Shrink's Views

ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

Posts Tagged ‘honour’

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.

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

Killing Love and Honour

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on September 21, 2009

Lately I have been thinking about love. I might write more on that topic. Today’ s newspaper has given a new twist to my knowledge of love and its consequences.

It may be natural to fall in love. Any sane society regulates such ‘falls’ through social net norms. Everything will not be acceptable anywhere. There exists a continuum of  levels of strictness. In the world, India might be rated as a ‘strict’ country. Even in India there are ‘free’ communities and ‘strict’ communities. I have worked with Santhals, a tribe in eastern India, which is broad-minded. They would not mind their members marrying according to their choice. I also hear reports of honor killings in Haryana, a north Indian state where families kill their own kin for having trespassed the norms set by their society.

Youth have a way of getting around such problems. One method is to elope. In such a case the couple could settle in some far off land. If possible they keep in touch with few relatives. They could make a come back if situations are conducive. This would be usually after the birth of a son!

There is another way of getting around things- Kill the fellows who could kill you. This is precisely what Sonam, a 19-year-old from Haryana did with her 20-year-old boyfriend Naveen. You can read that report here.

I wondered which was a worse decision when one’s love faced with opposition. Suicide or Elopement. One was an exit from life itself, including all its pleasures . The other is an escape only from painful consequences of love. Eloping though could be easily seen as a cowardly act. If the community you live in believes in dastardly honor killings, then eloping could be a practical and life saving measure.

In such context where does Sonam’s case fit in? Is it heroic action for love? Is it an act of self defense? Or is it just barbaric?

Psychodynamically speaking depression is anger turned inward. We know that depression could lead to suicide. We feel sad when someone commits suicide. Here we see that Sonam’s case is different. Her anger was turned outside. This made her commit homicide.

We feel upset when we hear of honor killings. Deep inside few of us feel that the dead had some responsiblity in what happened. Why did these ‘fools’ fall in love? Could they not regulate their feelings? What do you do if the one you like is already married? You would carry on with your life and look elsewhere. Don’t you?  Did these people not have other options at all? Were they fully innocent? Considering all this, one might not sympathize with the ones killed.

In this case one might feel outraged at what the girl has done. She has laid to rest- her whole family! There was no evidence of them doing any wrong. Surely, Sonam was bad and detestable. Isn’t it? The answer is that we do not know. Sonam would have known her family and villagers better. I wish she avoided the ligature. She could have sedated them and then eloped. Sonam and Naveen could have started a new life in a city. Haryana could change in 10 years from now. They could have re-united with their families after many years.  It would have been a good story for a Bollywood plot. But look at what has happened. It is tragic with Sonam having very few sympathizers.

Sonam has to face the legal consequences of what she has done and so do the scores of honor killers. What we see is that in few communities people’s passion for romance or honour crosses the limits of rationality. There is a price for such insanity and somebody has to pay.

Posted in indian society, marriage, social | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »