It was my first day of interviewing patients at the mental institute. The sign outside the door said ‘Bullet for My Valentine’.
“A heavy metal band,” said the ward boy accompanying me.
“But why is that written under ‘Artist of the Day’?”
“The patient behind that door can only speak through song lyrics,” came the response in an incredulous voice. The ward boy couldn’t believe the absurdity behind my question. I was amazed that despite having worked in the facility for years he could still be struck by absurdity at all.
I thought I was mentally prepared to face anything. Five minutes in and even before meeting the first patient, I had tasted defeat. It didn’t help that the patient would talk in the words of a metal band. The door opened.
“DIEEE!!” was the growling greeting I received. The speaker, a bald, muscular fellow, was in the process of choking another patient. I had not expected my worst fears to come true so soon.
“Is that him?” I asked in a trembling voice.
“Hands round my throat, tighten the grip,” said the one being choked. I was surprised by the clarity of his words, given the circumstances.
“That’s him,” said the ward boy, rushing past me and separating the two patients. As I watched him leave, my paranoia went down a few notches, but my discomfort increased just as much. This place was full of surprises.
Ramdayal, the ‘crazy singer’, strolled and looked out the window as if he were a tourist there. He turned to face me as I entered. His innocent smile seemed out of place with the dilapidated interior, tenebrous sky, and the nature of the facility.
“Welcome to where time stands still. No one leaves and no one will,” he said. Although he uttered the words melodically, his speech didn’t strike me as unordinary.
“Why are you here?” I asked, taking out my notebook and pen.
“I’m paying the price, I’m doing the time. Serving my sentence for doing the crime,” he said. The life his face was beaming with a moment ago disappeared like the flick of a switch. I hoped the mental switch wouldn’t have any other effects.
“What kind of crime?”
The switch indeed had other effects. His face suddenly became darker than the sky outside.
“This story is over, I bid you farewell.”
Before I could protest, he yelled maniacally. I didn’t spend time thinking if that too was part of a song.