Fiction: Here, I Don’t Want It

Subhash Chandra

- Subhash Chandra 


“Hi,” she said.
“Hi.”
“What a surprise!” said Shayoni.
“Pleasant or unpleasant?” he asked.
“I didn’t expect you. Just took a chance.”
“Taking chances is always good.”
“Yeah. But when did you come, dumbo?” Shayoni asked.
“I’ve always been here.”
“What?”
“I meant there.”
“Where is there?”
“Your heart,” he said.
“Didn’t see you there.”
“Do you ever look into your heart?”
“Oh my, you’ve become smart,” said Shayoni.
“I always was.”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“But I’ve always found you a moron!” She gave out a frisky laugh.
 “That shows how daft you are!” he said.
“My, my, Sweden has really done things to you, Chitti!”
“How?”
“You are so damn serious, almost solemn. And now brimming with humour and wit!  All these years, I haven’t heard even one PJ from you. And now you are rocking, man!”
“Thanks for the compliment. Now tell me what all you did during my absence,” he asked.
“Why? I’m not your wife, yet. And even when I am, you will not be allowed to dictate.”
“Oh no! That’s the only reason I want to marry you.”
She laughed good naturedly. “Okay. When are we meeting?” asked Shayoni.
“I would have liked it tomorrow. But for a couple of days I’m tied up. Two reports to be prepared for the Board Meeting. Will SMS.”
“You are a peach! Here is something special for you.” She produced a resonating kiss sound.
He responded, matching her ardour.
#
The moment the conversation was over Phanibhushan  Datta felt exhausted, slumped into a chair and closed his eyes. After a couple of minutes, he got up as if nothing had happened. He made himself a cup of tea, humming a Jagjit Gazal and sat sipping it while reading the newspaper.

Chitvan arrived the next day and sent an SMS. Returned 2day. Let’s meet. CP Barista. This evening 7. Ok?
Shayoni was baffled. Today? How did he talk to me from home yesterday? Who did I talk to? Waiting till the evening became a torture.
She reached around 6.30 and felt restive. About five to seven, Chitvan walked in with his usual restrained, shy smile and waved to her. Then he asked in his characteristic serious manner, “How are doing, Shayoni?”
She kept staring at him enigmatically. Everything okay?
“Chitti let us find a table upstairs. I need to talk.”
They occupied a corner table. “Chitti you were not in Delhi yesterday?”
“No. Why?”
“Then the person who talked to me for full ten minutes was not you?”
Chitvan looked at her scrutinizing. “Not at all.”
“But I talked to you.”
“I don’t get you.”
“His voice was yours. Absolutely!”

A chill flowed down his spine. There was only one man whose voice was exactly like his. But he hoped it was not …. “Did he talk to you wittily and humorously?”
“Yes, and he did much more. He said horrendous things! Shameless things! Imagine! To me, his would be daughter-in-law.”
She narrated the whole conversation; her head bent, and face going pink several times. Then she covered her face with both her hands. 
“Shayoni, it’s incredible. Are you sure, it was Papa.”
“At your home, with the same voice, who else could it be? I had mixed up the date of your arrival. So, rang up your mobile to confirm. But it was switched off. I then dialed the landline just to check in case you had come.”
Chitvan was terribly shaken.
Shayoni sat brooding for some time. Then she did something that sank his heart. “Chitvan, I’m sorry,” she said taking off the ring. “Here it is. I don’t want it.”
“Shayoni, please ….”
“He is such a creep. I won’t be able to look at him without revulsion, He is such a skunk! … Sorry to use such words.”

After a brief pause, he said, “Shaoni. I respect your decision. But I have a suggestion. Don’t be in a hurry. You can return the ring anytime you want to.  But first let me confront father.”
He tried to give back the ring to her, but she declined.
They came out and drove away towards their respective homes. 
#
“Got late, Chitvan?”  Phanibhushan asked smiling.
“Shayoni and I went out for coffee in Connaught Place,” he said and observed his father’s reaction. No trace of discomfiture. Phanibhushan was cheerful to have his son back home. Chitvan was confused.
At dinner Chitvan started cautiously, “Papa, Shayoni rang up yesterday?”
“No,” he said with a smile. “Why?”
“So, you did not talk to her on phone?”
“How could I, if she did not ring up?”

Chitvan wondered how he could be telling such a blatant lie with a bland face! What Shayoni said was not possible. He had been his role model. He had such sound values which he had followed all his life.
He groped his way forward. “Actually, Shayoni rang up our landline yesterday and thought it was you she talked to.”
“I’m sure it was a cross connection. She talked to someone else.”
“She recognizes your voice. And my voice is a replica of yours.”
Now he looked troubled. “Why don’t you ask Shayoni over for lunch next Sunday? This has to be sorted out; the sooner the better.”
Something was horribly amiss, Chitvan thought.
“Okay,” he said to close the matter for now. Both of them went on with the dinner, the maid had cooked and kept in the hot case.
                                                    #
Chitvan rang up Shayoni next morning from his office.
“It’s not adding up. He insists you never called. He stoutly denies he talked to you. He doesn’t show any embarrassment while talking about the incident. On the contrary, he’s keen to convince you that you spoke with somebody else through cross connection.”
“Chitvan, how is it possible? I recognize his voice very well. And such a long conversation … I am absolutely sure it was him.”
“In that case, there could be a problem at Papa’s end. I need to consult a psychiatrist.”
Shayoni remained silent.
#
Chitvan met a psychiatrist, Dr. Bhaskar Bannerji and explained the episode in detail.
“What’s his age?”
“A little more than seventy.”
“What was he doing before retirement?”
“A professor in Delhi University.”
“Has it ever happened earlier?”
“No, doctor.”
“Hmm. I need to talk to your father and your girl-friend separately.”
“Shayoni will come. But bringing Papa will be a problem.”
“Without meeting him, I can do nothing.”
“Could you visit us?”
“Sorry. I don’t do that.”
“Please doctor. Find a way out. Do help me.”
“Okay … I’ll send one of my juniors next Sunday to assess him. You manage the rest.”
“A million thanks!”
#
Chitvan introduced Dr. Anmol Chatterji as his friend and colleague in Kolkata office who was visiting Delhi for official work. He told his father he had invited Anmol to lunch.
“How do you do, Sir?”
“Glad to meet you, Mr. Chatterji,” Phanibhushan said.
Over lunch they started chatting. “Chitvan is all praise for you, Sir. You are his role model.”
Phanibhushan looked at Chitvan with brimming affection. “I’m blessed in him.”

