Monday, September 26, 2016

Estranged letters


The door slams alerting me to the arrival of Dr. Bansal. I don’t want to see him and so I continue watching the distant view of the snow capped hills glistening in the sunlight. The sweet smell of the pine trees wafts into the room along with a bone-chilling cold draft of air. I wrap my shawl tighter. I long for the warmth of my bedroom in Delhi. Strangely, this hand-knit woolen shawl, a gift from my mother who taunts me with her icy silence, is my fondest companion these days.

“Tina, Dr. Bansal is here. I will wait outside,” says Sister Angela. She walks out of the room and I reluctantly turn around.

He smiles. Deep dimples appear on his cheeks.

“How are you now, Tina? I read your case history. You have a rare anxiety disorder called Graphophobia, a fear of writing or handwriting. It is rare but definitely curable,” he says.
“I won’t take the pills given by the other doctor to curb my anxiety. They make me numb to everything. Do you hear? I won’t.”I snap at him.

“I am not asking you to take any pills. Tell me this Tina, what happens when you pick the pen to write?”

I don’t want to answer him. I am tired of telling people about my symptoms. Breathlessness, dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea and a fear that leaves me dazed, a voice that screams in my head. Many think I am faking it to escape from the exams.
He is determined and continues to ask me questions. When I don’t answer he begins to talk about the symptoms of the disease. Every single word he utters is my truth.

“Do you want to be rid of this disease, Tina? Or are you okay becoming its slave forever?”
“No,” I say.
“Help me then. Give a voice to your fear. What does it tell you?”
“It tells me I am going to fail in the boards and bring shame to my…” I pause, unable to continue.
“Whose words are those? Whose voice is that?”
“My mother’s,” I whisper. I drop my face into my palm and shut my eyes as a scene from earlier this year flashes before my eyes. My mother is seated on her office chair holding my report card while I sit fidgeting on the opposite chair expecting the tongue lashing that I deserve.
“Pack your suitcase. I am sending you to a boarding school in Darjeeling. If I allow you the same freedom that you have been enjoying, you will fail in the boards and bring shame to our family.”
Being a bureaucrat in the highest rung of the external affairs ministry helped her to get me a seat in this school for the 2nd term.
“I have something that would help you overcome your fear,” I hear Dr. Bansal speak.
Next moment, the LED screen on the wall comes alive. A smiling, curly-haired girl with deep dimples in a pink dress is standing in front of a blackboard. A younger looking Dr.Bansal faces the camera and speaks to whoever is handling the camera.
“You wanted to see her writing, right? Now watch,” he says.
The little girl draws a standing line, then a sleeping line over it forming a T. The letters I, N and A follows and I hear a woman shout, “That is brilliant, my darling.” The visuals wobble as the woman, my mother, hurries to hand over the camera to Dr. Bansal and hugs the smiling girl.
Tears stream down my cheeks as Dr. Bansal rise from his seat and pull me into his arms.
“I am here now, my darling. I will hold your hands and teach you again to write if needed.”
I allow myself to weep then in the arms of the man, my father, whom I had not seen in more than ten years.






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