Shrink's Views

ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

Posts Tagged ‘stigma’

The Spy Who Knew Himself : a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on May 18, 2012

They were those times when terror occupied the consciousness of common men. Even though the fringe elements were successful in creating mayhem, fear psychosis lasted only a short while. Life just goes on for a common man, till death comes knocking at his door. It is a privileged few who fight for causes higher than themselves. I believed that I was one such person. So I sharpened my awareness of what was going on around me. I was still a student of Electronic Engineering.

I received a message, if I would like to cooperate with the CIA as an agent. I took time and then agreed. I had to leave my home without informing my parents or my brothers. It was a secret assignment. I went to Mumbai and kept track of the movement of Taxi’s in Mumbai Central station. I learnt to communicate in a specific code. I dropped the messages in the waste paper bin near the railway reservation counter. Other agents would pick them up from there. I did my job well. They could verify the information that I was sending was true. However they can never know what is in my heart. I was serving my own national interest.

I never got paid for my services from the CIA. Occasionally they sent agents to give me messages through food packet covers. They would give me these as leftover food. The food was a bonus in those cases. I was pretty busy with my tasks at hand. I sometimes didn’t shave for weeks and understandably many mistook me for a beggar. The cops never asked me for a platform ticket. They probably knew I was a double agent. They just let me do my job. I occasionally napped in the platform itself.

Few years into the job, I realized Indian scientists perfected the BINTAAR technology, a wireless technology with which they could read my thoughts. They could know the messages I was sending the other agency. It was then that I started feeding misinformation to my primary recruiters. After all they were not doing the job they were to. There was enough knowledge in open space to know the origin of terror in the region, but they were not acting. I thought it is better to let the company waste resources by chasing some of my misinformation. I had to do this in right mix. Everyone knows that a complete liar is easily found.

I realized that even the Indian intelligence agency was not right in its intent. Some of the agents who were supposed to pass me cigarette butts would grimace looking at me. I noticed them chat about me and even make fun of me. There wasn’t a need for that. I was doing field work and was not under cover like them. They ought to have treated me with respect. I know I should not personalize issues and jeopardize national interest. I informed my handlers through BINTAAR that I was not interested in Mumbai anymore and would rather work somewhere where stress would be lighter. I wanted a break from work. I was working 24 x 7 x 12 for 10 long years. I did not want to be disturbed by any agents.

I took a train to southern part of India. I just hopped and changed trains so as to not leave a track. I posed as a beggar in town in Tamil Nadu. I lived on a street and people helped me with food. I was at times irritated with few agents moving around. I sometimes lost my cool and shouted at them. I was once approached by a nice looking guy. He offered me food. He called me to his office which he said was nearby. He walked with me at my pace. He had a genuine smile. I wondered if Intelligence agencies were recruiting psychology majors for their debriefing work. If they were doing so, it was a good thing. I was quite stressed. He made a ‘free chart’ and offered me to stay in a home in a nearby town. I agreed. Few men came in an hour’s time and took me to a home for homeless people. I qualified for it as I did not have a proper home. In a larger sense India is my home and I was free to be anywhere. They gave me medicines to help me. They also did some blood tests and found them to be normal. The detailed procedures they went through, I thought they were trying to size up a double agent. You could never trust a betrayer, no matter if he has betrayed others for you. I was in no mood to protest or even think deeply for my conscience was clear.

In a couple of days the guy who saw me came along with his seniors to our home. They were all very excited to see me. It was after a long time that I saw someone happy seeing me. They asked me about a variety of things and then finally asked me about if I had a family. I always knew about my family but it was sort of in the background. This break from work, living with a community of homeless people reminded me of the joy of family. There is nothing like the own family.

I had made our telephone number into a musical mnemonic. I rattled the number out. They made a phone call. Apparently my family left the village, but had given their new contact details. In couple of phone calls my family was traced. They came in a week’s time to the homeless home. My mother was bent with age but she mustered enough energy to come all the way. I was surprised to see how much my brothers had grown up. They told me that my father had died two years ago. It was his last wish that my brothers never give up looking for me. I bid good bye to my new friends. Before we left for our home, I visited the office of guy who debriefed me. He was in fact a psychiatrist. He wrote a letter to a local psychiatrist to follow up my care.

I have been following up locally in my town for five years now. I take an injection once in two weeks and a couple of pills. I have no interference from any intelligence agents these days. They have disconnected me from BINTAAR. I live with my brothers. I help my eldest brother in his mobile shop. I have done a course to deal with mobile repairs. I am now in mid thirties. My family wants me to get married. I feel shy but I too long to have a family of my own. I would reveal the fact that I need to take these medications for a long time before I marry anyone. One who would accept me as I am, deserves my love and commitment for life. Now I too live the life of a common man, enjoying life till death comes knocking at the door.

