Saturday, July 8, 2017

Endless Suffering -3 (RATS)

I am now 48 in the calendar and I faced the brunt of suffering to its depths. It’s highly improbable that any human being had it dished more.
            The first part spoke about SNAKE of a mother, second part the JACKAL of a girlfriend, and now the third part of RATS for siblings.
            I am the youngest of the three: Vijayalakshmi born 1962, Latha in 1964 and Sathyanarayanan in 1969.
            Viji had the good fortune of her infant and childhood years with Janaki Paati so the SNAKE did not come in the way. V is indeed emotionally the most resilient of the three. Latha had bits and pieces of SNAKE in her infant days, she grew painfully shy till she became super confident (which is an excess in the other direction) after her marriage as she turned 24.
            Viji was always a star in our family: everyone doted on her. She was good in studies, sparkling eyes on an elegant face, inherent leadership skills that got her ahead in most crowds, my father particularly looked on her as a blessing, and even the neighbours in East Marredpalli thought she was special as she drove a car way back in 1981 still in her teens. She got married in 1983 and went off the family radar.
            Latha was painfully shy (refer part-1 for the head injury as a two year old), tall and gangling, barely passed the monthly tests in school, gritted her way to graduation by sheer force of will.  I was a big villain of her growing years: My nickname for her “39” which was the rank in her 5th standard for more than a decade for a nerve wrecking put-down and humiliation. She joined the workforce after graduation at Hilton Rubbers Limited and those got her voice going with friendly colleagues and grow in confidence as an “Accounts Assistant”.  L was a huge devotee of Santoshi Maa with those never ending “Friday” fasts, finally those paid off as she married Basker and leaving the nest in 1989.
            Anyone would have thought that both graduates would have an independent streak of mind. They fail to read the situation even today: That father was a fool infatuated to a sick and diseased crazy woman for a wife who drove him to a premature death. They also fail to grasp that AMMA was mighty sick and unfit for human consumption. Where they failed most was with respect to me.
            By 1992 it was clear that I had a bipolar disorder; career and marriage at once out of the window.  Latha now married and two kids just turned the other way.  The mother and son troubles at Besant Nagar never reached her ears and even if it did she chose to look the other way. Her life was a straight line of rail tracks and a blinkered horse: I, me, myself, my husband and my two sons. Others might as well take a walk and drown. And once an individual vibrates this level of SELFISHNESS others perceive the signs and sure enough to keep away.
            Viji on the other hand is a duplicitous character. She is given to keeping appearances. There are a couple of incidents I can never forget:
a)     Between her engagement and marriage in 1983 there was a six months gap usually the norm. She kept practicing a new signature from “ A Vijayalakshmi” to “S Vijayalakshmi” – absolutely nothing wrong for a 20 year woman full of dreams and excitement. Latha found that page of paper and gave it to me. Viji now married and a year and kid later was shown the paper, she simply denies it with a finesse even politicians would envy.  She is outraged and crushes any criticism when a simple laugh would have sufficed. The purpose of this anecdote is a depiction that she just can’t take criticism in the air.  Touchy, hypersensitive, defensive. 
b)     This is something hard to forget and even forgive. The year 1998, I was 29 and in Manipal Heart Foundation for a heart surgery. Viji was in Bangalore then, she would visit me every day. She happened to wash my jocks for three days which she kept reminding for the next five years: Which eldest sister would wash a brother’s undies? It took me years to drill some sense: So you are a Mother Teresa, aah! I spend 60 k on my surgery and had I known this would be a lingering issue, I would have happily spent Rs.300 and got myself disposable ones. Don’t yank your mouth too much and risk unpopularity. Viji finally got it and put a cellophane tape on this score.   
            The years kept marching.  Now both Viji and Latha have grownup sons: one in Bahrain, another in USA. Latha’s eldest is in Norway.  The 25 years have been good years for both V and L – each own 3 houses in the metropolitan, they change their cars every five years, sons getting married and on the whole nothing to crib about life.  My ship stranded still for these 25 years and they don't lift a finger at my plight and growing desperation.
            I have not celebrated a festival since 1989 the year my dad died. I berate them at their faces: What kind of a family are we? We don’t even include our own blood for festivities. Had I been in your position, I'll never summon a will to celebrate a festival without including a sick brother or sister. What kind of rotten genes and callous nerves are these?
            My relation with Latha was always strained. Say for 20 years I never visited her house or spoke to her on the phones. Viji on the other hand was a daily caller till I put a stop to it last week. My cousin Prakash’s sudden demise proved an eye-opener besides the rich dose of MINDFULNESS I was absorbing.
            Viji called every day for decades with the usual: Did Thangam come? What did she cook today? How did your interview go? Or exhort “Sathi, you need to adjust to Mohan. Where will you get 2 lac salaries in India? This is your last chance for saving for retirement years.” Viji is indeed very perspicacious – perceptive, intelligent, smart – in reading situations as they fold. But she is a miser to the last atom. 
            She will take AMMA for yearly heart check-ups and wait the whole day on tests and conferring with doctors (something Latha and I are not wired to do) but she’ll spoil it all by saying: I spent Rs. 500 on auto charges.  That ‘washing the jocks of a brother in heart surgery” mind-set never learnt that “you don’t evaluate love of a mother however diseased on a monetary denomination.” The moment you bring money to a blood relation, you lose both: money and relation and I shouted hoarse trying to drill this into a thick skull unsuccessfully for decades.  Women from North Arcot genes REFUSE to listen or see reason that does not suit them even if you shout in their ears and wave before their eyes. V is a miser on a global scale as I humour with T H Iyer mama on a walk on Eliot's Beach. For a gossip time-filler I tell him: V is going to America for her son's graduation in Colorado. My friend asked: Is she taking you with her? I said to a divine inspiration: Viji's budget for me is Rs. 300 - a Baahubali movie at best. This earned  a good laugh. 
            I came back from Abu Dhabi a wounded soldier and next two years were depression years. Both V and L transfer their claims to the Besant Nagar residence to my name; both felt strongly I was financially vulnerable and these would be insurance against poverty.
            I used to plead with Viji often in 2016: I hate to sell this flat for sustenance. Why don’t you take the house; give me 40 lacs (of a property worth more than 1.25 crore at a minimum) so that the family retains it. Viji simply wouldn’t hear of it: my son is not interested and he feels Besant Nagar apartment is jinxed.
            I made a WILL in which I leave the proceeds in the ratio 3:1 in Viji’s favour. My thinking was Viji by taking after AMMA into her fold: giving her company and feeding three squares besides her daily calls to me. I did not wish to deprive anything for L for she was at least worth a 25% share (we were four legal heirs and so I thought that by just being born to this family she’s earned that).
            Then Theni happened in late 2016. I went to this God forsaken place to die. I engage a car driver over a cash transaction to administer a lethal injection. It came to the point that I saw a man inject the drug from the bottle as I lay in a hotel room. I tell him: I am not ready. Sorry, I don’t want to do it now.  I wasn’t worried about karmic punishment. What really galled me was the terms: This man would inject me to a hasty death and then burn the body and leave no trace. If the sisters in Chennai were to file a missing complaint with the Police – fat chance - and the cops in the unlikely event of tracing my disappearance from earth to Theni then these people had my written suicide note to absolve them. I felt even these bitches - V and L - deserved a better closure than disappearance into thin air. 
            I came back to Chennai and what appalled me were both V and L did not react at all that their kid brother’s close embrace (7 years younger than V and 4 years younger than L) of a self-administered death.
            I used to tell V repeatedly: the moment my finances run out, I die. I can’t survive selling and living off the proceeds of Besant Nagar apartment.  She would counsel: Get into a gated community and live like a prince. Latha would say: Sathi, don’t force death on yourself. You have struggled so long and just give a few more years and death would naturally come its way. But both never said: we'll keep an eye on you. 
            It was only last week I got the whole picture seeing Prakash’s dead body (my Athai’s son).  All our relations have been reduced to weddings and funerals. There is no heart at all. I have not celebrated a festival since 1989. Suddenly my mind discerned to a frighteningly clear reading of my life situation. I told Viji in no uncertain terms rather clear as daylight: This is over. We talk daily and produce only noise. Stop talking. Our relations are so feeble that if I die you’ll squabble amongst yourself as to who should light the pyre. Donate my body for organ harvesting to a medical college. Let’s just drop this act. We were born brother and sisters and we did not learn how to relate. None of the four nephews respect or save a millimetre affection and bonding towards me. 
           I tell Thangam my cook who is as wise as Sarada mami: This M90 could have been saved by V and L. I don't want a dime from them. They could have at least visited me on a quarterly basis and that would have been sufficient to see me through.  Not once did V and L visit me in Besant Nagar in the last 27 years except on ritual days!!!! 
            Both V and L readily agreed as I said: No more of your silly invitations to your son’s weddings. In fact I’ll ensure that news of my demise don’t reach your shores. As for AMMA, give me a call and I will do the honours. I sell the flat, give you 10 lacs for amma’s upkeep and the rest is how I decide. Both of you don’t deserve a nickel as dad’s money will go to cooks, charities, and anyone who said a kind word or did a kind act for me.
            So the story of my life reads: Raised by a SNAKE, jilted by a JACKAL and not adopted by RATS. I used to often tell V: Instead of watching National Geographic, people can watch our family. We are like 3 siblings of a tiger; each has to fight for its share of the carcass to the extent of maiming or snuffing the lives of others.  We “TAMBRAHS” are no less wild and junglee! 
          Is love and compassion so difficult to learn? Yes if you are born as a lower class tamil brahmins of North Arcot District.  Ritualistic to the last breath and no human connection. 

