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ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

Archive for the ‘women's issues’ 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.

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 »

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.

————————————————-

*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.

Posted in distress, drug therapy, education, emotion, ethics, fiction, gender, indian society, law, love, marriage, psychiatry, schizophrenia, stigma, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

The Dirty Job: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on August 27, 2010

My mother was admitted in the hospital. She had burnt herself. We went to see her every day. Our grand mother took us there. The doctors in the Government Hospital were not friendly. They would not let us stay in the burns ward for long. My mother suffered from burn injuries, which I still think were not very serious. I have seen many with worse burns make it to life. She died within a week of her admission. It was the doctors who killed her with their treatments.

Ramesh took Choti and left the village just after my mother’s admission into the hospital. Choti was born to my mother and Ramesh last year after they started living together. I think my mother knew she was going to die, even though she was conscious in the hospital. She wanted her family to take custody me and my other siblings Babloo and Moti. Her family is big. My grandma and her other children promised to take my brother. They did not want me or my sister. After all we were girls and they were afraid that we would grow up to be like our mother. I was seven years old and my sister Moti was four. An old lady in our village took sympathy on us and took us in. We addressed her respectfully as an aunt.

I missed my father and mother. My father was an alcoholic, but he loved us. He visited us every alternate day and gave us stuff to eat. My mother had wanted to keep him away from us. She used to shout at him, when she saw him meet us. I realize she too loved us. She was beautiful. We all look like our dad. Choti looked like our mom. I missed Choti too. My father never took another woman. He loved our family. A few months after mother’s death, I heard his body was found in a gutter in the neighbouring village.

This aunt who took us into her home was old. She found it difficult to control me. I was indeed naughty when I was small. I was always in the street playing with other girls. I did not help her as much as I troubled her. She put me into a hostel. I like school. I studied for five years.

In the summer holidays, I came back from hostel to be with my aunt. She was taking us to her native village. I refused. It was a dirty little village. We would have to share our room with two buffalos that they have. The smell was horrible. Instead of going I could stay alone in our village. She told her friend who lived few streets away to take care of me.

Her friend whom I called as Padma mausi took me to her house for a couple of days. She fed me well. I liked her. She took me to her aunt’s place which was few more streets away. The house had many young girls. They were all involved in dirty work. I knew that. My aunt too was involved in it, when she was young and able. There are no dirty little secrets in our village. Everything was open. Even primary school children knew what happened behind closed doors.

Our village had night school. It was where all children slept, when their mothers were busy with dirty work in the night. I knew it all, so I could tolerate it. I could accept the girls in the brothel. We played in the free time. I got good food there. It was better than what my aunt gave.

After a month, the care taker of the house called me into her room. A young man was there. She showed me to him and left the room. I was afraid. I screamed. He was strong. I could not fight. It was painful. I wept. He abused the care taker for giving him such a lousy girl like me. The care taker smiled and said, she is fresh to the trade. I was beaten that night for having shouted. Padma mausi never came again. Neither did my aunt. I was stuck there. I am now a 14 year old prostitute.

I could not leave the brothel. I was confined to the indoors. I had freedom inside. I could wear anything. I could eat as much as I pleased. I had the company of many girls, though many were older than me. Once you get used to everything you begin to enjoy what you once detested. I enjoyed the company of men. I liked the sensations of my body. When I lived in hostel, I liked Abdul. I dreamt of marrying him. His memories have got erased now. I lost the fear of men. I have seen them all. The rowdies who come and demand us for free, the police who are supposed to protect us, young men contemplating marriage, middle aged men who lost fancy for their wives and old men whose wives have died.

I was kept hidden for the fear of a police raid. I was moved from one brothel to another for protection. Indeed there was a raid and I was rescued. I was kept in a home run by the Government. Apparently my brother Babloo contacted a NGO and they had organized the rescue operation. I hate Babloo for having done this. I had adjusted to a new life. I was even enjoying it. I did not have to go to school. This rescue screwed my life up.

