off at one point. There is never a case when you need not be thankful and never a case when you need to give up.

Posted in challenge, philosophy, spiritual, statistics | 7 Comments »

“Passive God: Active Prayers” & “Active God: No Prayers”

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on May 16, 2009


I think I was about six years old that I began to detest all that which was non-material – of the kind of demons, spirits and Gods. I questioned my own thinking 10 years later when I read Physics. The way physical constants are fixed in such balance to hold the universe. I became more convinced of a ‘design’, when I studied the human body in a medical school. A design implied a designer- whom people called as ‘God’.

People of most faiths pray. In my faith too community I saw a lot of prayers. There were those who fasted regularly. There were those who prayed loudly and fervently. I felt that many prayed as if God was in a state of slumber and needed that ‘extra’ to wake him up and start doing something. Their prayers looked like tools to arm-twist God to do their will. I felt the underlying view for such praying behavior was a compromise on the doctrine of ‘Sovereignty of God’. But I did pray during those days…

I studied in a medical college in a metro city. I wondered how mission hospitals functioned, despite lacking resources of all kinds. I used to pray for God’s grace on them. Few years have passed, since those days. I now work in such a hospital. I too have constraints that many mission hospitals have. But, I survive. I see God at work everyday, by which I mean I see good outcomes happen unexplainably.

I specialized in Psychiatry. So, I had lost touch with General Medicine, Pediatrics etc. To me, reaching a diagnosis is itself a challenge, forget the treatment. It is by God’s grace that I might ask the right question, pick a right clinical sign and order a right investigation which would have a diagnostic significance. It is by God’s grace that I might remember the right treatment, drug interactions and side-effects and manage them appropriately.

It is by God’s grace that I have friends in different specialties, who clarify my doubts at any time. Even if I fail in every clinical aspect, it is by God’s grace that sick patients survive.

Despite the knowledge grace so abundant and relentless activity of God, I have been hardly praying these days…having got busy with many things. Am I now at the other theological extreme that God is active and moving, so I do not have to pray?         

Posted in challenge, devotional, prayer, spiritual | 6 Comments »