Their Rendezvous In A Cozy Hell Hole

Their Rendezvous In A Cozy Hell Hole

The faint music mellowed out Prajakta’s wide-eyed stare. The room painted in hues of yellow emanated positive vibes. But it failed at diminishing the resentment embedded in the cockles of her heart. She ran her index finger on the rim of the cup and watched the steam rise and vanish into the air at a snail’s pace. The fish in the aquarium lazed around while her thoughts chugged at a pace faster than usual. The room looked like a cozy hell hole. A cool breeze caressed her cheeks. A few stubborn wisps escaped the clutches of the brunette and fell on her penetrating eyes. She shoved them behind her ear and picked up the glass that lay on the table. The droplets of water moistened her tight throat. Her eyes wandered across the room but they didn’t pause to look at the woman sitting right in front of her. Not even once. 

Her legs oscillated at high frequency and she tapped her feet. The ticking clock reminded her of the green notes she had to part with to get the appointment. Her friend Jaya’s grinning face flashed before her. A series of friendly expletives escaped her lips. She knew that Jaya meant well. She always did. But the idea of meeting that woman with deep, reflective eyes and an enigmatic aura didn’t go well with Prajakta. She lifted her gaze and grudgingly looked at the woman. She noticed her sitting with her arms clasped and her lips flashing a gentle smile. Her eyes seemed to be haunting. It felt as though she was trying to infiltrate Prajakta’s soul. An eerie sensation ran down Prajakta’s spine and her legs trembled.

“Get out of my head,” muttered Prajakta, and fidgeted with her fingers. Despite being a professional herself, she behaved in a clumsy manner and wasn’t proud of it. She dwelled in a state of truculent defiance and wasn’t in the mood to give up. 

The woman cleared her throat and spoke, “Prajakta, I’m not trying to get into your head. I’m trying to figure out what is going on in that powerhouse of yours.” Her voice was balmy yet firm. A sense of calm filled Prajakta’s being but a part of her felt embarrassed. 

“You need to talk,” prompted the woman while looking at her watch.

“Madam, didn’t Jaya talk to you about me? I’m sure that she would have painted a rough picture for you,” Prajakta bit her tongue.

“You have to meet her. You have no other choice. Don’t let your reluctance to seek help annihilate your life,” Jaya’s higher-than-usual voice rang in Prajakta’s ears.

As though someone had injected a cocktail of emotions into her, she felt angry, sad, irked, and helpless all at once. 

The woman smiled.

‘Is she used to people being rude to her?’ thought Prajakta and diverted her gaze.

A stark and uncomfortable silence filled the room.

“You can call me by my name,” the woman broke the ice. 

Prajakta looked around for a few seconds and her eyes finally fell on the nameplate. The name ‘Anamika’ printed in hues of gold on a black background gave mysterious vibes. Caught in the web of disinterest, she hadn’t looked at the name of the specialist when Jaya helped her in booking the appointment or spoke about the doctor at length.

“I’m sorry, Anamika. I didn’t want to be here. I’m fine,” Prajakta’s voice turned dulcet like a kid trying to escape the teacher’s wrath.

No matter how convincing she tried to sound, Anamika didn’t seem to concede.

“Jaya didn’t tell me about you. You should,” Anamika’s voice was pleasant like a whiff of a cool breeze on a scorching summer afternoon. 

Prajakta slouched a bit and began to unwind. 

 Undeterred by her urgency, the liquid dripped down the tube at its pace. His pulse became weak and thready. His skin turned clammy. He mumbled incoherently and swayed his head from left to right. She wielded the armamentarium at lightning speed. Putting everything she had learned in the past years to use, she tried her best. Passing a dozen instructions to the nurses, she tried to revive him. But his eyelids began to droop. He gasped for breath one last time before drifting into another world. Her head spun like a tornado and a series of dots formed before her. She clasped her head and sat on a chair. The nurse handed her water but she couldn’t swallow even a drop of it. The flat lines on the screen gave her chills. Like a sharp spear, guilt stabbed her and she felt her conscience dribble out of her existence. He was dead. She had failed at saving a patient’s life. It was her first independent surgery and she failed. How would she face the patient’s family? Was she not cut out to be a trauma surgeon? 


