Serendipity and After/62

a novel about publishing of a novel

I saw him coming in with a nurse who was holding a file of history sheet with her. I recognized the patient. The same one who looked at me with suspicion and generated fear in me. What was he here for? I found myself asking this question while I was disposing patients one after another, who stood in a disordered line before me. I was at the male counter today, and alone.

He sat down in a bench. Or, the sister made him sit there. He looked kind of lost, disoriented, beaten down. He had striped pajama and shirt exactly like that of a jail inmate. He seemed to be waiting for something he was hardly or vaguely aware of.

I saw Aneek-da talking to the sister and taking the file from her and take a look at a loose paper which looked like a consent form.

“Hurry up, Mrinal,” Aneeka-da came over to me and said, “We have ECT today.”

Now I got it. The patient was brought here for shock therapy.

As I was done with my patients, Buddha — one of our two department staffs — came in and began arranging things busily. He pulled a cushioned special bed from the corner and set it in the middle of the room. Then he brought in an electrode shaped like a primitive head gear and connected it with a switch board.

I had never witnessed any ECT session, but I heard and read about it. So I was noticing all these with curiosity laced with a bit of awe.

“What’s he suffering from?” I asked Aneek-da.

“Paranoid schizophrenia. When he was admitted two weeks ago, he was violent and uncontrollable.”

“Didn’t drugs work for him?’

“No. This is his third ECT in a week. He’s much improved now.”

Now there was a flurry of activities. The sister now came in with the patient and made him lie down on the bed. Her duty seemed over and she left the room in a hurry. Buddha closed the door. Aneek-da inspected the arrangement and was apparently pleased. He went in the adjacent big room and came back with Dr Bal.

“Everything OK?” Dr Bal shot the question.

He checked his pulse and auscultated the heart with a stetho. He thought for a moment and now went over to the switch board, The patient had now electrode on both sides of his head. Dr Bal flipped the switch. He put it off after some seconds.

The patient had a sudden jerk on the bed and went in a bout of acute convulsion. Buddha pressed down on his lower limbs and Aneek-da took care of the upper portion of his body. The convulsion went on and on, reached its height and finally slowed down to a halt. The patient was now drooling from the corner of his mouth. his body limp and lifeless, and eyes shut.

This whole operation brought back a memory of my childhood. Naresh-da, a neighbour, had epilepsy and I saw him on one occasion falling on the ground all on a sudden and convulsing in exactly this same way. I was so scared that I felt transfixed to the ground, but before I knew what to do, his seizure was ebbing down slowly but surely.

In his case the seizure was the manifestation of a disease. And here we were generating the seizure to treat a mental illness. Both were violent in nature — one perpetrated by nature and another by a healer. So is violence a curse and or a bliss, or both? Is violence a necessary evil, I thought.

I felt a bit unsettled and confounded.

Now Dr Bal put his hand on my back and said in a humorous voice, “Are you okay, boy?”


Arin Basu, thanks for your tweet.