Living With Mental Illness

Posted: November 9, 2010

I was upset when I heard that my good friend Prema s older brother Raju passed away. No, he was not young nor did he leave behind dependents. He was schizophrenic and in the care of another brother who himself has retired from his services in the Railways. So, in a way it was good that he did not suffer from any prolonged illness and died a peaceful death. The news of his death took me back in time when Ramu, the main supporter and bread winner in their family died an untimely death just 6 weeks after his marriage leaving behind him his wife who had waited for 8 long years to marry him, his ailing mother and a schizophrenic brother. That was 26 years ago. His death was a shock not only to his family but to all of us who had bonded with them. The other brother had married a colleague and their marriage was not very well received by the family at least not initially. Prema was Ramu s right hand as long as she was unmarried but at the time of his death she was trying to adjust with the customs of the family she had married into and could not be of much help to them neither financially nor emotionally. His wife was inconsolable and her anger was unjustifiably directed towards the family who she accused of having hidden the truth of his illness from her. That was however an entirely different matter and deserves a separate post.

My husband was present at the crematorium when Ramu s body went up in flames. If anyone else had narrated the story I would have rubbished the entire episode. My husband is a serious minded person and would never have repeated what happened in the ghat unless it was authentic and this is what he said

Those were days when Jamshedpur did not have an electric crematorium and wood was used for the purpose. It seemed Ramu s body was taking very long to burn despite the huge amount of wood that was being used. People who had gathered there were surprised since his body was frail and wasted on account of his illness. Someone suggested that Ramu s soul was not prepared to go since he was worried about his mother and schizophrenic brother and his brother G, working with the railways should make a promise that he would look after both of them. It was an emotional moment for all present when G spoke with tear filled eyes. He said

Ramu, please leave in peace. I promise to look after amma and Raju in the best possible manner as long as they live. This is a promise that I ve made in the presence of so many witnesses and will always strive to fulfill it.

Having said this he broke down.

Twenty six years have gone by and I must add that G did keep his promise to his older brother. He took his mother and older brother with him to the place of his posting. Ramu s widow laid claim to his LIC and provident fund contributions refusing to consider the plight of his mother and brother. One could hardly blame her. She had not bonded with the family and she saw this as a means to settle scores with them. She had a job and parting with at least a part of his settlement money may not have mattered. However, the choice was hers and she chose not to have any consideration for them. She also took away anything of value in their house saying that all of it belonged to her. Ramu s mother died within a year of his death and it was the responsibility of G to look after his brother.

Fortunately for Raju, G and his wife took good care of him. They saw to it that he was given his regular dose of medication and treated him as normally as possible. They involved him in household chores and encouraged their daughter to bond with him. She is now doing her Ph.D in Kolkata. Uncle and niece would have long telephonic conversations. He would tell her that he planned to buy her a gold chain.

And how would you get me the chain? she d ask. Do you have the money for it?

In his naivety Raju would reply I have put aside some amount  from the spending money your dad gives me and I ll buy you a chain from that as soon as you get your degree.

Unfortunately for him, he did not live to see the day.

Prema told me that it was not easy dealing with Raju. He would get aggressive at times and refuse to listen to anyone. G and his wife would be at wits end not knowing how to deal with him. But they never complained or asked any of his sisters to look after him for a change. I can only pray that the Almighty showers His blessings on their family because they have done their bit without a grudge.

My faith in the goodness of mankind takes a beating when I hear of scamsters and conniving politicians. It gets restored when I hear about the likes of G and his wife. They are just middle class people with a modest income but they are large hearted and that is what matters in the long run.

The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its

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