I received a call last night. “Hi! Sis.” Me – “Oh, Hi! how are you?” MK – “I’m fine. I have a surprise for you..” Me – “Is it? You’re getting married?” MK – “No way..hahaha what a joke.” Me – “Well i’m glad you know it’s a joke. Bcoz everytime you say a surprise my heart misses a beat.” Me – “Oh! so you cleared your entrance…aah…yeah yeah…i’d forgotten…so is it?” MK – “Yes. I passed and with 76%.”
This is my younger brother MK. Who is an alcoholic -now reformed. But it is a daily challenge and a herculean one mind you. MK finished conversing with me andcalled my best friend Anne & her mother. The 2 women after my mother (india) who have prayed for this man’s best only. They were thrilled to say the least. Not that i am not. But i’m the taskmaster (mistress sounds too demeaning). so for me he has just begun to get on the long track ahead. He has many milestones to reach and that’s something i keep drilling in MK’s mind.
16 years or may be few years more must be a haze for MK. They are imprinted in my mind. People say forget andforgive. I would like to. But it is also said Don’t ever forget your past, history. My family’s hoistory, mine, that of my parents the family house…all is interconnected. The near to 2 decades of a younger brother who should’ve done something for himself, instead was busy in a drunken stupor is easy to be forgotten, yes. But the memories and incidents involving his certain acts, not possible to forget. Also i do NOT have intentions of allowing him to forget. He shouldn’t ever forget. God forbid, something of this sort shouldn’t even come on any one’s enemies. Also, MK shouldn’t forget how he wasted his life’s precious nearly 17 yrs which could’ve been brilliant. My best years were of my college moments & days. Every day memorable. I could achieve Milestones because i lived life everyday. How can I let MK forget the 17 years that my only my aai-baba went through pain, guilt, shame, battling with a question everyday -When will this boy get off his drinks? How can i forget or let MK forget that he will never be able to bring back those 17 years which are kindof the best in your life? How do i let him forget that he made THE biggest mistake of his life for opting for utilitarian people, false friends who instigated him against us, the family? MK opted out of the family realising a little too late it was finally the family that had stood by him despite his drinking ways.
A bright, good looking boy MK was born after 2 sisters. Espeically after the 2nd one, me. So basically MK was god sent, plus he was born bhau beez, bhai duj or whatever. So, we were supposed to feel tremendously lucky that we have got him as in a brother. MK was a loving, handsome child. Tall andlong legs completely on lines of my mother & maternal grand mother, aai-aaji who was tall. Shapely eye brows for a boy was such fascination among the femal gender, all his teachers and mother’s friends would fall for him. Naughty he was and somehow MK always had the knack of attracting people to him.
He was nutty from the beginning. He destroyed things, fiddled with electronic gadgets and more so being spolit by the mother-aai, grandmother -aaji, the whole family and neighbourhood, he always got his way. that was the time co-incidentally that my father’s business began going downwards. Too many mouths to feed, no help on hand, baba was no wonder in a hurry to make more money. That is a different story.
So basically my brother had little to work towards. He wasn’t ever pushed to give that extra, he got it easy. If he failed, his teachers, fascinated by MK’s eyebrows andlooks would give him grace marks. All methods to ‘save’ him always were put in place. I took on people ALWAYS.
one evening my sister & I were returning from school and the whole wadi residents came running to us, “MK was taken to the police today, you know. He was lost. He hid himeslf and your family lodged a missing person’s complaint.” we were semi-amused the 2 sisters, i was spaced out most of the time, i was curious. What got him to do this. I was dying to know the mood back home. So we listened, semi-rushed me veryy excited wanting to know more from the family itself. so we ran upstairs.
I had never seen my aaij-paternal grandmother- so distraught. She was reeling under the prank played by silly prankster brother. My atya-paternal aunty had sobbed her eyes out. In between laughter she was crying. My niece had come from Pune along with this atya. They had fought & she threatened to complain so this boy went & hid behind 1 door of in parents’ room. Now we have a decently big sized house. 5 rooms, 20 ft long passage in wc we’ve played cricket and a balcony. Also, 2nd flr is NOT high in old buildings and it was easier then to slip out of the house unnoticed.
