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My cousin passed away this morning. She was five years older to me and a childhood playmate. She was an alcoholic. As her body lies in hospital now waiting for people to get organized around her death, I think of her death and her life. Both tough. She died of high fever, organ failure and jaundice, all exacerbated by her continuous drinking. She leaves behind a young son and a young daughter with a child of her own. And a husband who can take credit for having introduced her to the cheap bottle. She was the literal poor cousin in the country. In her case, it was the unfashionable suburb of Chennai. But she was used to it. Branded unlucky for having lost her father while still a baby, living with her mother and older sister under someone’s grudging protection, held back from school because she flunked sixth grade and deployed in household busywork, sneered at for her dark, untraditional looks, she was the archetypal underdog. Just when everyone despaired of marrying her off, someone fr…

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