I was kept in this Government run home. I was not yet 18 years old, so I did not have right to be involved in this business. There were many girls like me in that home. Many of them were forced into it, just like me. They too began to enjoy their new life, just like me. They too were not getting any money, just like me. The men who came to us gave us money. We were to hand it over to the caretaker. She would give back a small amount to the older girls. The younger ones would only get food, clothing and accommodation.

After I joined the new home, they did some blood tests on us to check if I had contracted any disease namely HIV. I did not get it. The new home had a teacher who came to teach us some basic stuff. I was best in my class, as I had completed my primary school. Most other girls were dumb. I was getting irritated with their fixed schedule. I used to shout back to the teacher and the warden. They would beat me at times. They also taught us moral ways to live. I could see from the lives of our teacher and other staff that there are better ways to live.

I get confused at times about what is happening? The past and future flood me with irritation. I get tensed and do things that I later regret. I just cannot control it, when I get into that rage. Last year I broke the TV, Computer and telephone in a fit of rage. They thought I became mad.

They took me to a doctor. He admitted me in their hospital. He was a young man. He looked respectable. I saw him joking a lot with his friends in the hospital canteen, but he was serious with me. He looked straight into my eyes. He probably was mystified with my story. He had sessions with me regularly.  I avoided his eyes in the beginning. I became more comfortable with him and shared more freely. Of course I avoided many areas which were uncomfortable for me to discuss with. In fact I do not remember much of those either. He was interested in those things, as if they had a key to a treasure.

He asked me one afternoon, “You did not go to your aunt’s village because you would have been uncomfortable. Am I right?” I thought it was obvious. He then asked me, “If you had gone off to your aunt’s village, would you have gotten into this mess?” I was shocked. It is true; I would not have gotten into this puddle of shit if my aunt was around. She was old. She was in the dirty trade herself, but she was strong enough to protect us. He then said,” There are many things in life, which are uncomfortable. If we run away from them, then we would get into situations which are even more uncomfortable. Isn’t it?” I agreed.  He then added, “Can you see a difference between what feels good and what is good?” I did not understand that, but I nodded. He smiled and said “Good!”

He taught me how to relax my mind and how to ventilate my anger in acceptable ways. The day of my discharge grew nearer. He asked me of my dream. Of, what I wanted to be. I told him what I always desired, “A dancer, in the movies.” I could see his eyes sink. He was not happy. He tried to tell me that it felt good to be a dancer in the movies but it might not really be good. He said that the movie industry had risks for girls like me. He said it is likely that vulnerable people may get into wrong things.

I am sure I am not getting into bad things. I detest the dirty work myself. I would never do it to get a chance to be on silver screen. There is something called talent in this world and people would recognize and reward it. The doctor is educated. He can know what is in books. He cannot pick dancing talent. He has stereotypical beliefs on movie industry. Other girls in our hostel have danced on movie sets. They have told me that they did not have to do dirty work to get dancing chance. They told me the heroines do it not dancers.

When I got discharged, I could see that the doctor smiling. His smile was empty. It looked as if he knew something dangerous was lurking around. More knowledge spoils the mood for everyone.

Next year, they will release me from the home. I still am unable to love my brother Babloo, though he had done everything in my interest. It is probably because I fomented hatred over him just because he caused me the discomfort of moving me to the Government home from the brothel. I don’t care about Choti and Moti too. It has been many years, since I saw them. I have lost feelings for those whom I can call as a family. I can be a free bird with no restraints. I can chase my dreams. I can go to Mumbai and try my shot in movies.

Epilogue:

"The dirty job is always available."

After discharge from home she went to Mumbai to become a dancer. She fell in love with a light-boy. He left her after a year, leaving behind a two month old daughter in her hands. She was hungry and her baby had no milk to feed. She came to know why her mother sought Ramesh despite having a husband and three kids. The main roads are busy and side lanes are dark. The dirty job is always available.

PS: (added on September 25th, 2010) There is a sequel to this story ‘ Bollywood, Brothel and Being Born Again’.You can find it here.

