Our Inspiration

Srivatsa M.A. Memorial Trust for Mental Health

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?” Dr Rosen from ‘A Beautiful Mind’

Throughout my life, I have had the benefit of having older siblings to guide and help me along. As I reflect on my brother Srivatsa’s life, I realize I owe a lot of my successes and experiences to him.

Early schooling: My earliest memories of my brother Srivatsa date back to a place called Dehu Road near Pune, where we grew up. I have been told my admission into 1st STD at KV Dehu Road was made easy thanks to my brother’s brilliant academic standing in the same school. He was 4 years my senior, but topped all his subjects, especially Mathematics and Science. I could never match his academic brilliance however, but it was always something to aspire to.

Standing up for yourself: Middle school is tough on all kids, and especially on those that don’t fit in easily. My brother – as brilliant as he was – had his share of bullies - but he always stood up against them. And one of the best things about having an older brother in the same school is that you get shielded from other bullies – and he did a splendid job of protecting me, both at school and out in our neighborhood. I can never forget when we were both playing Cricket and got into a fight with other kids and my brother was there to shield me and fight for me. Of course, as siblings we would fight a lot amongst ourselves, but any time others were involved, he always had my back.

Innovation & Competitive spirit: When we were not playing with other kids, my brother and I would play Cricket on our rooftop terrace. We couldn’t really afford expensive cricket gear, so we had to be innovative – he would make cricket balls with string, old cloth and pebbles – would have been a great startup idea in this day and age. We made up teams like Birds vs. Animals and would play against each other. We were very competitive, but at times he would concede and let me win just to make sure I don’t give up or stay interested.

Higher education: One of my brother’s ambitions was to go study overseas. Unfortunately, since our family couldn’t afford to do that, he had to try other means. As he prepared for the various exams, tests and applications, I got involved and learned a lot about what it took to get admitted to a University in America. So when it came time for me to apply four years later, I had the experience of knowing what to do and where to go. There is no doubt in my mind my brother had a huge part to play in my going to study in Canada on a full scholarship. He himself successfully completed Master’s in Mathematics from Bangalore University – sadly, his ambition to study overseas remain unfulfilled.

Resilience: Because illness struck in his youth, Srivatsa went through some extremely traumatic times. He worked briefly in Sales, then as a teacher. But had to be institutionalized for a long period – at a time when Schizophrenia was still not understood well, stigmatized with no clear treatment other than a heavy dose of experimental drugs. Despite this, Srivatsa never gave up and every time any family member would go to meet him, he would be in great spirits. He wasn’t necessarily happy, but he believed he could be.

The tough world out there: Through the many institutions and rehab homes that Srivatsa went through, he was still able to come out eventually and lead a semi-normal life. Thanks to some really kind hearted people and friends, he was able to get a job at Sasken where he worked for 4 years before a relapse. As much he was brilliant and keen to work hard, his illness and the heavy dose of medication would never allow him to live or work like us. Having been in institutions he had difficulty interacting socially with others. The illness made it worse. Still, he managed to live on his own as a paying guest and brought a lot of joy to people around him. While there were many who tried to exploit his innocence and generosity, there were other who were kind and benevolent to him. Be it the local restaurant owner where he ate regularly, or the real estate broker who found him a place to live, or the administration officer at the local hospital where he visited, or the landlady of the property where he lived. I learned from his experiences that there are a lot of good people out there who are out to help him. His manager at Sasken was especially considerate considering he had to deal with a corporate environment where performance matters most. His HR manager at Titan where he worked for a year was especially accommodating. And he made many friends along the way including Rachael from the Yoga Institute in Mumbai. He made a huge impression there. There are kind and benevolent people everywhere to help.

Never give up: The most defining quality was his optimism and always clinging on to the ray of hope. He never gave up till the end – having been in the most dire situations, with little freedom and not being able to live a normal life. I owe it to him to be optimistic about everything and to be happy no matter what.

The Only Thing Greater Than the Power of the Mind Is the Courage of the Heart. He Saw the World in a Way No One Could Have Imagined.