We’re All Equal
Meeting a patient confined by a straitjacket was strangely appealing. It was the first time my erstwhile idea of a patient in a mental institute came alive. Despite the synchrony between my mental picture and the patient in front of me, I trod cautiously. Unpredictability was the only certainty within these walls.
“Hi there! Mind if I have a word with you?”
The patient stopped pacing and turned to face me. Her eccentric braids flew and whipped her throat. The sound of a flagellant’s instrument echoed through the sombre quarters, her purple lips stretching in a sinister smile. I gulped.
Ranjit liked birthday celebrations, especially ones he was invited to. Once he had been convinced to crash a birthday bash, much like he had heard people crash weddings. It had ended up being a bash, just not the kind young Ranjit had in mind.
The sound of flush loudened. Ranjit was sitting at the chabudai sipping his morning tea when Vipin came out of the bathroom.
“I sure am using my right hand an awful lot these days!” he said. Ranjit paused with teapot in hand and looked at his flatmate with knitted eyebrows. It was not the sort of conversation starter he would expect from Vipin. He cleared his throat and resumed pouring tea for his flatmate.
The aroma of samosas sauntered up his nose as Ranjit turned the corner near the local sweet shop. He smiled. His sister was to visit him and she loved freshly made jalebis. But he was smiling because he knew he could munch on a couple samosas while waiting for a fresh batch of jalebis.
Although he knew what he wanted, there was one going through a decisional crisis, his face tenser than a bomb squad member’s.
Ranjit has a history of waking up in bizarre places. Most of those instances were from childhood when he used to live in the village. While other kids have tales of falling asleep in school during class or exams, Ranjit can recount tales of waking up on the back of a walking bull, on top of a slowly rotating ceiling fan, and on a bicycle going downhill. For the longest time, he thought he was a somnambulist. It was years later that he learned it was his cousins’ doing.
Many people are afraid of mice. Ranjit isn’t one of them. So when a mouse came scampering towards him as he parked his motorcycle in his apartment complex, he wasn’t worried. Surprised, but unworried.
Many people detest cats. Ranjit isn’t one of them. But when a cat pounced on him right after the mouse scurried up his leg under his trousers, he was a bit worried. Surprised, and worried.
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.