Oh his Adam’s apple was so disturbingly attractive! For quite some time, I wasn’t able to concentrate on what he was trying to say. It moved up and down, like the face of a peacock hiding behind the bush and then peeking again, from the well groomed white formal shirt’s collar holding a silk blue stripe tie that went so well with a formal gray pair of trousers; I could see his pomme d’Adam appear and disappear in every second mellowing the sound that was originating from his well-defined broad gorge. Undoubtedly, he was gorgeous! While his shoulders, muscles and postures told me he dates with the gym every single day, his English was another reason any girl my age would fall for. ‘Good morning young lady, this is Dr Makhon Mukherjee, I feel fortunate to be in your company for some time.’ Outrageously flirtatious, he laughed when he knew the purpose of my visiting the place, a 650 acre protected space for those unfortunate men and women on whom I wanted to write my lines.
‘Yes they move freely here, there aren’t any restrictions for as long as they are not hurting themselves or anybody else. I would like to give a background first of what we think of them and then take you around, we do this with all visitors so they can at least empathize, some of them even think they could have been here too, a cathartic experience you know miss?’
‘Vaijayanthi’, I said.
‘Thank you..Miss Vajayanthi, (it felt good to hear my name from a husky voice, he must be in his mid-forties, else how’d he get this affectionate way of talking I wondered)… The line between sanity and insanity is so marginal that anyone could lose it anytime, don’t you think?’.
‘Come with me.’
I followed him. Saw a lady in front of a mirror plucking her eye-brows. The background was that she was about to leave with her husband to celebrate, for the first time, their ninth wedding anniversary; her husband had booked the most expensive seat of a well-known five-star hotel that became famous introducing a space called lover-corner, the most cherished arena for lovers to spend some romantic moments. The husband, on his return from office was supposed to pick her up in the evening; his blue Merc met with an accident, he died on the spot because of a reckless young brat who was on the high driving with friends. A long stick made of polystyrene was lying on her bed. In a minute I saw her taking the stick and hitting a young boy, an appointed servant whom I thought was no less than an activist, acting like a reckless driver.
Bhavin (the boy) took the beatings from Swati and bled tomato sauce from his head, shoulders, everywhere. I heard her cry Shantanu, a sound that would stay with me until it found an expression on the pages, I promised myself. Now this scene would be enacted then on every alternate days, doctors thought it was a remarkable improvement because earlier it was done twice a day, Swati was slowly losing her tenacity to be a part of it which, in clinical terms, meant she was gaining more and more on sanity, they observed.
Out of nervousness, I held the doctor’s hand, he sheltered me for a moment and left it slowly saying ‘easy young lady…easy’.
I visited the rapists and the rape victims, the tortured and the torturers all deranged in their own ways, talking to people seeking forgiveness, pelting specially designed stones for Bhavins to absorb. Felt an excruciating pain running up and down my nerves while I was taking notes and recording his voice, but I was also happy to know of the existence of such a healing place that was taking care of the sinners and the sinned in the same way.
Suhas was thrown out of his job on grounds of sexual harassment. He was innocent because Susmitha, the one who complained against him, had come later and confessed to Suhas saying the case was orchestrated by their common manager Asif Iqbal who wanted Suhas out, apparently appeared as his manager’s potential threat. Asif also influenced senior leaders like Lakshmi, Shubha, to team up against Suhas. He was not only thrown out, he was also escorted out by their HR, like a convict. No, but this was all enacted to heal Suhas, shocked into derangement; whether he was innocent or not was not known because Susmitha never came and confessed! Neither did the other stakeholders; they were far too occupied, moving out on the loose in society as normal human beings to engage themselves in healing Suhas, all this was staged regularly to heal a deranged soul, I learnt. Suhas, in one moment would laugh and say, ‘Look they are escorting me out, I am an important person you see. They love me, they take care of…’ and in another moment…’you brutes…for heaven’s sake… didn’t I know you were teaming up against me? You did that because my salary was too high, wasn’t it? Didn’t I ask you to reduce my salary…just to be there with you…but to get rid of me, you made such a heinous ploy! You need to be brought to book for my character assassination..you scoundrels!’
After spending hours with the doctor, in his company, with his kind of vivid and engaging description, he points out to me a fat and bulky Dr Sen, who was smiling and watching us from the first floor’s balcony. He said Dr Sen would walk me through the remaining area that was at the other end of an open compound. ‘Not fair’, I thought. In a moment, I felt Dr Sen coming down the steps and Dr Mukherjee leaving…telling me he wished he could accompany me till the end, but he wouldn’t be able to do so as that would mean him crossing the compound exposed to the scorching sun, that despite the umbrella he always carried with him, his throat, if exposed to the sun, would surely melt as it was made of butter.
I was in the middle, feeling the arrival of Dr Sen emerging from another world and sensing the gradual departure of Mr Mukherjee, who was never a doctor, whose favorite pastime was to do the rounds with visitors, first thing I learnt from Dr Sen, into his own.