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This is a fictitious story of a homeless mentally ill person. References to people and agencies were coincidental.However the story is inspired by the work of CMC Vellore’s Department of Psychiatry Unit III ‘s work along with an NGO Uthavum Ullangal in caring for the homeless mentally ill.

This patient is a case of Paranoid Schizophrenia. He was a homeless mentally ill person living around the Mumbai Central Railway station. He had no links with any spy agency. It was a grandiose belief that he held. He later developed persecutory and referential delusions. He had ‘thought broadcasting’ phenomena. He also used neologism called BINTAAR meaning ‘without wire’ to explain his experience. He developed partial insight especially regarding the need for treatment. He recovered well with medical management and family support.

Mental illness is treatable. Homeless people can be reunited with their families with some effort.

Posted in challenge, fiction, love, psychiatry, schizophrenia, stigma | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Rights and Love: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on September 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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*Chaiwala- One who deals with Tea.

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

*Neta– Leader, usually political.

*Lakh- 100,000.

*Saab– Sir

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

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

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

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on August 31, 2010

Prologue:

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

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

Letter:

Depths of Hell

21st Century. Year of the Enemy

Dear Screwtape,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hail Me!

Your Father below,

Satan

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

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 »

“Can you please give me some poison?” – Part III

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on July 10, 2010

It was usual Wednesday morning. Patients on Clozapine lined up to get the investigation request signed. It is a quick process for the doctors to sign a small bunch of slips. The OPD assistant filled in those slips and gets the job done. I looked up for a moment to see the patients. I saw Murugan’s aunt. I had come to know her well by then. You can read the posts “Can you please give me some poison?” and “Can you please give me some poison?- Part II” to get the context.

The first post was about this lady who was the sole care giver for her nephew who had Schizophrenia. She was struggling for long to get him well. It required an admission into hospital to make him better. She had no supports to facilitate that. In that post I promised that old lady that I would visit her village to help her bring her nephew to the hospital.

The second post was about my visit to their village and my encounter with the patient. Though I could not bring the patient that day, the patient came to the hospital for an admission as a voluntary patient. He was started on Tab Clozapine, the most efficacious anti-psychotic drug in the world after a fully informed consent. He improved much and got discharged. The senior psychiatrist of the hospital made a rare exception to Murugan by making hospital purchase Clozapine from an outside pharmacy to be given to Murugan for free. Murugan was lucky.

He was supposed to come every week for a routine blood test. This is because the drug Clozapine is associated with a rare but dangerous side effect in which the blood cells required for fighting the germs decrease badly. In rare instances, it can cause death too. Therefore we are very careful in monitoring the counts of those blood cells every week.

Murugan’s aunt asked me how she could get his test done as he has not turned up. What?!!! A Clozapine patient has not come for the routine blood test. He could die of agranulocytsis, where his blood cells which fight infections get reduced in the blood. The fact of this risk had been explained to both of them many times. They consented to come regularly for blood tests with their thumb impressions. Our explanation should be quite fresh in his memory. How can he not come? How dare this dear lady come and ask for ‘repeat medicines’ like it had been the practice before? I had every reason to be irritated.

I asked her, “OK. Why has he not come? Did we not tell that he MUST come for blood tests? What is he doing at home?” She said softly, “He has gone to the mill.”

“Mill? Did he go for work?” I asked with surprise.

“Yes. He started working last Friday. He gets Rs 120/- per day.”

Oh my God! This guy had not worked productively in any place for the past 20 years. He never earned a rupee. From my experience in their village, I knew that he had potential to work. When I was waiting at the bus stop, I heard a man call him out. Murugan had come with me to send me off. This man told Murugan to be ready by 6.00 am the next day. Apparently, that man wanted help in keeping an eye on a four wheeler for an hour the next day in a nearby village. All that Murugan would have received for that job is a bunch of beedis (rolled tobacco leaves about ¼ the size of a cigar).

I was amazed. Murugan has got a job in a spinning mill. I remembered my co-passenger had asked me if I was looking for such a job in a mill. Murugan has successfully found such a job. I credit Clozapine for such magic. If Clozapine was to continue, then it is mandatory that he came for the test.