So for 4 hours the whole Kolhatkar family was on a searching spree foMK. Meanwhile that brat MK fell off to sleep behindthe door. he was oblivious to the pain, panic & drama he had caused beyond the door of that room. While all that time the search contd. And where did the family not search! The water tank, all doors except that, the whole building, other surrounding buildings, phone calls, shopkeepers were asked. other kids jumped behind the walls around. We reached home and began the whole emotional drama.
While MK slept, the whole Kolhatkar, extended families of paternal aunty, neighbours, neighbourhood, wadi and residents of neighbouring wadis began on a ‘MK search’ mission. They were dead sure, he’s got lost out of fear -wc was next to impossible- kidnapped or loitered somewhere to unknown place. They even went with MK’s picture to the godmanwho lived below our house. How god sent he was! Andwhat divine words he mouthed, “MK will be found.” Mind you, that was the day our dear aai was NOT at home. So imagine the stress weighing so very heavily on my poor aaji, atya andthe search gang. I giggled through out. I found the whole thing so selfish & comic. Yes MK has a very selfish trait..not many know that. Obviously, since he always got his way.
finally the photo was sent to the police. And then little brat MK woke up, my aunt who sat crest fallen wondering how to face her brother’s wife saw a moving shadow. She shouted an alarm, again they searched & found him. He told them all the truth. First they hugged him then wanted to beat him, wc they should have. He was of course taken to the police -this 1st time was friendly, never thereafter.
so alls well that ends well, not quite really. This is just one of the many incidents that can give you an insight into MK’s life. He made friends & their influence was fast beginning to be seen. I opposed those friendships, because they were brazenly richer, with NO class, for whose families true education didn’t matter, worse still values were never their concern. They only spulrged money, they did not earn or know how to spend sensbily. Kolhatkar family was embroiled in education, arts, fine arts, photography, music and principled family. So the writing was clearly visible to us on all the surrounding walls. Kolhatkars have always held one policy, when our own sibling is wrong, we can not blame an outsider. “Jab apna he sikka nakli nikalta hai toh samaj pe ungli kaise uthaye?” I would always tell him & even now i do so, “MK those friends have wasted their lives. Have the brains to see how much time you spend with them, how much you can imbibe from them & how much they help you to grow. You may have something good that you influence them, ok. But you have a life. So either spend minimal time wt them, laugh, talk & leave or stop talking. Draw the line clearly.” But the lines between the family & MK were being drawn then. So thick they would get that finally it became a thick wall, which MK himself found diffcult to climb over to.
He barely managed to complete his 10th. I already knew by then, that he had tasted the fine wine, dark rum & beer and that he begun liking it. Solowly that began to take precedence. He’d skip his classes & go beer binging to the beach, while we paid for his tuitions, etc. His college flopped. He deicded to work, despite shouts i supported him. On the condition, he takes a break works, sustains and goes back to studies. However the friends and their hold over him got stronger. He changed jobs worked as a chemist. Urged him to completed studies & go in for pharmaceutical or BSc. No MK preferred to be a worker. Now that was the choice he made.
He would travel to Thane, there began the complete downfall. He’d stay over, go binging. Worse still MK spoilt others in his company. Now again i can’t blame the others to fall for his charms and go out drinking wt him. MK’spersonality is attractive i admit. Meanwhile many public festivities took place annually, many binges happened more frequently then we began getting complaints. “Your son/ your brother is spoiling our son.” I’d tell my baba, “This fucking idiot has NO brains to decipher the good from bad. He could never choose good friends and now instead of blaming their children the parents & friends of those spoilt blame MK.” “When will he learn?” Don’t know and more so I believed till he realised he’s hit the bottom he would never.
In this interim period, the mother India our aai continued to support her son, to the extent that i blame her solely for what had become of him. Useless lad, drunk & burden on the family. He needed to be thrown out. My mother & i became absolutely distant. We fought severely & while i held her responsible, wc she knew & had earlier refused to accept obstinately provided him withextra money, gave him freedom, leeway & held me & babaresponsible for his condition! living in that house had become immensely difficult. My baba found it tough to deal with him.
I moved to Bangalore. During that period my aai-babahad just begun going on few of their annual visits to spend time with my sister. Nannies…grandchildren were born, their growing up so it was all another emotional pull. I returned after 9 months home andsmelt burning odour. I went near the meter i did see some shavings of wood. MK insisted he got some work done. Foundit most shocking, causeas he grew older the destructive tendency had increased mutli fold. at NO point did i know this was just the beginning.
