To Quill the Mocking World
By Sayantani Saha
The last thing Dhiren would do at 2 am in the morning, was to wait for somebody. Waiting for somebody irks him to no end. But the irony was that he himself chose this displeasure. After all, beggars can’t be choosers. His friend had a hard time to fix this much awaited appointment for him. An appointment, rather an opportunity, which was just on the verge of becoming dead and gone!
As he waited in the dim-lit drawing room, with a grumpy face, he noticed the minimal but befitting antique furniture in the room. Right from the copper-made Saraswati murti, the very unusually designed flower vase, the neatly packed book shelf to the extravagant wooden showcase with pellucid glass doors; from the design of the room to the styling of it, all bore a signature of great taste! But what caught his attention was the other corner of the room. He could not help but gaze at it in astonishment! It was beyond his control to take his eyes off that corner. The feet stomp on the wooden floor of the room startled him. As he looked back there stood a man. He was tall, dark but not handsome. His dusky complexion, greyish hair, the French cut beard and even the white kurta pyjama gave him a very sceptical look. But surprisingly, there was a radiance of positivity from him. A feeling that Dhiren had almost become oblivion to.
He said: “Hello! Sorry to keep you waiting. I was on an important call that was unavoidable. So you are Dhiren, right?” He sat down on a chair next to Dhiren and picked up his medical report from the adjacent table.
Dhiren: “Yes Mr…I mean..Dr. Goswami. My friend booked the appointment at this odd hour. There was no other normal slot available, you know”. As he finished, he realized that rudeness splashed out of his mouth again. Petulance was all over his face. But by now, this insolence of his, has become an involuntary action. Even his effort of struggling with and controlling it has become too frail to work.
Dr. Goswami could sense the underlying reason for this behavioural problem and replied softly: “I understand your irritation and it is completely justified. But my patients keep me too busy and hence this odd hour meeting. I would keep this in mind next time onwards. Okay!”
Dhiren didn’t expect this soothing behaviour from him, considering the reactions that he usually receive from others. But this man was Dr. Goswami, a big name in the Psychoanalysis field in the country. He was riding high after his series of successful cases. His name was strongly recommended by Dhiren’s family doctor, Ms. Chauhan, when he was first diagnosed with “Hallucinatory Palinopsia”; a visual disorder dictated by brain, as complex as the name itself. He still remembered Dr. Chauhan saying it to him, “It had more to do with the neurons rather than the optical nerves. In a layman’s language, a Palinopsia affected person sees positive afterimages of a person, object or a particular scene even after the stimulus has left. It may occur immediately following the scene or may be delayed. ”
He got a shock of his life and was completely perplexed to listen to this. Looking at the pale face of Dhiren and the baggage of bones that he has become over the years, Ms. Chauhan knew that this abnormality was deep rooted. More than his past association with LSD, it was the reason behind the consumption that was worrisome. Emotional outburst was a more harmful drug than LSD in his case. She understood the dire need of mental help along with other routine medications. After all he was not just another patient to him, but his school friend too. She can’t see him dying every day, every moment out of this. She put him in contact with a common friend who finally arranged for an appointment with Dr. Goswami, his last resort. He was jolted out of all these thoughts by Dr. Goswami’s voice again.
Dr. Goswami: “I understand from your reports that you are suffering from Palinopsia. I am sure Ms. Chauhan have briefed you about it.” He paused for a while. He spoke again, “although your very first symptom is mentioned here in the report, I would like to hear it from you”.
Dhiren: “I was at this bar few weeks back, when accidentally I broke my glass of wine and I cut my finger. Blood came out of it, and few drops fell on the table. After taking care of my finger, when I looked away I could see those patches of blood everywhere; at the floor, at the walls, at the ceilings, everywhere. But I didn’t even start drinking by then. It continued for a while. I ignored it initially. But after few hours the same thing occurred again. This time I got really worried and next day I visited Ms. Chauhan.”
Dr. Goswami: “And then a series of tests followed and you came to know the real cause. I see. Did this phenomenon happen again?”
Dhiren: “Yes a couple of times after that. But what happened today horrified me than ever. I watched a movie today evening. It was a romantic thriller. There was this scene of the female protagonist. She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf…
He could not say anything further. He drank the glass of water kept on the table by his side. He could feel a big lump in his throat. He continued as Dr. Goswami looked on.
Dhiren: “I saw the entire scene again at that corner of your room Dr. Goswami and I shivered. Previously I have seen afterimages of objects but I never thought that something of this magnitude would happen.” He broke down as he said this. He couldn’t control his emotions anymore. May be he did not want to. But the reverberance of “men do not cry” feeling, didn’t let his emotional breakdown persist longer and he somehow managed to regain his composure.
Dr. Goswami: “Calm down Dhiren. These are all collective symptoms of the disorder that has struck you. Sooner or later something of this sort was there to happen.” He paused again but for a longer time than before, as he proceeded towards the most important part of the session.
Dr. Goswami: “Your report says that you are associated with regular LSD consumption, right?”
Dr. Goswami: “Palinopsia is a more brain-related than eye-related disease. There can be several reasons like past use of LSD, lesions in the brain, drug reactions, migraines and seizures. In your case, LSD is the most probable culprit. As per your report, you are already under medication to get rid of this. But this is a secondary reason. The primary reason lies somewhere else. My thirty years of experience says that it is something to do with your life, may be a very difficult situation or a trauma. May be you have not disclosed it to anybody for a reason you know the best. But it’s time that you vent it out. That’s what you are here for Dhiren. You have to let it out to me, otherwise we would be just beating around the bush as far as your treatment is concerned.”