Posted in behavioral therapy, bussiness, distress, economics, emotion, fiction, gender, indian society, personality, psychotherapy, social, stigma, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

eros@ergon.con*: a conversational story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on July 6, 2010

Recently an Indian CEO was sacked from his company because of a complaint of sexual harassment. He maintains what they had been in a consensual, flirtatious relationship that grew out of a close friendship with a colleague. This story triggered me to think on these issues.

Here is a fictitious story in form of conversations bringing out few issues which might have relevance to sexual harassment. I am no expert in this field. Though I have heard of many stories on domestic violence I have not heard much on sexual harassment. What I know is limited to conversations I have had with friends, patients and co-passengers in trains. I call the story “eros@ergon.con”.

*******

“Have you heard of what is happening?…This is bullshit going on here in our company.”

“I know. I work in Vicky’s team. I also know the reasons for all this.”

“What exactly happened?”

“See, Rashmi joined our team six months ago.”

“Is she the one we saw in the theatre last month?”

“Yes. She is the one. Remember, she was there with her boy-friend.”

“I remember being introduced to him. Ramesh is his name. He is in the accounts department…Ok. So, what did she do?”

“She has not been doing well in the job. Vikram had to admonish her for her mistakes. She felt offended. She filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Vicky.”

“Oh my goodness! I heard about that complaint but did not know the background. Anyone who knows Vicky can vouch for his integrity. It is terrible for his name to be stained like this. I wonder how he and his wife have taken this.”

“Rashmi has been roaming around with Ramesh whenever she is off duty. Their relationship is secret. Ramesh’s parents would never agree for their marriage. She is probably stressed. This gets carried to work. Instead of accepting responsibility she has used her trump card to defame Vicky.”

“Vicky’s name would clear off after the enquiries, but what about the trauma he is undergoing. She loses nothing for filing such a complaint.”

“She should be sacked for raising wrong allegation, when Vicky is cleared.”

“Some of these girls are crooked and some are just sensitive idiots. Last year, I had a complaint against me.”

“YOU!”

“Yes. It was a tough season. Our team leader Mrs Johnson wanted us to finish a job within 24 hours. She announced this at the end of the working day. It meant that I would not be going home that night. Our friend Raju was admitted in the hospital and I was to go to relieve his wife Laxmi for few hours. I was so pissed off at such untimely deadline, I pointed my middle finger as Mrs Johnson left the room. I basically meant **** off.”

“I can understand.”

“You have seen Swathi in the party two weeks ago. Didn’t you?”

“Oh! Is she the girl, who was sipping coffee when we were gulping beer in the party?”

“Yup! The very same girl. She saw my gesture. She went to Mrs Johnson and complained of this offensive gesture the next day.”

“Oh my God! What happened?”

“Mrs Johnson came and congratulated our team for staying up the whole night to finish the work. She also said that if we had not completed the job then she might have had to send us home to…as she said that she pointed her middle finger.”

“Really? She is cool.”

“We all had a good laugh.”

“Except Swathi…Perhaps.”

“We have to be sensitive to people around us. It is very true, but what if someone does not fit into our culture at all. What can we do if a person is overly sensitive? Thankfully Mrs Johnson is cool. If she was another sensitive nut, I would have had it.”

“It is a pity that Swathi could interpret a sign of frustration as a sexual gesture. But I respect her. She is good at her work and has good character. She is not like Urvashi, who sleeps with the boss to get promotions. In fact she has to do such shit to even retain her job.”

“Isn’t it interesting that everybody knows that the CEO is sleeping with a staff and nobody batters an eye lid. Urvashi’s father is a professor of Sanskrit and Indian Culture. I cannot believe how a girl like Urvashi is born into his family.”

“Who knows one fine day Urvashi might file a case in the court against the big boss for sexual harassment? Ha ha ha”

“Yes! The world would believe it to be harassment too. Poor girl…what other option does she have in this male dominated society…She had to do it…She kept it secret for long because she was stuck with fear…etc.”

“Absolutely true. These are bullshit arguments in her favour. She made her choice. She is doing this to move ahead in the corporate ladder and nothing else. If she really has some emotions for him, then she would realize with time that the CEO is just using her. Rashmi sleeping with Ramesh hurts the company in an indirect manner. It does not affect others directly. Urvashi’s sleeping with the boss is a lot different. She is growing in the ladder bypassing many worthy people. This would hurt the company more. Don’t you think so?”

