A life too short

The whiff of life has turned putrid today, the scent of wilted,wasted youth. J, my mother’s youngest brother died today , suddenly, unexpectedly, at 44 years of age. Drank off to his end.
A bright lad, he’d shown promise – a head for science and art both – a contrast against a background of school drop-out brothers . The brightly red coloured pin-hole camera he’d made and sent me (my first precious parcel, packed in straw) once contributed to my my interest in science.
He taught me cycling , chess and “smart” stuff like sleight of hand tricks.
But by then his zenith had been over, peer pressure egged him into the murky realm of college politics in Kerala. A lost election led to a lost year – and a lost education – he too dropped out of (pre-univ) college – a lost cause (I’d discovered IIT-JEE forms unfilled, amongst his old books).
Pragmatism led him to take up a clerical post in the para-military in the rough North-East. And life seemed settled for a while. Diligence paid off in promotions. Back in Kerala, he dated a rather attractive young woman and fell hopelessly in love.
Life seemed perfect when they married. And then they had a daughter.
Differences of some nature crept up and threatened to derail the marriage. My uncle found solace in the bottle.
The bottle grew into a monster and he was discharged of his job, and returned to Kerala.
With some savings and by renting out auto-rickshaws he made a house.
The liquid monster grew stronger and the wife gave up, fled with the kids (a girl and a boy now). That was the final nail …
The house was sold and fed back to the liquid monster, as was all the rest of the savings and stuff in the house. What was left was fed to the lawyer to the contest the divorce notice and to “on-the-house” drinking companions.
In and out of a host of rehab centres in the past five years, life seemed better (even if just so) when the last rehab ashram decided to give him a job after his de-addiction. But he again gave in to the monster before he could take it up.
Now living in the ancestral home, drinking endlessly (and sometimes on empty stomach) with his elder brother for solace (who too had had decided to substitute the bottle for his wife who too had deserted).
Everyone thought that he would drink his way into poverty and then get back to senses.
But before that could happen, today, abruptly, the body gave up. Deserted.
A life cut too short.
And I could never thank him for the things he taught me.
And I could never even try to help him with his problems.