Post Script: Why wash dirty linen in public, I ask myself? Then I ask myself: Do V and L seem the kind of people who will wait outside the ICU when I am inside?  Not in a million. So what do I lose by venting my anger? Nothing.  Both are not bad people except they programmed their minds wrong: Who said that once married, you turn your backs completely on your old family? Which Veda? which Upanishads? It's sad when a couple of drops of white blood is all that it takes to  turn calculative, callous, and heartless. Family is always about standing by someone in their distress. It's not my mistake that you defined "family" on your own narrow terms.  Insight of this blog post: Any brother or sister who does not involve a sibling in festivities for 28 years is no brother or sister at all. 


  1. My precious brother,

    I'm deeply moved into tears after reading your post. Believe in the Lord and he will change the MESS in your life to a MESSAGE. You have gone through what many in fairy tales don't. Hang on, brother. I will cheer you even if no one does.

    Suloch Raja (neighbour)

  2. Srinivasan at Karpagam Gardens read the blog and said: It's not surprising your sisters are stone-deaf to your problems in life. It runs in the blood

  3. Love, caring and affection is a two way process.

    1. Ben, if a rich family cannot "give" one festival to a poor "brother" residing in the same city for 28 years, then the eleventh commandment of Moses 2017 edition is: RENOUNCE your brother or sister. They are strangers!!!!