 Tiny pear-shaped beads escaped the confines of her wide eyes and trickled down her cheeks. Not bothering to wipe them, she glided to the present, careful not to rub against the jagged edges. Reliving that nightmarish morning felt exhausting. Months had passed. But she remembered every detail as though it had happened the previous day. Anamika’s bracelet made a jingling sound as the pen left its mark on the paper. Taking the cue, Prajakta tried to focus.

 ‘What is she scribbling? Is she noting every minute detail about me?’ mused Prajakta as she tried to prepare an escape plan mentally. 

 “The door’s closed and you cannot escape through the window of a high-rise building,” chuckled Anamika.

 A subtle and surreptitious smile escaped Prajakta’s lips. She flexed her fingers, placed her arms on the comfy armrest, and stretched her legs. 

 “Don’t get attached to your patients,” Prajakta repeated Professor Murthy’s words. 

 Anamika sat upright and nodded. That encouraging gesture motivated Prajakta to talk. 

 “I tried my best to follow my professor’s advice. But I failed at it,” Prajakta’s voice trailed off.

 “Let us start from the beginning,” suggested Anamika. 

 “Whenever I watch people in pain something inside me changes. Without giving them any second thought, I rush to help them. So, I assumed that it was best if I became a doctor. I had the complete support of my parents. Though the journey wasn’t a cakewalk, it wasn’t excruciating either. Years later, I joined a hospital as an assistant surgeon.   An impulse to help the patients spread through my blood whenever I watched them in pain. But back then I was an assistant. Any untoward incident did affect me but not in a huge way. It didn’t influence my work or thought process. Not until a few months back,” Prajakta’s words came to a standstill and she gasped for breath.

 A loud sigh escaped her existence and she felt like a tight knot in her chest slowly began to entangle. One knot at a time. She hated to admit it but Jaya was right. Talking helped. 

 Anamika gestured for her to drink water. But she stood up and strolled around the office. 

 “It’s okay to feel lost. It’s okay to feel broken. But it is important that you work towards healing your wounds. Open wounds never do any good,” Anamika’s words soothed the sweltering agony that enveloped her soul. 

After a while, she returned to the couch and looked into Anamika’s eyes for the first time.

“Eight months back my mentor and the chief surgeon had gone on a vacation. That evening, I was the only trauma surgeon on duty. The day was uneventful and I felt relieved. I gave the nurse a few instructions and left. Thirty minutes later, I received a phone call. One of the administrative staff informed me that an accident victim was brought in. And, they needed me. Maneuvering the traffic, I drove as fast as I could. I rushed to the operation theatre and changed into my scrubs. Medicines were injected into the patient’s blood system. There were many fractures and blood gushed out of a damaged major blood vessel. I did my best to save him. But..” the pleading eyes of the patient flashed before her and she choked. 

 Anamika quickly scribbled something in her notepad and watched Prajakta in silence. 

Time passed. Anamika’s unyielding yet subtle gaze nudged Prajakta. She wiped her tears and continued, “The patient breathed his last that evening. I couldn’t save his life and I have been battling my inner demons since then. Sleep and peace have been eluding me. Sometimes, it feels like someone is trying to strangulate me. Pain benumbs my body and I flap my hands like a rat trapped in a snare. I fight using every ounce of strength left within me and finally give up. My productivity at work has hit the rock bottom. Glimpses of the patient’s pale skin and the faces of his family painted with unfathomable sorrow flash before me and I slip a tad deeper into the rabbit hole.”

Trying to conceal the colossal pool that formed in her eyes, she looked away. A cobweb dangling against the outer surface of a window seemed more interesting to her than her life. How she wished she could close her eyes and life would hit a reset button for her. She wished life had a refresh icon. And, everything would get better with a wave of the magic wand. Anamika’s phone chimed and pushed her to reality. 