The next few days i went aroundsniffing like a dog. I’m serious, i did do it & MK still says that he’s scared of me the most in this family primarily because of my nose & sharp detective like logic. He feels i’m born in the wrong country-one thing i agree with him. As it turned out, finally my neighbours fearing i would handover MK to police or throw him -both wc i finally did- had hidden a huge crime of his. Master Lord MK (replacing Falkland) was in drunken stupor on my parents’ bed with a cigarette in his hand. Old classic wooden bed with mattresses, blankets, etc. What he was doing no one knows. I wasn’t there. The whole thing caught fire, smoke came out. The beds had got burnt. Before the house burnt down the neighbours averted a huge disaster, something i am indebted to them for the rest of our lives. They broke open the ventilator, threw nearly a tank of water to douse that fire.
I can’t explain my anger here & may be never will. All neighbours are just few years younger to my father. This was in 1999, not like way to ago. So confronted MK. Tirades, dog house timings, rules, restrictions. All that an older sister can do before the parents arrived.
However on one of those scary days i entered the house at a time i wasn’t ‘supposed’ to if you pl. I walk into a stinky house. With a young boy who smiled into my face i entered my parents’ room. “WTF are you?” “how can you sleep in my parents room? Who allowed you in here?” I’ve NO clue who he was. Some friend, or according to me a drinking partner of MK whom he let in without my permission?
Over the next few days now i haveblurred memories & visions, i foundbrass vase missing, it was one with beautiful carvings my ajoba- paternal grandfather- had bought from Bali. He conveniently sold it. Along with a CD deck player, my Mon Blanc pen, many other things. MK my younger brother was on a total destruction path. I had a gut feel i needed to keep my aai-baba’s keys safely, away from his clutches. I wanted to ask my dear friend Altaf whether my thoughts were correct. That i’m not being cruel on a person who happens to be my younger brother but is an alcoholic. Altaf is one absobalanced person to whom i turn to for harsh truth. He thought i was late in taking this decision. “Do you know your mother’s jewellery? Do you know how much is gone or still there? What about your father’s cupboard? Do you know what’s there?” Well most answers were obviously a BIG no. Why wld i want to sneak inside my parent’s cupboards. In the 6 months they weren’t there, you won’t believe. I’d not enter the room for like months.
So i took possession of all the keys. I hid a lot of items, many i still can’t find. I lost a lot of items, then i felt really bad & wanted to kill MK for it…i’ve no remorse today. Because the worse was yet to come.
One night before going out which was supposed to be late night i had told MK to keep the door open fminside. “I was coming home late.” The word fear doens’t exist in my dictionary. Shame hereafter won’t. I was left to battle a completely double locked house. It was me alone. From 12.30 midnight to 4.00am i kept ringing the door bell, the phone. My cell battery drained out completely. I knocked, kicked, woke neighbours. The ones abovewho peered out & said why am I loud? I sat in the staircase. I went off to sleep on stairs, sitting ofcourse. Yet it was in English – slept off on the stairs. NOTHING can be more shameful than this. What did i have to fear, nothing. The person who was oblivious to this all was fast asleep, Lord MK.
I went over to my cousin’s house. I woke up the family. His wife was livid at MK. They were immensely sympathetic. They stay near by so its ok. I also stepped out because the domestic helps, workers, neighbours begin to move around. It would havebeen worse. Cousin & sis-in-law were upset i didn’t come earlier. They would’veskinned MK alive. I was waiting for it.
I finally had to ask my father to return after MK’s drinking began increasing & heard of the fire story, in addition strangers coming over to the house. Baba returned to find his wallet was cleaned dry! I told him a lot of things gone. Now here began the real problem. How to convince parents, “Your son is an alcoholic?” “you think you know everything. You think you’re most educated in this family so you have understanding the world?” Me – “Baba may be yes…have you thought of it? Why did i opt for social work? Why did i work in hosp & with a psychiatrist?” Me- “Also issue is NOT me baba, it’s MK’s alcoholism.” So i had to work on 2 fronts, baba & MK, alcoholic brother. It took a while, he finally accepted. It’s not easy mind you. Emotional frustration &Immense guilt that parents feel. Like they are responsible for their son’s alocoholism.