“Incompetence and physical beauty put a girl at risk of being solicited for sex in her work place by people who can cover her incompetence. If she is ambitious, she uses her beauty to bait men around her to cover for her lacunae. I really do not think this kind of thing can be called sexual harassment. It is happening with the choice of the woman.”

“Whenever there is less difference between two people and the difference that a senior can make to them is huge, favours including sexual would tilt the scales. You can take the entertainment or fashion industry for example. At least this is not so much pronounced in our technological industry.

“True. In fact, the ones who can be considered as harassed because of sex like this are people like Mrs Johnson, Vikram and us. We work hard and finish our projects but we are sidelined to make way for people like Urvashi.”

“Hmmm…That is right. It is OK. In the long run we will catch up. So long as we enjoy our work and our compensation, why bother about others? Anyway, I got to go buddy. Bye for now. I will catch up with you in the mall this weekend.”

“Ok. Bye. Take care.”

************

(Inside a sub-urban train)

“Hey! What is up man? You look sad.”

“Sure. I do. I have reasons for it.”

“Want to share? You could…if you want to?”

“I got fired today.”

“Oh I see. Any reasons?”

“See, I am a laboratory technician in a college lab. I am in love with a final year student in the college. The college management feels that if they fire me they would send a strong signal to discourage romantic love inside the college.”

“Don’t mind this…Did you do something?”

“No…Nothing that you might imagine. We have not even touched each other. We know each other for the past three years. There was some Chemistry between us. We learnt more about each other over coffee. I proposed to her three months ago. She accepted. We have planned to get married after her graduation, which is two months from now…and now…I am unemployed.”

“What the hell is this? There is no complaint, no problem in your work or her studies, just arbitrary dismissal for being decently involved in love though there are marriage plans. This is surprising.”

“I am not surprised. Last month my friend gave a love letter to a colleague proposing to marry her. He got dismissed for this itself. She filed a complaint of sexual harassment.”

“Oh my God! This is ridiculous. I cannot stand this. Where do I go? Is there an escape from this kind of persecution? Looks like anyone can harass a man. A day will come when men file cases against men saying the boss is sexually harassing them. I have developed a phobia. I am going to leave working for a company. I will not start a company too, where I might have to employ people. I have to try my hand at politics. That is a safe place, where no one talks about even about the culpable ones. It is a place where the daring can brazen and the phobic can hide.”

“I don’t get you.”

“You don’t have to get me. Even I don’t get me. May be I need to consult my friends in NIMHANS $, Benguluru.”

*********

*

“Eros” in Greek means Romantic love

“Ergon” in Greek means Work

“Con” means

1. on the negative side

2. to trick; involve in abuse of confidence

$

NIMHANS- National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences ; a premier psychiatric facility in India

Posted in bussiness, distress, emotion, ethics, gender, indian society, law, love, management, social, stigma, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

A tale of two teachers: A story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on June 5, 2010

They were not just teachers they were cousins. They were lucky to get employed in the same Government run school. They spent considerable amount of time in our school, which is located in deeply rural area of Bihar, India. I knew both of them from the day of their joining. They were good at their work and were assets to our school. They worked overtime teaching village kids and encouraging their mothers. I liked them both. They were like my daughters.

Sita was the older one. She did her Bachelor’s degree before she did the certificate course in teaching secondary school students. She was able and energetic, when she joined. Her blemish less skin got scarred with pimples and got tanned in the tropical heat. By the time she struck thirty, she gained weight and lost her looks. I have seen her beauty fade right in front of my eyes. I was concerned for her marriage. How would she get married at this age in this society where all she has lost is considered important and all that she has accomplished is considered nothing?

Gita on the other hand was relatively young. She hailed from a large town. She had greater exposure. She was clear about being a school teacher. So she did her training appropriately without any ‘wastage’ of time, like doing a graduation. She was beautiful and carried herself well. She had a big family to back her. I wondered who that lucky one would be, the one who would marry her.