“I’m sorry,” said Anamika and put the phone away.

“Take your time, Prajakta. Reliving those harrowing moments can be agonizing. But setting those fettered emotions free will help you in getting better. You deserve to be happy,” spoke Anamika. Her reflective tone troughed Prajakta’s pain. 

“Many questions have taken my mind hostage. Would things be different had I not left the hospital that evening? Had I been available I would have attended to the patient immediately. His eyes question me even today. Those blood-soaked and weary eyes displayed a desire to live. And, the forlorn countenances of his family haunt me. I wake up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat and it feels like I’m surrounded by his family. They shoot questions at me, seek justice, blame me for the death of their loved one, and sometimes even slap me. Those shrill cries like that of a wounded animal make me shudder.  I retreat to a dark corner away from the deep and hollow eyes of the grieving souls,” Prajakta covered her ears with a cushion. She placed her head between her knees and sat still.

Anamika felt the pain pierce her heart. Not everyone’s words had that impact on her. Having a high emotional quotient must not serve as a death sentence to anyone. The healer would soon embark on a healing journey. But she wouldn’t force anything on Prajakta. She sat in silence and waited for Prajakta to speak. 

‘Words can be forced but not emotions,’ a wry smile flashed on Anamika’s lips. 

Prajakta sat upright and faced Anamika. Streaks of kohl painted a ghastly image on Prajakta’s cheeks.

“A mere glimpse of my reflection also scares me. I don’t deserve to smile. I don’t deserve to live,” Prajakta’s voice was clear.

Anamika nodded in contemplation and asked, “How is your work?”

“Oh, it has been a downslide. It’s like walking in a dark, narrow alley that would soon end. But it never ends. I continue to walk hoping that I would find solace. But all in vain,” Prajakta could picture the scene as she spoke.

“Take a break and join us when you feel better,” she remembered the words of her boss.

But she wasn’t getting any better. Staying at home all day made her situation worse. 

“Do you live with your family?” asked Anamika.

The question jolted her to the present and she said, “No, I live alone. My parents live in Ahmedabad. My father serves in a government office there.”

“Did you talk to them about this?” Anamika’s question made her shift on the couch. 

“No,” she snapped and a huge chunk of saliva squirmed down her throat.

“They cannot know that I failed. My parents have worked hard all their life to fulfill my dream. I cannot look into their eyes and tell them that I’m a failure. They cannot know that all their efforts have gone down the drain,” her voice was a few notes high.

“You aren’t a failure,” Anamika was stern and patient.

Her serene eyes reflected deeper emotions. Emotions that yearned to course freely like a river.

“Let me tell you a story,” began Anamika.

Prajakta’s eyes widened and almost twinkled with curiosity.  

“Saraswathi and Rani were best friends. Inseparable. They went to the same school, ate from one box, played together, occasionally fought with each other, and always had each other’s back. On a summer evening, they were building a castle with wet sand when an elderly man ushered Rani home. Holding the man’s hand, Rani walked towards her home. She gestured for Saraswathi to join her and she followed suit. Leaving their castle unattended they left the shore. After a few seconds, a fierce wave crashed against the castle and destroyed it leaving no trace of its existence. Oblivious to the impending doom, they entered the house and were appalled by what they saw. The lifeless body of Rani’s father lay on the bare floor. Her mother sat still next to the body. It took a few seconds and a closer look to confirm that she was alive. She didn’t shed even a single tear. But a part of her had died that day. Neighbors thronged the place. They sat by her mother’s side and in the guise of comforting her they prodded her with endless questions. Two policemen conducted their inquiry. Rani crumpled on the floor. The ice-cold floor sent a surge of chill down her spine but she didn’t move. Saraswathi helped her sit upright and tried to comfort her. But she didn’t know what to say to her. How could she tell her that everything would be okay when she wasn’t sure it would? She wiped those tears while her tears didn’t seem to stop,” Anamika felt parched and paused. 

The water seemed to do a good job of placating her. 

“Are you okay?” Prajakta’s concern alerted Anamika. 

