GIVE ME MY RIGHTFUL SPACE TO WALK

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Yet again I was hit by a speeding motorcyclist. Right from behind he knocked me down as he sped overtaking from the left side. His Two wrongs – speeding when other vehicles have stopped and overtaking from the left. If that was not enough he talked me down and said why I don’t I look carefully and walk. (I’m surprised he did not shout back “walk on the footpath you…”) I told him it was his fault and asked him did he not know why in India we have right hand drive? Idiot that is the reason why overtaking from the left is wrong. He argued how else should he have overtaken and that is when I said if he didn’t know that, why was he driving at all and who gave him a licence. All this happened 10 minutes away from home, Charni rd station right outside Goodluck motor training school. One of the many short cut ways to get a driving licence in this city. He got mad at me for saying what I did and asked me to go away before he lost it. By then I lost it and gave him sock on his shoulder. Obviously no one came forward to help me.

I am in a state of shock and my body has gone into trauma phase. It will take a while for it to subside. Two friends called promptly and one recommended AT200 a homeopathic medicine in such cases. By then I stood up with the body jolted and shaking. The cabbie who I had kept waiting too didn’t bother to rush forward and help me. I seriously am expecting people to behave the way I would have, which I know is a huge mistake on my part. I have picked up a lady and given her water to drink, I don’t expect public do this to me, but the least is to help the victim and take him/her aside and try to see if requires any medical help. These basic mandatory duties don’t exist and we should not expect is what cities in India tell you.

Yet again the accident reminded me how cheap and instant death can be, apart from the fact it is violent in such accidents. Small mercies nothing is broken and I am in a single piece. At that instance you don’t think of anything. Nothing you possess or want even remotely crosses your mind. You just fervently wish you remain safe and in one unbroken piece. Thankfully a slow man came forward after the motorcyclist sped away towards Marine Lines. He walked briskly towards me and repeatedly asked me to note down the number plate. My instant reaction was to open the WA chat of Mumbai Traffic Police and immediately filed a complaint. They promptly replied as my hands continued to shake post the accident. They asked me to call RTO helpline num, that is when I revealed who I am and said I have no strength to do so. A lady police officer called and politely said she had lodged my complaint and they have communicated via wireless message but said I should call RTO helpline so that next time whenever the vehicle owner goes to RTO, the complaint against him will show up. I called and lodged complaint. Of course it didn’t stop there, they then asked me to call Kalbadevi police station, which is when I said enough I’m done.

One can do all this if only one survives. I am right now still livid that walkers have NO space in this country. we are being forced to get off the roads. There is deliberate ignorance and indifference shown by authorities. Many like me believe in public transport and we love to walk, but have absolutely no place to do so. We want proper gaps in these never ending dividers. Clean subways, most often leave aside clean, the subways Do not exist. Give us proper zebra zones and force people to STOP. Just go to the signal at Kalaghoda, Bombay University, despite green signal for walkers, all vehicles break the law speeding past us. Why is it that police do NOT bother to book all those who break law? They can just monitor even on the cctv cameras. What are these cctv cameras for, to begin with? It is a pity we abled professionals are being thrown off the roads forcibly by law breaking citizens and it is being allowed by all authorities.

Now the imp nos.
Mumbai traffic police – WA num: 8454999999
RTO helpline : 1800220110

Store these in your cellphone and spread the word

Different ‘stroke’ Diwali

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It is Diwali and I wish all a wonderful Diwali and a prosperous year ahead. I finally have decided to write it all. I do not like personal intrusions for many reasons. Firstly since it is personal, whatever anyone may say that individual and their family only has to go through it. Secondly, I call it intrusion because I can’t handle people reacting in far too dramatic a way. I don’t mean to undermine their good intent but often find people are too melodramatic and emotional which, i cannot handle.

Our day began as usual. My sister was visiting us, my brother was down from Pune..so it was one different sort of Diwali, us siblings together after a decade. My parents were thrilled and especially after few trying months. My father is a recovering cancer patient. That too was detected in July, when he had a near ‘total renal failure.’ We admitted him by noon and by the end of the day, the family doctor looked shaken and colour had run from his face and asked to speak to me separately. He asked me to go and prepare my mother for the worst. When I shared the readings of his reports with my Doctor friend R, he told me it was a near TRF. Baba hates hospitals and suddenly was in the ICU, something i’ve never seen and ever want any parent to experience.