*********************************************************************************

Let us take a break. Do you think Sita and Gita ever got married? Take a guess and then read further.

*********************************************************************************

Yes. They did. Sita got married to a man who worked in a NGO in a tribal area. It is very far from here. It is even farther from residence of her parents and also her in-laws. He earned lesser than how much she earned here. I was concerned as she had to resign her Government job to go there.

On the other hand Gita got married in the town that she grew up in. Her in-laws and husband worked for the Government. They were rich. They could live a decent life from the money derived from their assets, even if they did not hold jobs. Her in-laws liked her so much that they did not take any dowry. (Sadly, it is a rare gesture in India.) Gita too resigned from the Government services. I was glad she could rest and enjoy life.

*********************************************************************************

Let us take a break again. How do you think these ladies fared in their marriages? Do take a moment off and think which would have been more difficult, which would have been happier, which would have brought happiness to their families?

*********************************************************************************

I would not guess if you have got it right or wrong. Let me tell you what happened. Sita left her Government job and gave up her stable salary, but she continued to do what she does best- teach. She started a small school in the tribal area where she was based. It is such a backward area, that even the Government did not have a school in a radius of 20 km around it. I am still shocked after I heard that tribal people are sending their children to study instead of using them for hunting, gathering and at their best- farming! Her husband’s development work took a quantum leap as she made in-roads into that community with education. Her parents and in-laws are proud of her as much as her husband. They may be short of material wealth but they are rich in their being. She is doing what principals like me can only dream of, even though we have a team and Government resources.

Gita resigned and rested at her new home. We teachers are as born as we are made. She taught children of her husband’s siblings and cousins, who lived in the locality. They were rich spoilt brats. Her methods were not appreciated by her relatives. She got fed up. In our school, even if a teacher beat a student, the parents always trusted our judgement. They aligned themselves to our terms of discipline in the best interest of the child. Gita lost that privilege. After all, there is a difference between teaching a rich kid and a poor kid.

Her husband loved her too much. He was very possessive of her. I am troubled to call it any other, so I fool myself calling this love. She could not visit her parents’ home without his permission, though it was just a couple of streets away. Going there alone would be such brazen behaviour that it would never be tolerated. After all, restrictions were for her safety. Her beauty conspired against her.

She had to restrict herself to household chores. She was never good at that. Her mother had pampered her by not letting her do them. While working in our school Gita escaped household chores. Her cousin Sita did the household work, while Gita attended to her personal grooming more diligently. What Gita treasured became the enemy of her life and what she avoided became her partner to escape a meaningless existence.

*********************************************************************************

I do not know what you had guessed. Let me tell you that my guess was wrong. My calculation was terribly wrong. I thought Gita was living a happy life and Sita was suffering. It is true that Sita has difficulties and Gita has comforts but that is far from reality. I wonder how I could be so wrong.

The patterns which make us anticipate outcomes may be right but these may fool us utterly at times. I also wonder if the patterns that we use are useful, if we could be wrong in both directions in both qualitative and quantitative terms. Hmmm… I would not doubt the usefulness of a pattern. Sita and Gita’s life indicates that there are more important issues than beauty and bank balance in determining soundness of a marriage and happiness in general.

Posted in education, fiction, indian society, love, philosophy, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

“There is a limit to suffering one can take. I have to poison her before she brings disgrace.”

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on April 5, 2010

She had an innocent smile of a child on her face. It was the first time I was seeing her. She was of dusky complexion, cute looks and shy behaviour. She had been on low dose anti-psychotics for few weeks. Her mother complained of her missed periods. Every day, we reassure a lot of people regarding menstrual abnormalities secondary to anti-psychotic use. As I reassured them, I could see that her mother was not satisfied. She complained of swelling in her lower abdomen. I smiled sarcastically at her ignorance. I felt she was worried thinking of menstrual blood getting accumulated down there.