She was a professional and needed to keep her emotions in check. 

Taking a lung full of air, she continued, “Only later did Saraswathi learn that Rani’s father had committed suicide. Her father was a bus driver and a few months back, on a stormy night, a young girl had died under his wheels. It was eventually proved that the girl collided head-on with the bus with the intent to end her life. But the guilt crippled Rani’s father. He wasn’t able to function normally. He distanced himself from his family. Rani was no longer her usual chirpy self. She turned into a grim and gloomy teenager. With time the frequency of their meeting reduced. The burden of responsibilities made her mature at an early age. But Saraswathi tried to find happiness in those occasional talks.  Rani was the sister Saraswathi never had. She was her only well-wisher and support. Fate hit them like an unforeseen storm the day Rani’s father died. Rani and her mother moved to another town and it was the last time that Saraswathi ever heard of her. That incident destroyed a part of Saraswathi.”

Tears rolled in Prajakta’s eyes. Through those blurry eyes, she saw that Anamika stood by the window and surveyed the outside. The exterior always seemed enchanting when the inner self felt lusterless. Anamika and Prajakta were different from each other. Yet they were probably sailing in the same boat.

“Things would have been different had Rani’s father sought help. Maybe, if someone had told him that it wasn’t his fault, he would still be alive. Rani would still be by Saraswathi’s side. Guilt is the slow poison that annihilates your life. Bit by bit. Inch by inch. And, before you realize, life bids you adieu” spoke Anamika. She adjusted her spectacles and tried to look focused.

She walked to the couch and said, “You have taken the first step. You sought help. What happened with your patient was predetermined. You couldn’t have stopped it. Moreover, you did everything you could. You stretched your limits. But you aren’t above destiny. No one is. Don’t let one incident determine the course of your future.”

Prajakta nestled in a cocoon of tranquility on hearing those words. The story she heard made her see the whole incident in a new light. She felt at peace with herself. And, was happy that she had followed Jaya’s advice. She was thankful for having a friend who always stood by her side.

“Don’t be harsh on yourself, Prajakta. Don’t undermine or hurt yourself. The world is waiting to do that for you. Believe in yourself. You are a doctor. A healer. But you too are a mere mortal. You aren’t the supreme power. Some things aren’t controllable. By you, me, or anyone. No matter how powerful they are. And, when faced with such circumstances, pause, take a step back, and let it go,” Anamika smiled. 

The smile seemed forced. It was like she was dwelling on that little story she had narrated. 

“Thank you, Anamika,” Prajakta wanted to hug her. But she stopped herself from doing so. 

“Is the story based on real incidents or is it fiction?” asked Prajakta hesitantly.

“Every fiction has a tint of reality in it,” Anamika’s smile laced with mystery was back.

“Work on yourself, Prajakta. Let the bygones be bygones. Focus on the good things. Glimpses from your past will flash before you from time to time. During those moments, remind yourself of the good deeds you did. Remember the lives you saved. You made a difference and will continue to do so. Don’t let a minor incident decide your future,” spoke Anamika.

Prajakta promised to work on herself and see her soon. A few minutes later, she left the room.

Anamika retreated to her favorite corner. The story wasn’t about Saraswathi and Rani. It was about her and the only close friend she ever had. It was the story of her and Sujatha. How she wished someone told Sujatha’s father that it wasn’t his fault. How she wished she had found the right words to comfort Sujatha. She was naive and helpless then. That incident ignited a fire in her and motivated her to pursue psychology. Her purpose in life was to help those who couldn’t help themselves. And, maybe she was doing a good job. She felt a tinge of relief taking seed in her heart. Her job was to listen. But talking helped. Even though she masked the story under the garb of fiction it helped her in feeling better.

Prajakta got into her car and rolled the window down. She turned on the music and basked in the glory of the warm yellow rays. This was just the beginning. She would hit dead ends. She would make mistakes. She would fall. She would falter. But she wouldn’t give up on herself. She wasn’t perfect and she would embrace her imperfections. She would continue to work on herself. One day at a time. For that was life.


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