Well, my father’s family is endowed with some war genes. The way they bounce back is amazing. And the first sign is when they ask for food. Baba first asked for an idli in the morning and the sisters in the ICU said its fine, give anything but liquids. Later, he insisted on a masala dosa only from dakshinain-we believe one should have a memorable end, eat good tasty food, if alcohol permitted then the best of it, as death should be worthwhile. So contended with his food, by evening father was set to leave. Even though he was out of danger, drs wanted him to be put under observation. By the end of the second day, he came around completely. In those 10 days, he underwent innumerable tests that were gruelling and could have taken toll on him,but he was rock solid.

The news of cancer was not told to him till then. My family doctor first asked me to prepare my mother. But I was clear baba needed to know first and yes, usually the tough part of telling the harsh truth is my job. Like me, Baba too had a hunch it was cancer. My father’s mother, his older and younger sister had all died of cancer. He has an excellent sense of observation having been an ace photographer (professional). And he had picked up the leads already. He was just waiting for me to tell him. He wasn’t shocked and we discussed in details life here after, the options and time frame.

After the biopsy, endoscopy and other tests we learnt my father’s prostate cancer had spread. Now there is a good and bad to it. Bad is that it had spread a lot, affecting his urinary tract. Good part is it had not spread to his bones or vital organs. We had few options and going by his age, (was nearly 82 then), there weren’t many choices. Thankfully it pays huge dividends to have very good doctors in the family or neighbourhood. We have in our extended family and school batch, friends who are fine doctors. We took second opinion from one of the best doctor and we were told the possible treatment option and the side-effects. The fact is going by his age, doctors made it clear prolonging his life was NOT the priority, which I too 100% agreed. Our priority is to give him a good quality of life in the remaining days/weeks/months or even years. Moreover, we felt he should be most comfortable. We were told to look at the hormone therapy as the best option. I went online and read in details.

Hormone therapy is especially useful because prostate is to do with hormones, I mean that’s why we are born in the first place…now the down side to this treatment and that’s where relevance of today’s illness comes into picture. It enhances the chances of heart attack, stroke, enlargements of breasts (imagine male he first boobs), etc. What caught my eye was the stroke, heart attack bit. But you know, what was the choice? We want only the best for our loved ones. I had seen my aaji who took the stand in the fourth stage of oesophagus cancer that no needle will be pierced into her body and she died in 21 days of internal haemorrhage; both other atyas who took the medical treatment of every intervention, surgery, name it and they both suffered through it all. Or then the option of hormone injections. We opted for the last. And what a memorable period and healthy life my father has lived!

Initially he struggled to get up in his bed to even have food, then a bigger struggle after 2 weeks to take stand and even walk with the help of a walker. From August 15, there was a complete turn around. He began to move around in the house without any support, do every chore in the house, walk from one end to the other- and by Bombay standards the house is a cricket field! This was a huge improvement and we were actually relieved for him. Honestly, we had forgotten he had cancer, despite weekly urine checks and monthly blood tests with the injection and medicines.

Now, talking of Diwali. My sister was to leave on Friday night and she wanted to buy clothes from a specific shop. I had taken her to the suburbs and within minutes we got a call from brother asking us to rush back home. My brother said baba’s right side had gone numb and speech was slurred, there was pain in his head and he wasn’t normal.

Now for the symptoms- My father was watching a serial, after it got over, he stretched to pick up the remote and he felt no sensation in his fingers. My brother saw my father’s jaw shift (yes such things happen) and his right knee and right hand had gone numb, while his speech was incomprehensible. He suffered two strokes at home in half an hour. There began series of phone calls and i called two friends Dr R and my school friend. Dr R said my father has to be hospitalised immediately. And my school friend who is a HOD in Saifee said I should move him immediately to Saifee hospital because it has a full-fledged ‘stroke protocol.’ Among the many hospitals in this city, we may not be aware of which has what facilities. There are certain compulsory tests that are required before the person who suffers stoke is admitted.

