Sometimes the long-forgotten elements barge into our lives and catch us unawares. Do they challenge us to rectify our mistakes or pull us back with doubt and apprehension? How do we relate to these sudden bouts of memories that threaten to disintegrate the present? The echoes from the past are warning sirens, and the haunting memories are the indiscreet display of a flawed life.
He lay on the couch, reflecting. Memories!
There was no escape, he was destined to suffer.
His breathing was tumultuous.
His agitated mind yearned for peace.
The wind gently touched the chime hanging on the balcony. The cylindrical tubes moved gently in the breeze rattling against each other The soothing sound of the wind chime calmed his mind.
But it was short-lived.
The burden of guilt was stronger than the appeasing sounds of Vikram Singh’s prescription!
His nerves tightened at the sight of the photo album. Try as much he did, he couldn’t turn his gaze from that memory. The voices from those bygone days echoed in his ears. Voices once dear to him, that touched his soul, now tortured him. Faces that he adored once, tormented him now. The smiles and the cheerful countenances so endearing were now revolting.
His breath came in short spurts, laboriously. His half-closed eyes betrayed traces of guilt. With quivering lips and trembling hands, he picked up his teacup and gulped down. It was an attempt to escape from disturbing thoughts that held him captive.
‘Liberate me from this guilt,’ he wanted to scream.
He felt throttled.
‘Don’t…dd…don’t do this to me,’ he pleaded.
He tried to grapple with the invisible person.
He fell on the floor with a thud.
The wheelchair twirled and hit his paralysed legs. He felt pain seer through his body. The wound was on his soul. He dragged himself to the bed and taking support of the bed tried to get onto the wheelchair; it slipped from his hold as though denying him access, it seemed to mock him.
He was repaying his debts. Would he ever clear his conscience? (If he had one)
He lay on the floor in a huddle. Tears threatened to flow out. He did not attempt to wipe them as they rolled down his cheeks. The torrential tears swept him away into an ocean of remorse.
His senses were fading out.
He heard some faint voices
“Himanshu, what happened? Rishi help me to put him back on the bed. Hima, don’t worry, we are here….”
His limp body was shifted onto the bed cautiously. As his mother was about to leave, he held her hand as though beseeching her to stay.
“Maa, keep that photo album away, I shouldn’t have pulled it off the shelf. It reminds me of the ……it hurts. Maa, I have to….,” he paused and looked at his younger brother.
“Maa, call me if you need any help.” Rishi walked out glancing back as he left the room.
Rishi knew all along that something was bothering his brother.
It has been a year since Himanshu suffered a stroke and was presently convalescing. His speech was slurred but was able to communicate.
The past one year has been a trying one for them.
We take life for granted and it has its way to get back at us.
He remembered the fateful day as though it happened a day before.
“Sir, Himanshu sir has collapsed and is unable to breathe. We are taking him to Suraksha Hospital in Sardar Patel Road.”
The shocking news left them devastated.
Himanshu was an editor in a reputed publishing house in New Delhi. He was a bestselling author before he took up editing as his profession.
‘The Book House’ was a name to reckon with. Getting a job and continuing with the management led by Sirish Sharma was no mean accomplishment. Himanshu made a mark on the publishing house with his fair, unbiased approach to the editing profession. His flair and commitment won hearts.
But infirmity, even an insignificant one, can collapse the character of a noble person.
Himanshu was no exception.
Himanshu was rushed to hospital by his colleagues at the publishing house and the anxiety and confusion that followed continued for more than two months.
The doctors had said that the cause of the stroke could be because of some mental stress and if he did not share with anyone the cause of anxiety and stress, it would further the issue and recovery would be almost impossible.
“Madam, suffering a stroke at thirty is a sure sign of stress or emotional turmoil. Did he ever complain of workplace-related stress? What is the nature of his job? Is he also into the IT sector which pays you high and saps your health? The stress of meeting targets?” Doctor Manish Kohli tried to understand and analyse the condition.
