N. Krishnaswamy

Indian Police Service (Retd.)

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My son Natesan

This is the story of my son Natesan, about whom very little is known outside my family circle.  And fewer people, if any indeed, know anything of how he occupied my thoughts during his life time, simply because these thoughts that caused me immense and unremitting pain through the fifty years that he lived, were strictly confined to my own memory and were never shared with anyone else.

Natesan was born on the 22nd of May, 1951. He was a beautiful child as the picture at top left will show. Over his first two years he never registered any of the normal milestones of development, never responding to his sorroundings. Crying in distress or pain that we could not understand, was his only form of articulation. In his third year  we learnt the cruel truth. His brain had been completely destroyed by an infection of German measles during my wife, Meenaís pregnancy.  He would never be able to speak or ever be able to feed himself or look after himself. He was prone to severe fits at monthly intervals. We had an attendant waiting on him wholetime for his whole lifetime. At the age of three, he had to be operated for a cataract in his left eye. In his last years he started losing his sight. All that we could give him was food, care and love, and receive nothing, not even a smile, in return. There was perhaps one solitary occasion in his life, which we  were able to capture in a photograph, when we foound him laughing in sheer joy (picture at top right). I could never figure out what could have so filled him with such joy. My daughter Uma - born as my second child in 1955 - tells me it is surely because of his seeing a vision of the  divine. She goes on to think that his never asking for anything or doing any wrong, speaks of an existence of utter purity which our tradition characterizes as that of a Jeevan Muktha. 

We had him with us at home for 18 years, with Meena wearing herself to the bone looking afer him, with little time for herself  or even for Uma. During this period, I accepted two official transfers to New Delhi, once in 1957, when Natesan was 6, and the second  in 1967 when he was 16, as  a posting there in the Intelligence Bureau carried the prospect of a fulfilling official career.  I had hoped we would be able to manage Natesan at Delhi, but both occasions proved disastrous, as he suffered incredibly, unable to  take the cold of the Delhi. For me those were long days of work in the office, and long sleepless nights pacifying Natesan in his distress. On both occasions (the first one, after a confrontation with my boss, the redoubtable B.N.Mullick, who was unwilling to relieve me : more on this in our Snippet recollections)  we packed our bags and returned to Chennai,. Back in Tamilnadu luckily, more opportunities came by for me to make a fruitful career (again a lot in our Snippet recollections). Finally, when Natesan was 18, I decided  that Meena  should have a break, have more time for herself and and also find more time for Uma. We took a hard deecision and moved Natesan to institutional care in the Mental Hospital, Chennai, where he spent the rest of his life till 2004. To this day, I am unable to come to terms with the cruelty of my decision to separate Natesan from his mother. I comfort myself with the fact that it enabled Meena to build a fulfilling career over the next 20 years to become a well regarded lawyer and Uma to blossom into a surgeon.  

There is little to add to Natesanís story, except that my experience with him led me directly from 1998 onwards, when I  was free from all other commitments, into a new career of serving  the poor and  disabled, specially blind  children, with facilities to acquire literacy and education through both IT-based and non-IT-based solutions. This is  a another story I have narrated here. But what may be of interest to the reader at this point is that on the evening of the 4th January, 2004,  I was conducting a public function at Chennai for  the launch of the Vasantha Braille Cube. This is a simple inexpensive device I devised, like the Rubikís Cube, which, with the help of a instruction manual in the local language, would enable any literate person, perhaps the mother,  to teach braille to the blind child at home, and thereby set the stage for forcing schools to accept blind children. This prompted P.S.Ramamohana Rao, the Governor of Tamilnadu, who presided over the function, to descibe it as a revolutionary solution for the blind in India. No one in the gathering may then have surmised that while I was conducting the function with seeming elan, I was carrying within myself, the awareness that at that very moment, Natesan was in a coma in a Nursing Home, approaching the end of  his life. He passed away on the 6th January, 2004.

My narration of this story is to convey a simple message : Accept life as it comes, however harsh. Never get under it. Always get on top of it.