Faded, whitewashed walls. Stark. Suffocating. Like my life, ever since I was brought here to this mad house. These pages and pen my only companions. Each new day is just like yesterday. I don’t know the date or day of the month. Every day, after the heartless white coats are done with asking me inane questions, prodding and poking and pumping colored pills into me to make me conform to their rules of sanity I sit here to write to you. Secretly.
You, my friend. You whom I have not seen and who might never see me. My only hope is that someday like Anne Frank’s diary, these pages will evoke interest or at least sympathy and redemption for others like me. Yes I am an educated, well read woman.
Then why am I in a mad house? Because they are outside, the really insane ones. The ones who tagged me mad and put me away here. Don’t reveal this, but I prefer it here. The pills, the shocks, the bare walls that close in on me, the door that I can never lock…all, except white coats, are better than them.
Let us backtrack a bit into the world I was forced to leave behind.
Visions and dreams led me here. As a child I once saw Sai Baba in a vision. At that age I was not aware of him and nobody in my family was a devotee, so I had not even seen his pictures. It was much later that I knew he had appeared to me. No one believed me. Then I dreamt of unseen churches and temples which I only recognized years and decades later when I actually visited them. Or I saw dreams that presaged news of death. A few days before the Babri Masjid incident, when the coach of the kar sevaks was set on fire, I had seen a train burning. Only subsequently I realized the portent of these dreams. Any one I talked to would look at me strangely and say “Wow! Really?”
They became more frequent after marriage. Now a strange white light used to forewarn me of death in the family. Sometimes dead family members shadowed me when I was wide awake and alone in the house. No, they didn’t say anything. I just felt at peace.
People tell me that the white light I see is an eye problem. The ophthalmologist says my eyes are perfect. And the dead haunting me? They visit me on and off.
“Dreams. You must have fallen asleep; it must be just the play of light, may be you miss them so much that it is wishful thinking etc.”
I’ll rewind again here.
My father and my husband’s were always good friends, so they decided to become family and that is why I was married off to a man I never really cared for. My dreams and visions were always a source of amusement for him and his friends. Dimly lit minds cannot see beyond the fringes of their warped reasoning.
Once, days after my dad’s only brother died, my father-in-law and papa called me out in the garden to join them for tea. My husband too was there.
“So, beta, weren’t you warned that Uncle’s visa had been sent from above? You should have told your poor aunt,” snickered my father-in-law.
I stood silently watching a spider crawl up his neck. How I wished it were a black widow or even the tarantula! He swiped at it, beckoning me to sit on an empty chair. Conspiratorial glances exchanged, my father cleared his throat.
“Look, we need you to use your extraordinary powers.”
Eyes narrowed, I smiled sarcastically at him, wondering what had been hatched behind my back. An unholy trinity, I thought shifting my gaze from one to another.
“All you have to do is tell your chachi something. Convince her that your uncle appeared to you in a dream and has given you a message for her.”
“But he didn’t. Why should I lie?”
“Because we are asking you to. Can’t you do that much for me? This is the first time I am asking you for something and I don’t want no for an answer.” A veiled threat?
“Beta, hear us out first. It is just a small lie, but so many will benefit.” That was my foxy father-in-law. “Tell her your uncle wants a temple built to Lord Ganesh at a particular spot. He wants us to handle it, so she should give us funds as and when we ask for them. It was a wish he could not fulfill in his life time so he wants her to do it. For the salvation of his soul.”
“That’s all. The rest you leave to us.”
My grip on the tea-cup tightened and before I knew it, I had flung the steaming beverage in their direction. It didn’t really burn anyone, but I also upturned the table, the tea service in smithereens and began to walk off hissing “Bloody crooks!” Greed had crowded out the last vestige of integrity and decency these men possessed. It had fettered conscience and blackened their souls. They would stoop to any level to add to their burgeoning coffers.
My husband’s restraining hand on mine made me lose it completely. Spitting in his face I slapped him, kicked him and let loose a barrage of vitriol. A crow sitting in a tree nearby flew off squawking disgustedly at us, startling a few mynas in his turn.
Left to myself, I gradually calmed down watching a line of ants busily crawling outside the window of the room I had been locked in. Everything in nature can be so cathartic! And so much in tune with life. Why are we humans this way?
When they brought the matter up again I decided to warn my aunt. We never really liked each other but I couldn’t use my powers for evil. I didn’t know I was tolling the bell for my freedom. Truthfulness I learnt can backfire on you and principles extort a heavy price.
In the ruckus that issued, I was instigated to violence once more, certified mad and sent here by the scheming trio. My ray of honesty had exposed the darkness and impurity of their intentions. They had to save their shredded masks of respectability.
Shhh…but that’s not why they administered shocks to me here. I must tell you this.
One night, a white coat entered my room. Outside, the sane and insane lay under sheets of dormancy. The latter mostly drugged the former indolent and rusted. The sympathy he showed me in day time spilled into affection. Brushing my hair from my cheek, he said ever so gently, “I know how you must feel here. I can see you are intelligent and so pretty. You need better treatment.” And his lewd hand slid tracing a scorching line down my throat.
I threatened to scream. His laughter was softly jeering.
“You know what will happen. They will come, tie you down to the bed and give you shocks tomorrow.”
I could see his leer in the dim night light. I knew he was right. I smiled weakly. Then with a cry that would put a banshee to shame, swung my hand and jabbed him in the eye with every ounce of force I could muster. Friends, the pen is mighty in more ways than one. If I had to take shocks, why not for a worthwhile reason?
Naturally, after that they don’t allow me to keep anything in the room. A nurse smuggles these in and out. She says it is my reward from the nurses.
“You have incapacitated that cad for a month at least. Thanks.”
I answer with regret, “If only I could have bobbited him!