When I was going to see the doctor, my best friend pulled me close and kissed my forehead. My scolding made him laugh. He teased me, “Ooi… Mohini is too cute to be cuddled.” He kissed me all over my cheeks as I struggled on. He roughly picked me up and carried me downstairs in his arms. He was so large that his shirt went up to my knees.
“Oh God!” I moaned. Being my elder brother, he never stopped treating me like a baby sister.
Not even when I had married my lover and then got divorced. Six years ago, I had returned to my quiet home in Goa with chronic depression. I kept praying and hiding myself. My depression was incurable. It felt like pounds of ice frozen in my chest. Still I felt the heat when any man, my neighbours or my brother’s friends from the court, were attracted to me. It made me shameful, sick. But still alive.
My doctor was also a man.
For a while, I had been living with someone who wanted my life. My name is Dr. Girish Raj and I disclose it to you for reasons I won’t disclose. That someone was a lady.
She came in everyday, wandered around the room, touched the furniture, sat on the same seat as my patients. Strands of her hair appeared on my floor. I picked them up and breathed in their sweet smell. In the evening, I walked out of the door and along the path. When my feet stopped by the pine trees at the gate, my mind also wandered. I turned to look at the window… and she would be there, hair tumbling over her back. Like ocean waves.
The ocean was very close to me. But I did not go to the ocean; the feel of water against my feet increased my pulse rate. Still, that winter, I fell into a trap which, unfortunately, had nothing to do with the lady in my house. She was another woman. In fact, a patient. Her name was Mohini and her dull face kept floating in front of my eyes as I cooked and sat down to dinner. Even as a psychiatrist, I could not cure my sleeplessness. At two in the morning, I woke up to count the creases of my bed-sheet and think of her.
Mohini was suffocated in my visiting room. It would have been a mystery to any ordinary person. The room where Mohini sits across me is not a clinic. The clinic was closed down three years ago. Since then, I have been using my own guest-room where I always keep the five-feet tall windows wide open.
“Take me out in the street.” I pleaded, smoothing the pleats of my skirt with my hands. The doctor stared at me. I felt slightly nauseated, along with the strange joy. The doctor was almost fifteen years older than me, He tilted his face towards one side, eyes measuring me. Shame. Shame rose in me like vomit, urging me to run away from him.
His dimpled one-way smile broke over his face. He had a charming face and very soft hair, disappearing much behind the forehead. “Are you not scared…Mohini?”
“If someone sees you with me?”
“No.” I said. I cared about no one except my brother. No one else had cared about me. They had not helped me when my husband abused me and forced me into divorcing him. The people of my town thought that if I was divorcee, I was definitely a fallen woman.
“Good!” Dr. Girish nodded. He and I went to the seashore for a few days. He asked me about my life. I told him about my past, my anxiety, my fear. Suddenly, it all seemed meaningless. Only the present, the feel of sand and breeze remained. The weather was nice. Sometimes he jerked his hand towards me. I did not hold it at first. My hands shuddered inside my skirt pockets. Each man I knew had used me for his own pleasure. This was my last chance. In these last few days, I wanted to know if there was a man who did not crave for the body of a woman but her companionship. After that there would be none.
A man is not usually bound to a woman for life. Mohini did not know that. She badly reminded me of someone I wanted to forget. I was returning with her from the seashore one evening, when she slid her hand into mine. I looked at her. Her body was so misused that she had forsaken her feelings. Anxiety, panic, never ending fear. She was scared to be left behind. Her parents, partners, husband, friends, everyone had left her except for a brother. Her desperation for love suffocated her in my visiting room, not asthma.
“What do you feel anxious about?” I asked.
She did not reply. The evening light falling on her expressionless eyes made her look like a sculpture. She was a beauty of the kind I had seen just once before and been scared of.
The following week I sent Mohini away forever, after preparing her mentally. I told her it was the last appointment. She was fine enough to solve her problems on her own. The truth was slightly different. Mohini was getting over-dependent on me. I needed to stop her in time. Mohini was not pleased to hear the news of her recovery –I was ending our association. In my twenty-five years of career, I had never seen more self-control. People come here to get angry, shout, scream. She walked out without doing any of it. Ever. Her eyes were like the eyes of dead people.
“Oh my God!” I cried out after shutting the door. I had no other appointments that day. When Mohini was gone, I pressed my face into a pillow and wept most childishly in my adult life. My body trembled with sobs.
By next morning, I had fever. The ocean lady now stayed at my house all day. She did nothing except walking past my door now and then. With hair tumbling down her back like before, she was as cruel as the ocean. For two days I kept moaning and fainting. My body was listless after the fever broke. Each part of me was aching. But I started seeing patients again. Those were one hour sessions only. The only trouble was the appearance of dark shadows. They would suddenly fall on the floor and distract me during the sessions.
I was getting dressed one morning when I stopped before the mirror. My face could not hide my thirty-six year old age but my body was still youthful except for the slant of my shoulders. But as I stared at my figure, my heart began to hurt. My whole girlhood had passed in abuse, my marriage was a shameful business. Just like millions of other women in the world. One day I returned home to work and be with my elder brother. He was a lawyer and stayed outside most of the day. He loved me, very innocently, like a child. I could not share my sufferings with him. Eventually he started feeling a bit ashamed as I went out to work and our neighbours, his friends and the locals spotted me. In the end, I left work to suffer the pangs of depression in my own room. At that point I went to the doctor. Dr. Girish counselled me before getting attracted to my body… He wanted me to hold his hand but left me just after I did… Oh! The doctor thought he was a great man but he was no different from the rest. Just as selfish and self-centred.
