My husband parked
our car a little away from a board displaying the name ‘Muktangan’,
into a deserted alley off Aundh Road, Pune. I saw a number of other
varieties of SUVs and car-makes, parked before us. Some vehicles
along with their number plates were covered with car covers, as
if to convey their long stay in that alley. As we got out of our
car, I noticed another family of 4, consisting of the parents and
two sons stepping out of their Mercedes.
Immediately, we recognized the father who ranked 13th in the list
of richest in the world’ in Fortune Magazine.
We enter one at a
time through the tall, narrow Iron Gate at the end of a huge wall,
containing glass pieces stuck on top resembling the walls of a prison.
A notice is displayed at the entrance of the hall: “Admission on
first-come-first-served basis. Timings 10.00 am to 12.00 noon.”
Inside, at the centre of the hall is a circular seating area which
is well-decorated with plants and artefacts .There are benches alongside
the wall too. A small area open to sky consists of various potted
plants and shrubs, some of them with strong aroma. There are about
4 consulting rooms, one with a 24-hour available board.
Each entrant is given
a form for personal particulars to be filled and later called in
by a counselor. We wait for our turn. To my right side, I see the
fear of unknown in the eyes of the younger son of the family that
arrived with us.
To my left side,
I see a boy of about 15 years of age constantly sip from a
bottle labeled ‘Corex’(Cough Syrup). After a while, his mother
snatches the bottle. Within no time the boy is on his knees
begging for the bottle.But my attention is drawn towards a
woman in ragged clothes, bruises all over her face and body,
tears in her eyes clutching a bag of belongings. My curiosity
makes me enquire about her situation.
She says, ‘Madam,
we have come from Satara. Our occupation is farming. Since
we have irregular income, my husband is frustrated about life.
He has taken to alcoholism. How am I to manage my starving
children alone? My brother is very supportive but how can
I become a burden on him for life? I then ask her how did
she manage to convince him to come to this place? She immediately
replies,’ Oh, that was easy. I used the same weapon as his
My mind raced
back to that first time when both of us had been to a party
thrown by husbands’ friends for us as newly-weds. Ours was
a marriage arranged by our parents and we spoke to each other
only a couple of times before marriage. When I first questioned
about the quantity of his alchohol intake, he dismissed it
as ‘ a social necessity’. I agreed. But sooner we got into
the partying groove and before we could realize, the social
activity became a necessity for him. As our family grew, I
got busy with my maternal duties, hardly noticing the change
my husband was undergoing.
A couple of
times, he did get violent when I expected him to help me with
the household chores. The physical aches and mental anguish
suffered due to the slaps and beatings were a teacher in their
own respect. Every time I looked at my bruises, I felt my
husband needed help. I spoke to him a couple of times about
his addiction. But he would just dismiss it as ‘my exaggeration’.
The night he came home with red eyes and pushed away my son,
who leapt towards him for kiss, was the last straw.
I rushed my
son, his head bleeding, to the emergency ward of the hospital
for first-aid. The next morning, a sober man, my husband came
into the kitchen and said,’ Geeta, I agree with you. I think
I really need help to get over this.
Suddenly there was
a frenzy of media outside the Iron Gate. Loud voices were heard,
which broke my thoughts. But inside here was calm, peaceful and
the staff went about doing their work. The latest entrant, a well-known
actor in Hindi films, sat beside us waiting for his turn after the
formalities of filling the form.
The rules of the institution
were written on the wall in large bold letters:
1 Duration of the course - 6 weeks
2 Usage of cell-phones, laptops,I-pods, MP3s, video games, DVDs
- Not allowed
3 Personal belongings - 2 pairs of inners and 2 books allowed
4 Uniform - White pyjamas, white kurtas with badges and slippers
5 Diet - Vegetarian
6 Timetable regarding wake-up time, prayer time, exercise time,
meal times and sleep time - To be strictly followed.
Once the admission
is over, all the candidates are given a locker and 2 pairs of kurta
– pyjamas. The candidates are required to change immediately and
give away the clothes they came wearing in, to the guardians. Next
they have to take their plates, cups and glass to the eating room
barefoot, leaving their slippers outside. The guardians were then
asked to leave the premises. The business family that arrived with
us, left as mother and sons. The wife of the farmer left with her
children and brother and the mother of the teenaged boy and I shared
an auto rickshaw to the Asiad Bus Depot to board a bus to Mumbai.
Synopsis The overarching theme is: women from all strata
suffer due to alchoholism of husbands and irrespective of social
status, men are addicted to either drugs or tobacco or alchohol
and domestic violence becomes part of married life.
Muktangan is a rehabilitation Centre, situated off Aundh Road, Pune.
My pen name is Visha. My real name
is Geeta Krishnan. I am 39 years old, reside at Navi Mumbai and
working to improve my writing skills.