Then the conversation turned to political-social issues.
“Sir, I wonder if the Parliamentary system suits the Indian conditions.”
Phanibhushan rejoined, “But all systems are flawed to a certain extent. More than fifty countries have Presidential form of government. But a great majority of them are small and economically backward.”
Anmol said, “Sir, the Parliamentary governments are not stable. Expedient alliances have competing interests and often break down for selfish considerations causing huge burden on the public exchequer.”
“True, but in the Presidential system, the Executive is not accountable to Legislature. The President can turn a despot.”

The second topic that came up was the sexual harassment of women. Anmol said, “I think more stringent laws need to be made.”
“There are enough strict laws. Justice Verma Commission has introduced some new deterrents. But the question is that of enforcement, and also of the change in the male mindset.”
Soon after lunch, Anmol apologised, “Please excuse me, Sir. I have to meet another friend,” and left. 
#
Chitvan rang up Dr. Bannerji.
“Bring your girl-friend along. I need to talk to her.”
Shayoni accompanied Chitvan to Dr. Bannerji’s clinic with great reluctance. Dr. Bannerji listened to Shayoni’s version of the episode.
#
He had the report submitted by Dr. Chatterji in front of him.
“His cognition and clarity of mind are fine,” said the doctor.
“He is also sharp, intelligent, and a good interlocutor. But he is suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. Such patients have two or more personalities, with no connect with each other. This is also called Dissociative Identity Disorder. When the Other persona takes over, it completely suppresses the main personality.”

Both Chitvan and Shayoni were dismayed. “Now what Doctor?” asked Chitvan.
“Well, he should be sent to a Mental Hospital for treatment. He would be under constant care.”
Chitvan was disturbed.
“But Doctor Bannerji, I can’t think of abandoning him. After the death of my mother during childbirth, he made uncountable sacrifices for me. He did not marry and brought me up single handed, facing myriad difficulties.”
“I can treat him at home, too. But then you will have to arrange 24x7 care. Get a full time male servant.”
#
Next time, Chitvan met the doctor alone.
“I have a personal question, Doctor.”
“Yes.”
“Can Papa be trusted with not repeating that behaviour when Shayoni is around?”
Now that Shaoni had known the truth, Chitvan thought she would be sympathetic towards his father. He was a patient, rather than a dirty old man. She would not refuse his reiterated proposal.
“The answer,” Dr. Bannerji said, “is yes and no. Despite the treatment, the ‘Other’ persona can appropriate the main persona any time. But hopefully, the medicines will work and the chances are slim.”
“Then I am in a fix, doctor. What to do?” Chitvan looked at the doctor with pleading eyes.
After thinking briefly, the doctor said, “Take the servant into confidence. Tell him specifically about this danger and ask him to keep track of the old man’s movements and actions.”
“And how shall we make him take the medicines?”
“At this age he must be taking treatment for some health issues.”
“He consults an orthopedist for knees, and a skin specialist for his chronic eczema.”
“Give me the Skin specialist’s name. The next time your father visits him he’d prescribe two more medicines.”
#
Chitvan and Shayoni met at the United Coffee House in Connaught Place. He gave her an edited version of his conversation with the doctor. And then he offered her the ring.
“Please, Shayoni. Don’t say no. Everything would be alright. The doctor has assured me. I love you and want you.”
“Give me time to think.”

That night, she thought about it for a long time. She too loved Chitvan and their courtship had gone steady for more than three years. He was a gentle and loving person. Highly qualified and holding a high position in his company. What else could she ask for?
#
They got married at a simple ceremony. Phanibhushan was jubilant as a father can be and blessed Chitvan and Shayoni. He assured Shayoni’s parents, they would keep her happy and safe.

Chitvan and Shayoni went to Thailand for a week. After they got back, both resumed their work at their offices. Chitvan introduced the full time servant to his father, “Papa, he will be a handy man around the house.”
The old man was fine. He carried on with his routine: morning and evening walks, visiting his friends in the neighbourhood, watching a bit of television, and mostly reading books on Sociology -- the subject he had taught at the university. 

Close to one year passed. Phanibhushan looked normal and cheerful. Chitvan and Shayoni were relieved. The servant was relaxed in view of the perfectly normal behavior of the old man.

Then Chitvan had to go to Bangaluru for official work for a week.
On the third night of Chitvan’s departure, Shayoni and Phanibhushan had dinner together over small talk, as usual. Then both retired to their respective rooms. The servant was sleeping in the lobby on the ground.

Around midnight, Phanibhushan got up and tiptoed to Shayoni’s room. To her misfortune, Shayoni had forgotten to bolt the door from inside. The old man entered her room and then all hell broke loose.

1 comment :

  1. The shuddering possibility of Dissociative Identity Disorder’s resurfacing despite all possible therapy and precautions has been woven into a gripping story with edutainment, in a racy narration couched in a diction appropriate to the respective contexts. Dear Subhash, ole, ole!

    ReplyDelete

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