Black and White and Black

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story.

Submitted: June 14, 2009

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Submitted: June 14, 2009

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“It has become impossible to live with you, Nalini. Either you get help or get out…” A pause followed. “Out of my life…” Another pause, a very short one. “Forever”, he added as an afterthought.

A curious eavesdropper, I am sure there is at least one, would think that he is struggling with his words and choking with emotion. However, I am not fooled. I know the ulterior reason why I am asked to get out of his life. But I am determined to put up a fight. I don’t want to lose him, for I love him very much. Though not a feminist, I believe that a man should not dictate a woman and order her on what or what not to do. So, who does he think himself to be, to command me out of his life?

I decide to prod him a little and to let him bask in the contentment of controlling me. So, I inquire, “All right, tell me what am I supposed to do?” He assumes a benign countenance and says, “Let us visit Dr. Benegal. He is the leading authority in treating personality disorders. If you dislike him or his treatment, I will never ask you again.”

I am flabbergasted. I gape at him, open mouthed, quite forgetting that I am expected to give an answer. I take a sip of the iced tea and draw a deep breath. Because, I know that my response is going to be long and bitter. But he surely deserves it, for his impudence.

“How… how dare you? You are bringing this up again and again. We already had been through this, earlier. You had pestered me to see a doctor a couple of months ago and I did. Did that help? One tiny wee bit?”

I pause for breath. Vikas knows that I am not yet finished, so he does not interrupt.

I continue, “What did the previous doctor say after looking at all those innumerable reports? Do you remember what he had said? I imagine, not. To quote him verbatim, we are very fortunate that Nalini is not yet really unwell. So we can definitely hope for her to become as normal as anyone else. Can’t you see how preposterous that is? On one hand, he said that I am not unwell. Which obviously means that I am well. On the other hand he said that he will make me well. This is…”

Vikas does not give me the chance to complete my tirade, I am sure he sees this as one. He interrupts, “He had also said that reports don’t usually capture the abnormalities of personality disorders till it is almost very late. And, most of those tests were pretty basic stuff like electro cardiograms, brain scans and so on. Besides, Dr. Rao is hardly a mind doctor. You had insisted on going to him because you knew him from a long time and were comfortable with him.” Vikas changes his tone to an almost imploring one, for the benefit of others no doubt. “Please Nalini. Let us go to Dr. Benegal. For just this one time. For old times’ sake.

That brings in a flood of memories and I am overwhelmed for quite some time. Ah! Good old days.

Curled up in the bed together, we used to envision a world devoid of everything except him and me. That was our absolute fantasy. We even used to call ourselves Adam and Eve. Yes, it might seem childish, even silly now, but what the heck? We were young and more importantly, Vikas used to love me. I cannot help but grimace at the use of the past tense.

“I have had a talk with Dr. Benegal yesterday.”

My reverie is broken and I again stare at him.

“Dr. Benegal says that the treatment should be psychotherapeutic. In addition to this, tricyclic antidepressants or mono amine oxidase inhibitors can also be administered.” Vikas clearly has some problems pronouncing those unpronounceable words.

In normal circumstances, I would have laughed. But this is not funny. Vikas pauses as if giving me a moment to let this sink in. He continues, “Dr. Benegal says that desensitization techniques can also be helpful. He…”

“Would you mind explaining in plain English what all that gibber means? Or do you think that I am too stupid to understand it? I have every right to know what you and Dr. Benegal, whoever it is, are planning for me. Just so that you know, I don’t have an iota of faith in your doctor. Most of them are quacks. In fact, larger the reputation of a doctor is, the more the chances of him being a quack are. I am sure that both of you are plotting against me to send me to some asylum permanently.”

Vikas calmly takes out a piece of paper from his pocket and starts to read.

“In psychotherapy, the focus is on feelings rather than thoughts and would emphasize on the clarification of the defenses of isolation of affect and displacement of hostility.”

He looks up from the paper to see if I can make out something of what he has read. I try to keep my face as impassive as possible.

He continues, “In desensitization, a hierarchy of increasingly anxiety provoking stimuli is constructed and the subject is systematically exposed to these stimuli step by step. This helps in…”

I have had enough of this. I burst out, “What all you are doing here is to provoke me to the highest levels of irritation compelling me to react. You then call me mentally sick and give a fancy name of a personality disorder. Do you think it is fair?”

Vikas throws up his hands in frustration. I squint my eyes a little and say, “This has got something to do with Swati, hasn’t it? I am sure she is in this plot too. Don’t tell me I am wrong. Because I know I am not.”

Vikas looks defeated. “Swati is just a friend, Nalini,” his voice rises with every word. “I have already said that many times. And it is the end of it”

 “No Vikas, it is not the end of it.” My voice rises as well. “Have you ever seen me interact with men, except on business? Do my male colleagues call me when I am not in office? Have I hugged any one of them, anytime?”

“I have already explained that, Nalini”, Vikas says in that irritating tone of his, as if explaining things to a four year old. “Swati had some problems at her home with her husband and her mother in law. The other day, she was sharing her woes and I was just trying to comfort her. That’s all. You have misunderstood us.” 

“Yeah? Is that how you put it?” I shoot back. “You must understand that a murder is a crime in whatever circumstances you had committed it and you are always punishable in a court of law. Do you have to hug and comfort her, even if whatever you are saying is correct? Don’t you have any morals at all? Can’t you distinguish the right from the wrong?”

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Vikas looks hurt and he does not make an effort to look at me. He focuses on his napkin instead and says, “You have become very rigid and stubborn. It is like you have become entrenched in your own beliefs of what is right and what is wrong. Worse, you demand others to conform to your way of doing things. You always place this so called ideology and correctness before love and your continuous feedback is beginning to get on to my nerves. “

He pauses to let me give a chance to say something. I don’t. He continues.

“Why do you have that overwhelming urge to be in control of the environment, Nalini? Can’t you just let things as they are, at least one time? Can’t you behave as the other people do, just for once? Why do you always view the world through clearly defined black and white realms? Why do you…”

I raise my voice to cut him midway. “I cannot have this conversation anymore.” I say with the tone of finality. “I am your wife and I will not get out of your life just because you say it. Neither will I consult a doctor just because you think I have a personality disorder. Don’t forget that if not for me, you would have been bankrupt years ago.”

Vikas smiles as if he has heard some silly joke. “Cutting down all the expenses, some essential ones too and hoarding away money is hardly called as being prudent. If I have not known you, I would have thought that you are a miser. I am sick of those endless arguments whenever we have to spend some money. In fact, every single decision that you have to take involves hours of brooding and debates. Accept the fact that continuously making correct choices in life is practically impossible. And you need not be obsessed with all those tiny details and rules at every second of the day.”

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He pauses but continues almost immediately as if he has suddenly remembered something.

“Worse is when you keep on visiting the past and ruminating over every single decision and activity. It almost seems that you are living more in the past than in the present. You have become very volatile with violent mood swings. I can never predict how you might interpret each of my words. You always seem to misunderstand even small jokes and harmless sarcasm for insults and political incorrectness. After that, there is no saying on how you might react. The expression of anger always seems to come out naturally and in excess.”

I am past caring and in rage now. Why would I not be? If you had to face this from your spouse, will you not be? I throw my napkin on the table and scream at him to shut up.

He looks towards the skies as if trying to invoke the wrath of Gods on me and then at me, in my eye. “I repeat, Nalini. It has become impossible to live with you. Either you get help or get out.”

He draws back his chair and storms out, leaving me stranded.

I cry.


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