Making a Difference Society

Love, Actually

Sibling Love: R. Vasudevan and R. Krishnan. Photo: S. James   | Photo Credit: S_James

R.Vasudevan is 56 years old now and wiser from 37 years of living with schizophrenia. Young boys and girls, he says, should stay away from drugs because it damages the brain cells. “The world will be a much better place without mental illnesses but we all live in unsafe times. Parents should protect their children,” he adds.

Vasudevan has come a long way ever since schizophrenia hit him on the threshold of adulthood. For several years he lived with psychosis, thought disorder, mood swings and bursts of violence. But his parents, two younger sisters and a brother together decided to move forward a life that could otherwise take unimaginable turns toward the unexpected, if neglected.

For more than three decades Vasudevan has been under treatment and of these last 20 years under the care of M.S.Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation (MSCTRF) in Madurai.

When he is being treated, Vasudevan laughs and smiles, he is kind, thoughtful and helpful who loves to read and write. Today, his major active syndromes of hallucinating and suspecting everybody are much under control. “I had dreamt of joining the Army or teach Chemistry,” he says.

But this story is not so much about him as it is about his younger brother, R.Krishnan, who has stoically stood by his in spite of every odd.

Temporary setbacks do not define life’s value, he says of his brother. “How can you turn your back on your brother who needs help?” he asks and adds, “I love my brother even though there have been and there still are days when I am scared and depressed.”

He remembers the days when as a young teenager, he saw his elder brother becoming restless and sleepless and suspicious of everybody around him. Vasudevan after completing his PUC from their native place Srivilliputtur, joined as a proof reader in a printing press in Chennai. The young boy got hooked to smoking cannabis at a nearby tea shop and even before the family knew he left his job and became an aimless wanderer.

“My father brought him back home and I would accompany him to Government Hospital in Madurai for his treatment,” recalls Krishnan. Vasudevan immediately remembers how these trips used to be fun outings as the two brothers would chat all the way through the bus journey, eat in hotels and get back home in the evening.

May be the foundation for a strong bond was laid between the two boys during those impressionable years but Krishnan’s life was taking a different course. He topped his school leaving exam but his father could not afford the engineering college fee. So he joined a diploma course and took up a job in Bangalore to augment his family’s earnings.

As his parents were getting old, he chose to provide them respite care and brought his brother to NIMHANS, Bangalore, and took care for three years till he was transferred to Kolkata. Travelling and splitting time between work and home was not easy. He quit his job because his family needed him back home. When his father passed away in 1998, Krishnan had to take on the responsibility of not only his schizophrenic brother but also his aged mother, his sister’s husband who was diagnosed with cancer and the other sister whose marriage had failed.

Family income was down but not his spirit. “Our upbringing taught us to take on every challenge,” says Krishnan, who migrated to Sydney in 2004 to earn more money so that his family could be comfortable. He got married in 2006 and has one five-year-old and two-year-old triplet – all girls.

It is obvious that Krishnan has always put his needs on the backburner.

Even today life is a struggle as now he has nine lives to take care of. But financially I am a shade better off, he says.

Without fail, Krishnan comes for two months every year to Madurai and takes his brother home from the Retreat rehabilitation centre of MSCTRF. He takes care of every need of the family.

“We all have suffered, known each other’s condition, seen our brother’s illness speak, says Krishnan. Nobody told him how to deal with the situation, he says, but he had the freedom to do what he wanted to. And I think, he smiles, I have led my life responsibly enough.

He says raising awareness about challenges in dealing with mental illness helps a lot to combat stigma. When he is here, he does not miss any meeting at the MSC Trust to understand his role better. Indeed in these changing times when children abandon their aged parents, siblings fight over property and money, parents worry about the after-care of children with disabilities, Krishnan comes across as a beautiful example.

“The reward for looking after my brother and others is beyond measure,” he says. “I keep going because their well being gives me the courage,” he adds.

(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail soma.basu@thehindu.co.in to tell her about someone you know who is making a difference)

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 2:37:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/making-a-difference-love-actually/article6830408.ece

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