He stopped and closely looked at Dhiren’s facial expressions. He got reconfirmed that he was spot on. It was one of Dr. Goswami’s treatment strategies; to guess the problem, throw them to the patient in a strategic way and observe his reactions. If the problem really exists, then the patient could not help but respond to it naturally and would be reflected on his face. This worked for Dhiren too. It was all written over his face, that he must have undergone a disturbed phase in his past. But perhaps, it was too dark to be disclosed. He preferred to keep it close to his heart and bear the brunt of, all alone. When he couldn’t handle it anymore, he resorted to LSD. While it absorbed his pain, on short-term basis though, it was also damaging the neural circuit in his brain that produced the long-term effect called Palinopsia. As Dr. Goswami was analysing Dhiren’s probable mental condition, he noticed him gradually turning pale. He knew he needed comfort to let go off the uncomfortable burden he was carrying.
Dr. Goswami: “You have been a very good student throughout, as I have learnt from Dr. Chauhan. Then you joined college but didn’t continue it after one year. And from your report what I perceive is that, you started consuming LSD from your college days. Did that start as a fun factor with college friends? Well for me it’s hard to believe though, as you seem to be quite a rational guy. My past record says I am hardly wrong Dhiren!”
Dhiren got the taste of appreciation after a long time. He was touched by the faith and confidence that this couch doctor showed in him. He felt positive. For the first time he was not at all irritated by these personal questions asked to him. Rather he was hopeful for his liberation from destructive and toxic emotions that captivated him so far.
Dhiren: “It was my parents’ separation. I have always looked upon them as the most loving and ideal pair on earth. I used to set their example to my friends when they used to complain about their parents’ fights. But so blind was I that I failed to understand that they were just acting to be a perfect couple on my mother’s request to my Dad. Infidelity hit their relationship long back but it was me that they were bearing each other for. But the day came and my father left for his fresh start with someone fresher than my mom. My mother couldn’t take it and was shattered into pieces. After few years I lost her to cancer.” The remembrance of the series of events almost turned him to stone. There were signs of intense pain on his face that resulted from those deep scars on his heart that nobody could see.
He continued: “She got a relief but I was the one to suffer lifelong. I was left all alone. My financial requirements were taken care of by my father. But there was no one to suffice my emotional needs that forms my identity. I have always been a very emotional person and this was something that I couldn’t deal with anymore. I used to get very paranoid and even insignificant things used to trigger irritation and anger in me. I turned incorrigible. I still am. I used to look for ways and means to find peace of mind. Drugs seem to be the quickest and easiest way to get rid of all the pain I was going through. Though it was a temporary solution, but to me, that was better than having no solution at all. As I started enjoying the hallucination that relieved me of all those memories and agonies attached to them, I got more and more addicted to them. And then there was no looking back.”
As he stopped a deep silence prevailed. Dhiren closed his eyes for a while. Dr. Goswami, who was all ears, finally got the link to Dhiren’s problem. It was the identification of this root cause that would help him proceed with his treatment. His mental as well as physical health were too entangled with each other to be treated separately. Thus the psychological treatment and the medication has to go hand in hand in order to cure him.
Dr. Goswami: “I understand that you have gone through a lot. It was too much to see and face at such a tender age. Those black events have left a very bad impression on your mind and brain too. I know you must have felt completely betrayed. You never thought that you deserved that. You couldn’t even reason with it. There must have been only one question that you pondered over for days, that why you? But unfortunately not every why has an answer Dhiren! The way you reacted was absolutely normal but then, your way of handling it was what went wrong.” As he stopped to have a glass of water, he could see that Dhiren looked more peaceful than when he first saw him. He was on the right track.
Dr. Goswami: “What I want to emphasize is that more than the problem in your life, it was your approach towards it that mattered here. Had you been able to reconcile yourself to them, your life would have taken a different rather a much better turn. Always remember one thing: there is a thin line of difference between responding and reacting and the ability to choose the right action out of these two is what makes the difference! But it’s never too late. You can start practicing this from today itself. We would do it together. You just have to keep faith in me and hold on. That you have come here asking help and you unleashed the dark part of your life, says that you are ready. It shows that you have already realized that it’s better late than never. It’s time that you get a grip on yourself. Your mission starts from now. A mission to untie all the knots in your mind and set yourself free. A mission of creating a better future for yourself.”
As Dr. Goswami got up from the chair and walked towards his book shelf, Dhiren realized that LSD was certainly not the option to heal his mental wounds. It rather aggravated them. His consuming drugs was just a way to shut his eyes from the problems. But they still existed in full form. Instead of escaping them, he should have responded to them positively. But he failed to understand this then, what he did today.
Dr. Goswami returned with a tiny book in his hand. “Till your next session, your task is to finish this book. You have two weeks’ time. We would discuss this in our next meet, okay.”
The book was “Illusions” by Richard Bach. As he flipped the book to read the synopsis, he was taken aback by Dr. Goswami’s timing and judgement.
It said: “Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.”
Her academic profession provides her with a living but her passion for writing feeds her soul. An experimentalist in both the worlds – engineering research and writing articles – she is a fanatic for love but proud to be emotionally intelligent as well. She is a coffee-addict, sapio-sexual, movie buff, and a true Bong who specializes in night-outs. Shopping and Sayantani are first cousins. Philosophical discussions drive her forward and the emotional outbursts let the ink flow.