Ignorance is fought with education. A couple of minutes of psycho-education could let them cool down, I thought. As I reassured them again, I noticed a smile of the patient. It was not the usual smile. It had a touch of mental retardation. I became serious. I knew she is a likely victim of sexual abuse. She was single, female, poor, beautiful and mentally disabled. I looked at her parents again. They obviously knew better than me of the possibilities. That was why they looked so distressed. They were afraid of the worst possibility- PREGNANCY.

The elderly couple also have a son. He has chronic Schizophrenia. He is dependent on them. The patient in front of me was dependent too. The grown up children cannot do any meaningful labour in the marketplace. Their mother is the bread winner. Their father is unable to work anymore because of old age. He minds the kids at home. The old lady was already in tears. I told her that she was not alone and such suffering is not uncommon. I realize these words are empty. Suffering hurts most when it hurts you.

She wiped her tears with the free end of her saree. She said “There is a limit to suffering one can take”, as she blew her nose she added, “I will have to poison her sometime, before she brings any disgrace to us.” I could understand her pain. I was shocked to see her daughter smile innocently as she heard this. I knew why this ghastly filicide had not happened till now. It is not tough to kill someone who would submit to you with a smile. It is impossible. Her mother loved her much. She just did not know how to handle her situation,  if at all there is a right way to handle it.

I wanted to send the patient for a pregnancy test. I also wanted to treat her with dignity as an individual with some ‘capacity’. So I asked her if ‘any man had come close’ to her. She agreed with a shy smile. My heart sank. Her mother nearly fainted. She reached out to the nearest bench that was available. I told them not to worry. We could find out if she is truly pregnant in the first place. Her missed periods could be due to medicine itself.

 Her parents did not want the test!!! Why?? I was shocked. They should be asking for it not me! They told me that a test would take time and if they do not go back in time, their schizophrenic son might wander away. Our OP assistant gave them an idea. Her father could return home and mother could take the patient back after the tests are over.

After a couple of hours, I saw them again. The pregnancy test was NEGATIVE. I sighed with relief. I am pro-life. I cannot think of recommending an abortion. We don’t do it in our hospital either. In fact if she was positive, I really do not know what I would/ should have done. Thank God! The old couple would not get another dependent into their family. They also did not have to kill a weak and helpless unborn child.

I told the mother to teach her to keep a distance from unknown men. Of course I know the ones who abuse are usually the known men. But here it was the case of an unknown man. Her mother told me that she had beaten her number of times to teach her that lesson. I wondered why she had to beat her daughter before an act was done! She knows her daughter and their situations better. I better not theorize how to handle these at this stage.  Anyway, now that the patient has experienced a ‘reward’ for the act, I predict she would continue to seek it. This is not my guess .It is the law of effect in maintaining behaviours called ‘operant conditioning’. I suspect that the mother understands this risk. She can never be in peace.

They left, temporarily relieved. I know God does not test us beyond what we can stand. I hope and pray they do not fail the test. We can imagine but we would never know tough it is. How could one help the patient live in safety? What should this mother do now, to prevent such happenings? What are her options given that are such daughters have right to liberty granted to them by International law like Convention on Rights of People with Disability? Where do local laws/ policies stand in situations like this?

Do comment and help me write the responses to the questions stated above in my future posts.

Posted in behavioral therapy, challenge, children, distress, ethics, law, love, mental retardation, schizophrenia, stigma, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Being a Woman, Leper and a Brahmin

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on January 9, 2010

Apologies: To all the pundits on ethics of confidentiality. This post might not be acceptable to the people that I have written about. Insistently, I write this. Consider the fact that no bad news is acceptable to the ones who make that news, be it rapists or racists. This story is real. Read it if you want to or chuck it if you don’t care. Stories that must to be told should be told.

Note: I respect confidentiality. I am a doctor, not a journalist or policeman. Therefore there is no need for me to tell the real names. The name I have used is fictitious. Also, the persons in the story are aware of my feelings towards their attitude. I hope to understand them and change their attitude for the better in my future interactions. I continue to treat this family.

Post: Being a Woman, Leper and a Brahmin

Her name is Madhusmitha Panda. She is about 50 years old. She is unmarried. Of course, who would marry her, for she had Leprosy. She had the stigmata of having had leprosy. She walked with a limp. Her toes were shrunk and her foot was deformed.