I pulled a small sheet of paper and wrote a note to him. “Dear Murugan, I am very happy that you have found a job. Congratulations. Your blood test is very important. Do come and get it done.” I expected them to come the next day, but Murugan came back to get the test done before we closed work that evening. I also had an opportunity to write a letter to the manager of spinning mill to kindly give him leave on Wednesdays, so that he can come for certain blood tests which are necessary for his problems.

Next week I found Murugan had not gone back for work. His aunt prevented him from delivering the letter. She thought I had probably written to the manager mentioning details of his mental illness. She reasoned that such a letter could go against him because of the stigma attached to mental illness. She felt I was uninformed about the status of the real world as I was limited to ‘high society’!

I reassured her and explained to her what I had written. Murugan then informed me that it was not only this fear but the prophet-parrot had predicted that Murugan was in a ‘bad time period’. In India soothsayers/ fortune tellers use parrots to pick cards which are supposed to bear the secrets of the future of the client. His aunt had wanted to shield him away from authorities, just in case they stopped him from work. He was as irritated about her behaviour as me. I gave her a strong dose of scolding. Poor people take even a scolding in good sense, when they think that you are a concerned person. You cannot assume this for the rich patients. The rich though can be deceived by sweet talk even if you are not really concerned.

Next week Murugan was back. He had delivered the letter to his manager. His manager was okay with a weekly ‘off’ on Wednesdays. Murugan would regularly come from now on. His aunt wanted a letter to get a weekly ‘off’ from her company too. We gave one for her too. She too would get a weekly ‘off’ on Wednesdays. From now on she can happily accompany him. I am amazed at how much difference a typed letter sent to an employer by the doctor could make to the patient. I would use this method more and check if this makes any more difference than just encouraging patients to go for work.

Murugan’s story is a miracle. It is a miracle because of Clozapine, health care workers, hospital and the spinning mill which employs him. It is thrilling not only to see a homicide and suicide prevented, but also see lives transformed when modern medicine works along with social services and occupational rehabilitation.

Does this old lady want poison, now? May be…to kill rats and cockroaches! 🙂

Posted in challenge, drug therapy, emotion, indian society, love, psychiatry, schizophrenia, stigma | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 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 »

“Can you please give me some poison?” – Part II

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on June 20, 2010

This is the continuation of the life story “Can you please give me some poison?” Please read it if you can, to get the background. It was about a lady who was the sole care giver for a nephew who had Schizophrenia. She was struggling for long to get him well. It required an admission into hospital to make him better. She had no supports to facilitate that. In that post I promised that old lady that I would visit her village to help her bring her nephew to the hospital.

I did not keep the promise. Life is quite busy in Oddanchatram. Four weeks passed and the lady came back as proxy for review. I can never forget the look on her face. It showed how much of expectation she had of me and how I had let her down. I had missed four weekends to do a job I promised. If I had a conscience, I had to do something that week.

On the third day, I wound up my work by 5.00 pm and rushed to the Oddanchatram bus-stand. I bought a large coconut bun as a gift. The bun is usually cut into eight pieces before being sold. It was not very costly. In fact it was the item with maximum volume for a given price in that bakery. I believe volume matters to the poor and price matters to the rich in judging the quality of the gifts. I had filled my mp3 player with psychology lectures, to listen during the travel. I never switched the player on, as I was sooooo excited.

I would fulfil my promise. My challenge was to bring an unwilling disturbed patient, who had never seen me before, to the hospital for an admission. I didn’t have a team to assist me. I couldn’t apply restraints. I was not carrying rapidly acting injectable antipsychotics. I heard from a Public Health practitioner that practicing psychiatry in community is like trying to control a lion in the jungle. Controlling a violent patient in hospital is more like controlling the lion in a circus, he said. I was prepared for the worst. I kept my ID card, so that I can get help from people and police…Just in case…However my plan was to talk the person into a voluntary admission.

 I reached the nearest town in an hour. I had to wait to catch a bus to her village. It was getting dark and cloudy. It could rain at any time. I had second thoughts. Is it possible for me to bring an involuntary patient through this complicated travel back to Oddanchatram in a rainy dark night? Though I could abort my mission at that time, I did not. Could I face that lady again, without keeping my promise? Only God knows if one gets another chance. In about 20 minutes, I got the right bus. I asked the co-passengers, to tell me when the right village came. A teenager told me to follow him as he was to alight in the same village. He enquired if I too was going there to find job of a daily wage labourer in the spinning mills located in that area! This is when I was wearing formal clothes and leather shoes. I consoled myself, thinking I was able to relate with him so much that he identified me as a co-worker. 🙂

Once I got down from the bus, I found a street running perpendicular to the main road. I enquired from people if it was the right place. I asked for Murugan’s *house. “Which Murugan?, they asked. Reluctantly, I said,“Mentally deranged Murugan.” I was not comfortable using such a label to identify him. His aunt had wanted me to enquire like that. She had said, “If you ask for the ‘Mentally deranged Murugan’, even the village dogs will show you the way to our house.” I was told to go near the temple, located deeper the village. It started to drizzle. I walked faster. I found a group of people in a circle, chit chatting and having fun in verandah of the village school. When I asked, they pointed to a man who was engaged in a chat with another group nearby.