We moved him for MRI and Angio and in the MRI they detected an ‘intracarnial haemorrhage’ and said it is serious. I read the word ‘haemorrhage’ and for a few minutes I went through mixed feelings. One wants only the best for one’s parents and in limited choices we had taken the best and now we were seeing the impact of that! I believe we have to accept the inevitable but when you see it unfold in front of your eyes, you feel life’s not fair. From a hale and hearty person to someone in tubes, who now has to be told, it may only get worse from here, is not fair for a man who had not seen a hospital in his life. We waited for his neurologist to come, a very senior Dr and just listening to one fact i was sure this is the best Dr. He does not carry a cellphone, he does have a number but nobody knows. He has a residence number where one has to leave a message or at the two hospitals he is attached to and he responds ASAP. This says he is a stickler for discipline which is so important. He is very senior and he is just SUPERB. Firstly he was at the hospital within forty minutes of admission, on a public holiday. He walks in with a brisk gait, absolutely soft spoken but dreaded by all. He was upfront of all possibilities and said the impact of medicines was important.

The problem detected was the blood clot was in a sensitive area of his brain, which controls vital functions-respiration swallowing, palate, speech, etc. The doctor even asked me to prepare father to get a pipe inserted for food intake. Ugh. Never in my worst dreams I’d have imagined my father in this situation. The  doctor was more diplomatic, but i told Baba what Dr had said. I had to explain how things will deteriorate and swallowing food will become hard and he may eventually choke on it, if the pipe was not inserted.  That sparked off a weird conversation on life, death and we spoke of euthanasia, Indian laws (which he thinks are absurd) and compulsions of living a life. Let me make it clear, my father is NOT the kind to want to give up or take his life. He only told me he will never want to live in that condition. He will motivate himself he said and i was confident. Believe me early next morning when i met him, his speech was fine and my father looked normal.

My school friend called the ICU head and asked for my dad’s report and the ICU head gave a green signal to shift my dad out. It was timely medical intervention that helped andhad a positive effect. The ordeal of waiting in the casualty, getting a vacancy on MRI machine, billing, admission is all a bloody time consuming process, which i battled. We lost time on it. And most of all, being a bank holiday the charges are double. Yes, it doesn’t matter for one’s loved ones, but these practical details we aren’t aware of and miss out. Processes that would cost not more than 5-6K just get doubled because these are ’emergency services’ for which specialists are required; and they work for us even on a public holiday. Despite all those procedures and yes, even the ambulance took 20 minutes to leave, we got him admitted by post noon. Dr felt we had lost vital time, then i told him father suffered third stroke in the casualty in front of the docs who had kept my dad waiting on the stretcher.

Like I said on a normal day in a normal life anything extraordinary can happen, I shudder to think what would have happened if it were not Diwali? There wouldn’t have been two more people to help me and be around for help. Human power is so important and we lack in modern changing Indian society. My brother was prompt in calling the doctor and asking us to rush back. So actually I do mean it was “A happy Diwali.” Had it not been for this festival, we all wouldn’t have been there to celebrate and be here. while one of tackled the docs, the other tied up to shift father to the hospital. It is not the best way to spend the Diwali. But now with parents ageing, i think everyday should be celebrated like a festival and i’m NOT saying it for the sake of it, I truly mean it. So live it up for your parents if they are old and celebrate each day…have a splendid festival season.

Women’s day

March 8 is Women’s day. Yes i know I’m writing few days later, all the more reason, as few events have left me perturbed.

This IS the day for women, in memory of women’s fight to get an equal footing in a male dominated society. That the ways of the world too have been scripted by men for women is a known fact. To be born in this world & live on one’s own terms & conditions, is still NOT possible for many women. My salam to all those women who have been fighting these age old barriers, stigmas & this world basically.

I can list over a 100 women who have taken it upon themselves to be before their times & make our lives easier. However this day, our fight wc is on-going is made into a commodity as the Women’s day is marketed by all & sundry.

Many frivolous media, marketing & advertising experts have marketed Women’s day. I won’t go into those details. However we celebrate this landmark day. This time it is a blot on our calendar in India.

A young student was killed at point blank range. The accused was her stalker neighbour, who bumped off Radhika Tanwar & the killer saw her die coldly & slipped away. There can be many a pros-cons. I don’t think it’s easy to pass a judgement on those who witnessed it. He had a gun, let’s not forget it so to expect all commuters to leave everything to nab the killer is asking superman qualities in normal struggling humans. I may theorise, how everybody could have spontaneously surrounded & overpowered him. But we are talking of a society, which is struggling to make peace in their lives with their own problems. A killer with a gun on the loose one’s life is imp.