Her father retired from Government Service and receives a pension. He is about 80 years now. He is hard of hearing, but quite independent. Her mother was in her 70s and she had uncontrolled diabetes. She had no other siblings. She had few cousins, who were all married and well settled economically. The women who were married to her cousins do not take good care of them. So the three live independently in a small house. They have no other social supports.

She was an old patient of our institution. She had received MDT (multidrug therapy) and was cured of Leprosy few years ago. Our nurses have treated her of a foot ulcer a couple of months ago. She used to come on an out patient basis for dressing of the ulcer in her foot.It had healed well.

I saw her few weeks ago with a bad ulcer in her foot. Considering her situations, I felt that it would be difficult for her to come all the way from her home on a regular basis. Remember that travel costs money. I advised her to stay in Leprosy Home, a place where she could get free accommodation, food and ulcer care.Her father was not interested .He said that he would bring her regularly for dressings.

Madhusmitha came daily for dressings. Her father brought her everyday in an auto rickshaw. Over few days we realized that the ulcer is not getting better. At the same time she is developing changes in her sole indicating that there is possibility of new ulcer developing. This was because she was not giving adequate rest to her foot. Being the more able of the three, she had to do all the house hold work. Her dressings were not maintained as they had to be. We pressed them for an admission. It can be assumed that once a patient gets admitted, he/she could get some rest.

We also had asked her father to buy her MCR (Micro Cellular Rubber) footwear from the shoe maker in Leprosy Home. We told him of the costs etc.He wanted to find out, if it was available elsewhere. Even after a while, her foot did not improve. We realized he has not purchased the footwear for her. We felt irritated. He was not even willing to go to the Leprosy Home! We knew we could help her if she were admitted. When we insisted on admission, he blurted out, “How can I leave my daughter? What if someone does something?” . The nurses told me that he did not trust his own daughter. That is why he accompanied her everyday, even into the dressing room.

We had a word with her mother. We thought she could think more rationally. It made sense to admit her daughter to get treatment for free! She asked, “Do good people stay there?” I began to reason with her that most people living there are nice people. They too were suffering like her daughter. I also told her that there will be people to take care of her daughter. As I was explaining this, our nurse told me, “Sir, the meaning of her ‘good people’ is not nice people as you imagine. She refers to people of higher caste. She is a Brahmin. So, she does not want her daughter to live in a Home with lower caste people.”

I was shocked. I thought “What? Mother of a Leprosy patient was discriminating other oppressed people!!!”.Madhusmitha is not suffering with Leprosy problems alone. She was suffering for being a woman. She was suffering for being a Brahmin. Her parents think that they are being helpful and protective but they are the biggest stumbling blocks to her care. They being old cannot care for themselves. They want Madhusmitha to do all the household work. After all, she was born a woman. It is her responsibility to do the household chores. Adequate rest is therefore not possible. On the top of it, they deny her benefits of admission into a Home because of being Brahmins. Sadly again, because of associated stigma they do not want to go to the Home to buy MCR footwear.

I asked her mother, “Mousi, you said you have problems with wives of your nephews. Isn’t it?” She nodded with an expression anticipating sympathy. “Are they not Brahmins like you?” I asked. She agreed though her expression changed. I asked her, “Tell me who is better? The wives of your nephews, who being high caste Brahmins do not care for you or the tribal people and health workers in the Home, who would dress your daughter’s ulcers and take care of her, even in your absence?” There was a pause. She answered in a low tone, “Tribals”.I am glad that she could see the obvious truth.

Frankly, I felt that if that old couple die then Madhusmitha might get a better deal. Till then she would remain a Brahmin woman, who would do all the household chores, limping with ulcerated feet. She should have been born into a Tribe. She would have had a better deal.

I still cannot understand how they could discriminate against persons from tribal background when they themselves get discriminated for having leprosy. I wonder how they try to hide the identity of having had leprosy, but flaunt the identity of high caste origin.