My aai returned in her time only. Now was still the time she was into her son. We had to start working on her. I wld have immense fights with her. I still hold her responsible for the way her son turned out. Baba too tried, we soon became villains. I was mad at her, but also empathised with her. Her 2nd daughter, me & she had hate relationship when i was growing, turns out to be her only solid support, while the apple of her eye is the one she can rely on the least. I could understand her predicament…but such is life. We have no animosity despite all this. We both can get on each other’s nerves, irritate each other, but can’t do without each other…but those months were unliveable with my mother.
By then i’d convinced my father. He saw reason, aai was still emotional. I as usual turned to Altaf. I wanted the fights to end. Because we weren’t the focus, MK was the core of all this turmoil & he had become a problem. My aai listens to Altaf. She likes him, is fond of him & it means a big deal to me bcoz we’ve had Indo-Pakwars in that house over Altaf. Yeah baba& me. Aai’s reading of people is dead right. She likes or doesn’t & she’s fond of Altaf. She knows he speaks right, even if we may not like it. She listened to him finally.
Imagine the day my parents attended the AA meeting at St Francis Xavier’s church? It was one the worst days of their lives. It is for most parents of alcoholics. Then Chetan my rainman & me exchanged notes on our brothers. Chetan told me, “Mama my brother is Mk’s older bro’ we’ve done all this, gone through it all. Bewde ka rakhwala khuda hota hai!” that is a joke among AAs. We laughed at our fates. I’d seen Chetan get depressed, emotional, upset bcoz his brother had slipped. I’ve seen it all, done it & been there! Both had seen it all.
We’d share our woes and more our families’ woes. Knowing how the women in the lives of these men havefailed to give them a kick up their backside. Slowly things got bad. We asked MK to leavethe house finally. It was a HUGE blow, he should’ve seen it coming. However MK was living in a fools’ paradise till now & would continue to do so for some more years, till he had finally got cleansed. But that aai & Baba could tell him FO, get yourself in order, then return, is something he couldn’t believe.
This was only a minor hindrance. He teamed with other alcoholics, bewdas, those whom i simply wouldn’t look at. But what’s the point? He took things, he had sold them & then continued to use his mother till he pushed her to a break point. But what he never anticipated & could’ve imagined was she’d want to kill him one day. To lead a mother to the point of being a MOTHER INDIA, you have to see the film to understand the pathos, pain that a mother who has kept her baby in the womb for 9 months, shielded him against all & made him feel like god, finally she turns totally against the same offspring & never wants to set her eyes on him…
After this gap of few months the Psalm, ‘The Prodigal son’ unfolded in front of eyes and how! I spotted MK sleeping in the building passage way. Can you imagine to what drama the persons whom you think you knew can resort to when any sort of substance –drugs or alcohol has completely over taken them? I saw for sure coz i would go for walks early in the morning. I came & told my father. The first thing was pain, shame, guilt to some extent. Remember the dramas resorted finally take toll on the very parents who are the creators of these beings. They wonder what has made them resort to such lowly acts. See, someone is so full of themselves when under the influence of any substance that they never pause to think. How can they? They are not at all in position to ‘think.’
I began talking to both aai-baba convincing them how they needn’t feel guilty, more so ashamed. They understood. It was tough to se your son sleep in the public passage while he walked away. Finally baba being the father summoned MK to the house, asked him to have a bath, eat & then talk. As usual with dog house rules, restrictions. NOTHING that would help. He needed desperate detox. I finally threw him out of the house with many more episodes of hitting the bottle.
Now is the most ridiculous part, something that hit me for a while. MK always shared everything withme. Primarily becauseI was always in the house, more vocal about my thoughts, views. Also withMK & younger M (Cousin brother) in the house, i would chat with them as elder sister buddy. Talk of adolescence, the changes, impact. I somewhere had a feeling MK was tad too close withone RS guy friend. Who like i said earlier was vella, never any male in their family had to work for a living & this feeling got rubbed off on my my bro’ lord MK. So i thought sending MK to Muktangan, the one successful detox place for substance abusers, wc is like adjacent Yerwada jail in Pune was the best choice. Again this was piece of advice from Altaf.
