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Muktangan

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 – violence.

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.

Contributing Writer 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. gk3012@gmail.com


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