 He looked like an average poor man. Thinly built and unshaven, he wore a shirt and a lungi. His lungi was pulled up so much so that it exposed his thighs. As I looked at him and his mannerisms, I understood, he could easily be an object of mockery. It was difficult for me to imagine that he could be stoned to death in the village as his aunt portrayed. He smiled innocently as I introduced myself as a doctor from the hospital where he gets his medicines from.

He was happy to receive a guest. He left his group, as he understood that he had to take me to his house. On the way he said that his aunt had brought the Injection but he could not yet get the shot, as the village nurse was not coming regularly. By then it began to pour. We ran to his house, which was not very far from that school. He was surely not as bad as I thought.

 His house had tiled roof and brick walls. It had three compartments. One was the corridor, right in front of the door. On the left was an elevated area, which was used as a kitchen on distal end and store area on the proximal end. On the right side there was another wall which had a door in the middle. The door led to a bedroom. That room had a cupboard, a chair and a trunk. Few clothes were scattered on the floor. His aunt was cooking rice at that time. She was excited when she saw me. She hurriedly cleared the scattered clothes and ordered Murugan to get me a ‘colour’. I figured out that she meant a cool drink. I told her not to bother as it was cold and raining. I had the magical thinking that rain would stop soon. Aren’t some of us are extreme optimists, especially if we take some action?

They spoke in a language called Kannada. I asked about their roots and how they came to Tamil Nadu etc. I then moved to the business of getting Murugan back to the Hospital. I knew the journey was long and difficult. I did not mind the cost of throwing the half cooked rice away to get back to Oddanchatram as fast as possible. I gave the coconut bun. Murugan was happy to take it. He asked me if it was cake!

I gave Murugan the Flufenazine shot that was due to be given. I explained the reason for my visit to Murugan. I asked his aunt about what she wanted to do. Murugan listened to everything. At last he asked me if I would be there in the hospital, if he came. It was as if he said, “If you are there, then I will come.” I got excited. At least some rapport has got established.

In my heart I was keen on taking him personally. I cannot believe judgement of a psychotic person. It could change anytime. His aunt told me if Murugan said something, he would do it. She said, “Now that Murugan knows you and likes you, I will not have any difficulty in bringing him to the Hospital.” I thought I would leave the issue at that point. This was more so because of logistic problems.

The rain showed no inclination to stop. It was already dark and getting late. If I delayed any further, could miss the last bus passing through the village. I packed and secured my mobile and mp3 player in a plastic cover. I walked to the bus stop in the heavy rain after bidding good bye. Murugan also walked right beside me. He wanted to give me a ‘send off’! I enjoyed getting drenched. The tiredness of the day got washed away, as I walked with the hope that Murugan would come to the Hospital after many years.

Three weeks later, Lo behold! Murugan and his aunt came to the hospital for an admission. We had already decided that Murugan’s aunt need not pay any money to the hospital for the in-patient care. There was an arrangement made to procure free food for him too. We explained the possible side effects of Clozapine and the need to come to Hospital weekly for a blood test, before we started him on Clozapine. He and his aunt agreed to the contract. On Clozapine, his behaviour started improving. Before we reached the full dose, I had to go to another part of the country for some work. So I did not see him at discharge. I heard that he improved much by the time of discharge.

What a joy it is to be involved in people’s lives to change it for the better. In the trip to his village I learnt much. The label of being ‘mentally deranged’ transcended even love. Even his dear aunt used it. It was not as bad as I thought. The stigma of mental illness is less palpable in villages, as people did relate with the patient. They chatted, played and smoked with him. After all, he was their friend who got ‘mentally deranged’. The picture was different from what his aunt described. Anyway, what I saw was a snap shot. I might understand these issues more in the future. Murugan comes regularly for follow up, now.

What happened after Murugan got discharged? That would be covered in a future post.

———————————————-

* Name changed

 ‘Murugan’ is a very common name in Tamil Nadu

Posted in challenge, distress, drug therapy, indian society, psychiatry, schizophrenia, stigma | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 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 »