Serendipity and After/65
a novel about publishing of a novel
She had a big knife in her hand and was brandishing it in the air. She was uttering something aloud, but I could not catch it from my seat in the male counter where I was attending on chronic patients. A crowd was collecting around her — mostly patients and their attendants. Soon it was the scene of a ruckus.
It was distracting enough, but I continued with my patients. These days I had changed the mode of dealing with our patients. I had done away with that perfunctory “Rpt all” method. Now I would at least observe and ask each patient about his well-being, and I would increase the dose of some drug or add a new one. This way I was learning a thing or two about these patients and their life. Actually I was being gradually sucked in by this other world which we, even doctors, knew little about.
She was now shouting in a higher pitch. She was invisible in the wall of the crowd, but her knife was moving in the air in a random and dangerous way. What could it be about, I wondered, but I dismissed it thinking that Buddha and Sabita, our staffs, must be there soon and tackle it anyway.
But she emerged out of the crowd and was in full view of me. She was nattily dressed, with sunglasses over her eyes and a nice bag across her shoulder. She should be in her early 30’s and was married. She was in a belligerent mood. The crowd was egging her on, and seemed in a fun mode.
Oh my God, she was coming in my direction. The crowd was following her. Suddenly, in the din, I heard my name being spelled out. I was now sure she was looking for me. “I wouldn’t spare you, Mrinal Bose,” she now rattled off in a ferocious way, “I must settle score with you.” Now I saw a copy of Parivartan weekly in her left hand — opened at some page.
So, was it somehow related to an article I had written for its current issue that was published just yesterday? I got to thinking. Yes, it was about mental illness— the new theme I had been writing about a lot those days. Dhiren Debnath, the weekly editor, was interested in the theme, and always encouraged me to write these stories.
She was now before me, still brandishing the knife. It was a kitchen knife, but a big one.
“Stop it,” I shot off. “Relax! Why are you behaving this way?”.
She giggled in a theatrical fashoin, “You talk as if you don’t know about it. Why have you written about my personal life?”
“Do I know you? How could I write about your personal life?”
“Didn’t you write that some women can turn mad on their wedding nights? It was I who went mad on my wedding night. How dare you!” She now went to attack me. I pulled backward. The crowd was near and uproarious.
Just at this time, Dr Bal emerged out of his room and faced the crowd. “What’s up?” he said in his thick, booming voice. “Don’t you know it’s hospital? Go back to where you were.”
His words worked like magic. The crowd retreated and dispersed. She stopped in the middle of her onslaught. Her knife fell down from her hand. But she wanted to talk to Dr Bal.
“Yes?” he lent his ears.
“Your house staff has insulted me. Just see this story in this magazine.”
She handed him the magazine and pointed to the opened page.
I saw him reading through the article seriously, standing in front of her. His face changed from hard to hilarity. And as he was done with it, he handed it back to her and said, “Okay, I’ll take action against him.”
She looked pleased and left the scene casting a triumphant look at me.
Arin Basu, You’re right. Dr Bal was a brilliant psychiatrist. I’m just trying to portray him as best I can.