“Sir, my brother is an editor. He doesn’t have that kind of stress or work goals that would result in any ill health. But I did observe that of late he has been looking enervated. I thought it could be because of overwork. I wish I had checked with him,” Rishi was remorseful.
It was an arduous task for the doctor to contain Himanshu’s restlessness. It was as though he wanted to release himself from some unknown emotion. Try hard they did, but no one could probe into his mind, he was adamant and uncooperative with the doctors.
“Madam, he is tight-lipped, he needs counselling. He is emotionally disturbed and unless he opens up, he will be unstable in his mind. Physical health is only a part of our treatment. His recovery largely depends on his psychological well-being. I suggest you meet Vikram Singh, a clinical psychologist in our hospital. He is the best in the field.”
“Sir, his speech is not clear, how can he convey to…” His mother was concerned.
Rishi understood the urgency of the matter. But their mother couldn’t see her grown-up son going through such a harrowing experience.
“If he strains himself, his recovery will slow down. Shouldn’t we wait for a few months?” His mother pleaded with the doctor.
“Madam, counselling is primarily making the person feel comfortable and soothing the tensed nerves. Meanwhile, we can also appoint a speech therapist to improve oral muscle control. He uses techniques that are apt for the patient to improve speech clarity. His slurred speech is because of a nervous system disorder, a few muscle-related exercises will soon give us the expected results. Himanshu must let out his pent-up emotions. Let’s do our bit to help him.”
Thus began his journey to recovery.
Vikram Singh’s therapy sessions were pleasant and soothing. Himanshu’s reluctance gradually faded and he started responding to the positive vibes.
His speech therapy and healing sessions together were seeing the light of the day.
But would fate not intervene and snatch away the little graces of life? Wouldn’t Nemesis have the last laugh?
“Photo album? These are your cherished moments with your authors who loved your work and appreciated your unbiased, discreet editing prowess.” His mother was perplexed.
“Maa, this is killing me, it is worse than the stroke I have suffered. I have betrayed a young writer, one who writes not for a hobby but for passion.; he trusted me with his manuscript and I failed him. I have bartered my conscience to the glitter of money. As an editor in this prestigious publishing house, I have been a trustworthy employee but today I hang my head in shame, I have traded a young man’s future, his faith in me.” He choked.
“Why …. oh, why Hima. Your words churn my stomach. Does that young writer know it?”
“Yes maa, that’s the worst part of this narrative. He knows it, he overheard me selling his book to another author of fame. This was an exceptionally well thought and written novel, which would have become a bestseller by dint of its worth, unlike the ‘bestselling authors’ whose books are bought either by the author himself or his people. He would have carved a niche for himself in no time.
I am the Mephistopheles, the devil himself, Judas, the betrayer of Christ. I sold my soul. Rajat, the budding author has not uttered a word against me. When I refused to recognize him and denied receiving his manuscript, he just looked at me and walked away. Maa, if looks could kill, I would have turned to ashes.” He shuddered as he remembered the incident.
As he flipped through the album his gaze fixed on the photo of the person who diverted him from the righteous path.
“Is it this author? But why blame him Hima? This is a disgrace to your profession. Will anyone ever trust a publishing house, an editor, or a publisher? Your guilt is your life now. The pricks of conscience will devour you. There is no redemption. It is a slap on my upbringing….” she broke down.
Rishi rushed into the room, hearing his mother’s sobs.
“Bro, destiny never spares the guilty. You have paid for your guilt. Unload the baggage, bhai.”
The mother-son duo looked baffled.
“Bhai, Redemption at the door. He is here, your guilt, my writer friend.”
“Sir, remorse has redeemed you of your guilt,” he clasped Himanshu’s feeble hands.
Tears of compunction purged his soul.
Mephistopheles is associated with the Faust legend of an ambitious scholar. In the legend, Faust makes a deal with the devil at the price of his soul, with Mephistopheles acting as the devil’s agent.
In the 1616 edition of Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Mephistopheles became Mephistophilis.
His name is often used synonymously with betrayal or treason.
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