I strongly think till we immediate relatives accept, admit the substance abuser in the family nothing can help us face the ultimate reality. The person needs to heal self, we can only support & more so give the push. So when i finally threw him out-believe me i would’ve killed my brother at that time. I never wanted to see him again or live through any moment with him in life for sure. I told my father i want him out of my sight. He has to learn to live on his own at least, forget fend for us.
When i did, MK told me, “My friends told me don’t go out of your house MK, your sister doesn’t want you to reform, she is throwing you out because she wants to take possession of this house.” I was shocked that people have voiced their personal intentions in my name! How dare they do that? I told MK. “Think for a minute it is true. Just for your reassurance. Have you little brains? Is there no law of the land? Also can i even take over this house? With or without a will isn’t there judiciary court? Also, do you know your sister even 1%? Will Neeta ever break any law in her life?”
MK knew the truth. More importantly, my point to him is & will always be this is NOT my house, it’s our parents’ house. It is their choice whom they leave it to, even if it is a charity organisation we HAVE to abide by it, because its theirs. More so if they feel this should be a family for 3 of us then so be it, we 3 HAVE to learn to share. “So MK use your brains, think a little. This is NOT about the house, their supplier & drink buddy will be gone. Basically you are free entertainment for them, so get real whatever anyone may say you have to get out.”
That was it, MK finally landed drunk on the steps of Muktangan. He did NOT finish the detox full terms. I paid for 3 yrs for a brother’s detox programme which he did not finish. In fact after 1 detox we were forced to come & appreciate. I even told aai-baba, “We have to go and pat the back of the same person who has stabbed us, what is this way of the world?” Mk came out, father was very hopeful, mother now had become total Mother India & did not even want see her son’s face. In all this i was the person talking to the counsellors. They wanted my father to come there. We went & some relatives too came to hear the sob stories of the abusers.
My gut feel was MK was not fine. He had NO kind for his family at this talk, for him his co-abusers were the be all & only had kind words for them. I knew instantly this wasn’t detox. Why? Because i am clear the provider has a benchmark of expectation & the taker needs to fulfil it. That’s my rule & belief. I wasn’t wrong. MK began working at IT place. His computer skills surfaced. MK has the best memory for stats in our family. Although my sister was brilliant in maths, MK has a fab memory. But now he had a demeanour of a lion. He felt he’s healed & knows all. There was a trace of arrogance & again he slipped. This behavioural streak is something to be noted with abusers. They are not the original person with traits they’ve always had. The moment they slip or go back to substance abuse, they are different personalities. It’s like a split personality syndrome. They take on a persona which they may fantasize about. They get tremendously aggressive, selfish & more violent.
I began telling my parents how security is important. My sister questioned my father the need for adding new security door then. With MK’s darker side surfacing time & again i threatened him of police lock up & arrest. He overslept twice, was found drunk & twice taken to the lock up, but since his personality is attractive & did not look like a street youth he was let off. MK knows of my police contacts & political, which i’ve NEVER used despite being locked outside my own house, he is aware i could ask police to hit him too.
His counsellors tried to tell us how we should be empathetic to MK, more kind, understanding. I began talking tough with them. “My parents will not be questioned anymore or even be asked to be nice. It is time to began dealing tough with MK. He needs to take a hard look at himself. He has to reform, else we are dead for him. He cannot expect us to come & pat his back. Enough is enough. I am providing for his cure this is not for free. He has to get on with cleaning up.”
This continued for 1 more year. Then i went to visit. I made it clear to his counsellors i do not like the company he keeps of that friend RS. He is not a good influence on him, but this brother needs to realise it. It is time MK began behaving like a man. Take responsibility of his own life. Then MK began taking more interest in his life. By now he was nearing 38 years. A man who lost to substance abuse, became and alcoholic & blamed the world for it. Slow is understating the recovery process.
Yes, i am hard, i am not soft on him and have made it clear i won’t be. I’ve told him my money is investment in his life. I do NOT want the returns, but yes he owes his parents. The slow process may have begun, meanwhile came other problems. A youth who should’ve enjoyed his youth, college days with girl friends, etc and clean fun was lost in the world of alcohol. So when he reformed, got clean he was older by 17 more years but had urges of re-living those lost years. How can anyone ever bring them back? A sheer waste of a life. Suddenly MK realised from wanting to end his life 40, he wanted to live, re-live & have fun that he had missed.