So Tanwar’s killer slipped away from Delhi University campus while the rest of the world moved on & women celebrated women’s day. 3 days down & the killer is yet to be caught. I thought there was vigilance thanks to police, the CCTV cameras. I don’t know how but the man has slipped from the clutches of law initially.

Back home in Mumbai, a early 30s housewife & mother of 2 threw her children from 19th floor & then flung herself to death. Again on women’s day. I have been asking myself this question, something surely grave has happened, NOT suddenly that she motivated herself to do something as violent as this.

Imagine a lady who had to take such a step. The son who, she dangled for a while before throwing him down, truly Sad. Then that naive little girl of hers. What must’ve gone through her mind till the last moment, we will never know & what must’ve transpired there too we’ll never know. But the truth can’t get burnt on their pyre.

Something surely must’ve snapped in her mind. Nidhi saw no road at all, didn’t think there was an alternative. She didn’t share with anyone her problems, or then saw no recourse at all. With all roads blocked this lady took such a step.

Many a man said, “How could she do this?” “She’s not a good woman, mother.” “At least she should’ve spared her children.” Should she have spared them? If she were to have done that, then just killed herself? Surely Nidhi knew that all their lives her kids would’ve had to listen to the taunts- their mother was evil, society would have bad mouthed her & they’d have been left to the mercy of god.

It still gives me shudders. Years ago i covered a story of a young middle class, creative director’s daughter throwing herself from SNDT college’s terrace. Eeks. I still get goose pimples. These acts of killing are NOT acts of bravery, they also are NOT acts of losers. The person is helpless. I just can’t imagine killing myself. NO way. Nidhi was a CA. i still can’t believe why she was mentally, emotionally dependent, saw NO hope. didn’t ever think of doing something of her own – be free & happy.

It is only concrete, a true concrete jungle.. Cold & hard. Imagine the sound of banging down of bodies with a loud thud. Ouch. It hurts. Does anyone deserve this kind of a harsh death? I don’t think so.

As for Nidhi, she got her children ready while she had made up her mind, that this IS it. NO more giving life another chance. She told at home she’s going to drop the kids to school. She takes the elevator up to the top most floor. Makes the kids remove their shoes, school bags, lunch boxes; she aligns them in a line. First throws the son who apparently when Nidhi tried to get the balance kept him dangling for few seconds & he bit her as per the marks on her body.  Then imagine she picked up her tot of 3 years, threw her & in a split of a second Nidhi threw herself from the 19th floor.

Why? What is it that makes people like Nidhi do this? Since last 2 days all people are talking is she was a CA, studying MBA. She spoke to her parents & she had a friend, what kind of a lady is she? We simply don’t know what has transpired within their four walls everyday & every night. And you know what we’ll never know. The man even if by remote chance gets arrested, will go out on bail, remarry & have new children. That’s how they live a false life.

Meanwhile an artist, who works using art therapy on psychologically & emotionally affected persons told me, “She has done whatever with a very cool mind.” May be i said. But what right did she have to kill her children? ”

“She didn’t want them to suffer like her. She didn’t want them to be reminded everyday that their mother was weak, had some problem & killed herself. She chose to die leaving them behind, would’ve given them grief, plus the situation in their house would never have favoured the children.” Didn’t know that an artist could see all this through her photograph, plus the pics of the way Nidhi had arranged the shoes, kids’ school bags, etc. “The cool mind with which she planned all this shows nothing in her action was on an impulse. It was done in a calculative manner.”

After this gruesome death came news of 2 more girls’ bodies being found in suitases. There were strangulation marks, obviously some sort of consensual sex, which again is not an issue. But the fact that the men who kept a relation with them resorted to such violent behaviour.

They were not just hit or strangulated, they were murdered in cold blooded manner. AS if this violence is not enough, their bodies were then dumped in a suitcase. This is the worth of a person a man once loved? this what levels people will resort to? I’m too shocked by these events.

For all the talks, we are a peaceful nation, we love & respect women, this is contradictory. The fact is that violence on women has increased, it yet again shows we still are vulnerable. I really don’t know what we have to celebrate.

Living with an alcoholic, now former

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.