For fifteen days, a slight fever remained but I felt too low to go to the chemist. I struggled to understand why I felt like this but my entire journey in psychology failed me. Then things went downhill. While I was brushing my teeth one night, my stomach churned. I tossed away the brush, bent down and made myself sick over the basin and floor. Things became hazy. In that condition, I slipped out of the bathroom. My feet turned towards the bedroom. Much strength was not left in me. My hand felt the door… but my eyes did not see it.
In such cases, time is immaterial. It might have been a few minutes –or hours– before something brought me to my senses. The unmistakable touch of a woman. And rose perfume. I was lying face-down in the passage. “Who are you? Anna?”
“I am nothing.” She replied. “Call back Mohini, she will die.”
“Mohini has recovered. What do you want?”
“I want your life.” She replied. I could not raise my head enough to look but her sugary voice told me who she was. I was overcome by deep sleep.
Patients kept coming to me, without noticing that I was not Girish Raj any-more. I was a different man. My eyes were unfocused and I said the same things over and over. I don’t know why my patients placed such blind trust in me. That was my only strength. For that one reason, I was never physically attracted to any patient. Never. I treated their mind just like a surgeon treats a sick body. Total indifference.
If you trust me, I can also trust myself.
And my house? It was not mine any more. It was a cage where I was the slave of the ocean lady. She kept repeating to me, “Mohini will die. Mohini will die.” I did not agree. It was my way of doing things. After I had taught my patients enough, I would let them free. They did not usually kill themselves because they could always call me and ask for advice if things went bad.
But the ocean lady did not let me free. One day, she called me up on the land-line number at three in the morning… just to say that Mohini will die. “She won’t.” I replied and slammed down the received. I decided not to pick up any calls after eight in the evening. After a few days, I courted the biggest trauma of my life.
Well. It is not as if my patients have never committed suicide. Several have. But what is seemingly same to everyone else, was very different to me. That morning someone had called me at one in the morning. I had woken up after several rings of the telephone, leaned forward and answered it.
“Girish, pick the… phone…” I pleaded in my head. My breathing was quickened from the strain.
He was not answering the mobile number. It was often discharged. Dr. Girish had himself told me to try the land-line number. I was hopeless. It was one in the morning and very dark outside my window. Only my lamp was glowing bright, hurting my eyes. I turned it off and started rocking in my chair. Eventually doctor answered in his deep familiar voice, “Girish Raj speaking.”
“Hello! It is your patient, Mohini…” I started. The receiver was slammed down at the other end. I froze. Almost half an hour passed by. I could not cry, my mind was not made like that. So, I started laughing. Noiselessly so that my brother could not hear. Finally my body felt free just like a spirit. It also felt warm and very comfortable. Who says weak and sad people kill themselves? My thoughts vanished. The doctor was the last man who was attracted to me but failed me when I fell in love with him. Men. They only wanted to look at the body or touch it, never comfort it in sickness or pain. Today I was not ashamed of my love as I felt like a madwoman. I kept laughing as I found my notepad from the drawer, a pen and a good thick rope that would not easily break.
Finally I sneaked into my brother’s room. He was sound asleep. Covering him with the blanket, I went back to my room and bolted it from inside.
“Hello.” The moment her voice reached me, I guessed who it was and hung up. It was the the voice of the ocean lady who haunted my house; it frightened me, disgusted me, made me miserable. She could talk to me face-to-face and yet she would call me up to disturb me. I cannot imagine any woman in the world with a more intoxicated voice.
It rained a lot that night. I stayed in bed most of the next morning and strange thoughts about Mohini and the ocean lady crossed my mind. Such clarity had never struck me. I wondered how the latter would look if she had a body? Was she really a spirit or my imagination around Mohini? Why was it that the ocean lady kept telling me Mohini would die? All my questions seemed to be answered. I started laughing. A black crow came and sat on my window. I picked up the receiver and called back the person who had called last night. But I was wrong. The call was not answered by the ocean lady. It was Mohini’s brother, his voice broken by tears.
Mohini had written a two-line suicide note taking all responsibility of her decision. I went to the crematorium. As I saw her face for the last time, a chill crept over me. Her face seemed to transform before my eyes into the intense duskier face of Anna. Anna was just as beautiful as her but more quiet and tortured.
“No!” I screamed in the middle of a crowd. “No. It is not Mohini!” I rushed forward and fell over someone. That was all.
When I woke up, I was chained in an asylum. The ocean lady was wandering around, soothing me with her soft voice. I could not really see her. I never did. But there was a faint shadow with hair like waves. Finally I knew what had happened. Mohini was an ordinary mentally tortured woman, just like so many other male and female patients I attended to. But her eyes were just like Anna. Deep, dark. Anna’s eyes were a trap because they did not express a single thing, like the eyes of dead people. She was the only patient I ever fell in love with. There was no happiness in that love, no attraction. And Anna gave me the prize for it, in her death two years ago. The ocean lady was not Mohini. She was Anna.
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