I don’t want this to become about me. I have not brooded about what i lost in life. I lost the most, could never have a brother, he was always a patient or lost case who needed help. More still we lost Peace of mind as a family and it was never a home. The parents lost critical years of living in pain, shame & guilt, they spent time blaming themselves & struggling with their emotions.
I also think the recovery is slow & it needs to be because then it is sure. I wish men became more aware of their emotions, their real sexuality, sexual needs. A lot of substance abuseis because men do not understand their sexuality, or how to cope with their needs. Chetan was the one who told me & read upon that thereafter, the basic reason for substance abuseamong men often is because of the unacceptance of their sexuality. After my long talk with Chetan was the biggest challenge to sensitisemy parents more so my father about accepting his son may probably be a gay. I learnt of this because once while talking to my pilot cousin brother & his wife, she told me MK had been talking some lewd things. I had a feeling that the comments he made about RS must’ve not gone down well with the cousin & sister-in-law.
Sometimes talking about these things is tough, especially with a father who although educated, has seen the world has a set of baggage cause of the environment he grew in. So once casually in humour broached the topic of homosexuality. Then alerted him his son may be gay. It did disturb him for few days. It is bound to happen. He wanted reassurance but i’d tell him to accept it IF it was. So shared this bit with his counsellors. Now this is a sore topic between us, his dear friend RS. However the life in Muktangan took precedence over all. Finally MK began showing real signs of progress.
In the interim period many would try to tell us to change, to be lot lenient, look at him with more softness. I’d been through that. They would in turn try & convince us about how good he was! I stood rock solid. NO these were his tricks, i knew how charming he is & what all he is capable of. He rarely proved me wrong. So it was helpful, he’d land doing exactly what i’d share. So when the difference began to be seen, his counsellors too noticed the changes. They reliased i wasn’t off target.
As MK began to progress his counsellors, fellow abusers cum reformed friends began seeing his real charm & qualities. MK has always been a BIG hit with women. He has a nice smile & like my friend Anne says he has a ‘Buddha smile.’ He looks at peace now as he has dealt with his personal devils & dark side. He began giving me different shocks. Couple of times he has reads a little too much into a relationship when none existed.
MK’s come a long way. He burnt bridges with immediate family, relatives, friends. He has been the favourite with all & then to re-mend bridges takes a long time. Plus dealing with his own emotions, guilt & then the heavy burden to face the truth that “I’m no more wanted.” Repeated slipping also made relatives & friends distrust him. I’ve already made it clear i will have the right till the last minute of his death to suspect him & demand he has to give money to his parents when he begins to earns. That he has NO choice about. It’s his way of paying me returns.
Sad part is my elder sister has no play in this whole journey of MK. Its interesting to note how some people and when they happen to be your own it hurts more, cut off once married. You can’t disown your own, if at all I have the first right. She had no connection being in US. But at no point of time has been there to guide, talk, either MK or me. Not that i need. But it’s interesting how we can simply cut blood connection. She has never paused to ask & think what i may have gone through, or read stuff written by the brother about his years of stupidity & how he’s come out of it. Not a kind word to the parents who mutely witnessed this all & suffered too.
MK is 40+. But he is on way to completing his graduation. I explained to him one major point. Till you don’t study you’re a daily wage worker and will be considered in labour class. “Whether you’re from a good family or not. Till then you are bleeding the economy & me dry. Once you graduate you can move into a higher income, you add to the economy of our country. Simple logic.” He sat for the entrance exams which had to clear then only can MK sow he has moved on to be a clean person. It is a daily challenge.
Yes, i put pressure on him. He tells me sometimes “Neeta you’re putting pressure on me.” I told him we are all accountable & there is nothing wrong. After all the pressure & stress aai, baba & I have been put through, me putting pressure on him to be reasonable, unemotional, detached till he completes graduation is NO pressure. And if MK thinks so, so be it. It will exist & i will ensure he achieves this goal.
When i say the mission in my life is to give back to our society, i think THIS is one of the best ways. I can proudly say my brother won’t be a burden on teh economy & society anymore. He will no more be an alcoholic, a former only. But for that he needs to focus, he needs to see each day as a new one with newer challenges. That he is facing it is very important. Some graduate at the age of 20, its ok my brother will graduate at age of 42.