Posted in distress, indian society, leprosy, medicine, stigma, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Lost everything & gained a new life: Turnaround in three days of Hospital Admission

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on November 28, 2009

She was an 18 year old young lady. Orphaned at an early age, she was brought up by her maternal grandparents and uncles. Her dad deserted her to remarry a woman of his choice. A couple of years ago, she dropped out from school and joined a cotton factory. She was hard working. She had savings of about Rs 35,000/- within about 3 years of work. She was attracted to a nice co-worker of hers and desired to marry him. He too reciprocated her love.

All her maternal uncles were alcoholics. They wanted to dispose her off cheaply. They arranged her marriage with a man who was already divorced and was twice her age. She was not interested in this proposal at all. The groom asked her in private if she was interested. She agreed. She knew that her uncles were listening. One of her uncles had threatened to poison himself if she did not consent for the marriage.

The marriage was over within hours. It was time for the ‘first night’. She told her husband that she would not allow him to touch her. Both of them had arguments throughout the night. Of course she managed to protect herself.  By the way even if he had raped her, it would have been legal in India. Here marriage indicates permanent consent for sex. She created a scene the next morning telling everyone that she cannot live with him. The groom’s family was aghast. They had spent Rs 1,50,000/- on the marriage. They had borne all the expenses as it was not easy for him to get proposals because of divorcee status.

They took her to a Police Station. The relatives of the girl were there too. They gave in writing that she had given a consent. They also wrote that they will have nothing to do with her, if she walks out of the marriage. They did not want  any voice in her favor to surface. One of her uncles beat up his own father with a thick stick and bruised him in areas that cannot be seen easily. He kept the old man away from the Police station. Few other uncles thought it was good to take her to a psychiatrist, so that he can change her mind. That is how she landed in my office.

I admitted her to separate her from stressful zone. She was under pressure from all sides. Her grandfather stayed in the hospital as a caretaker. She came to know that all the money she had saved during her 3 years of work was used up by one uncle. When he took the money, he had told her that he would buy her golden jewelry. She had lost almost everything now.

Her newly married husband pursued her in the hospital. He paid her grandfather money to foot the bills. She was angry with her grandpa for accepting help from that guy. She knew that it could become a liability and restrict her freedom. Poverty and want pushed her grandpa to receive the money. He began to counsel her to change her mind. After all the groom was a benevolent man! They shared their room with a patient with Schizophrenia. The mother of the patient was a 70 year old lady who had faced much difficulties in life. She too started counseling her to reconsider her decision. She was of opinion that it is better to get married to a rich man who did not have vices (whatever be his age) than remain unmarried.

The girl was fed up with all these inputs. In the hospital she had respite from torture of her uncles. She began to think more clearly. I listened to her and gave her support. I gave her little advice to remain calm and not lose her temper when her husband came. We knew he would come. We knew if he walked away from marriage then all problems would be over. Next time when her husband visited her, she remained calm and chatted with him. She explained to him that he would not be happy with her, as she liked someone else. She told him that she respected him and felt bad about what he has gone through. He tried to convince her that they could start afresh. With time he realized that it was futile to try it if she has absolutely no feelings for him. He agreed for a divorce. I do not know if it can be called a divorce. What had happened was hardly a marriage. What ever be the semantics, she would have a new life.

She was afraid of her uncles. She could no longer live in the same village. She told her grandpa that she was willing to take care of him, if he followed her. She was a skilled worker and she could easily find a job in cotton industry. He agreed. He wanted to bid good bye to few people in his village. If he were to do it, he could inadvertently give away the plans to his sons. He decided to move to a new location soon after discharge from the hospital. He would begin a new life. His grand daughter would be his care giver.

I had enormous joy in dealing with her and her grand father. They had real life problems. They had no money. They were surrounded by crooked relatives, who could not be trusted. They were on the verge of giving up. The girl had suicidal ideation and man had no idea of what was going on. A timely admission and supportive therapy filled them with hope and helped them decide what was good for them. I learnt that at times, apart from allowing ventilation of distress, all we need to do is to offer a platform for mindful thought on choices and their consequences.

Posted in adjustment disorder, alcohol, distress, indian society, marriage, psychotherapy, suicide, women's issues | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »