I know they will never get married. They are both victims of destiny’s cruelty. They themselves are not aware of this fact. But I am. And that makes me feel sick and guilty too. I could have made difference to their lives, but I am too timid to fight for them and they will be paying the price. They will never be able see each other, for the rest of their lives.
Ullekh and Lekha, two devoted souls madly in love with each other. They met each other just few months ago and fell in love, right in front of my eyes. I have witnessed their relationship blooming. I have seen them coming closer. I have seen them together all the time, crying, laughing, fighting and staring out of the window. And when they weren’t together, I have seen their sufferings too. I was with them all the while. My life was tied to theirs. And I played witness to all the sweet little crazy things they did together. For them, what they were doing didn’t matter. What mattered was being together. No matter what it was, if one started it, the other would simply join in without even giving a second thought. From drawing absurd lines on the walls to running after the butterflies for hours. From flicking pen from my pocket to splashing ice creams on each other's faces. They were partners in all the crimes. There were times, when I had to keep them apart. Those times were the most agonizing for them as well as me. They just couldn’t stay away from each other. And there was nothing special they wanted to do together. There were times they just sat next to each other continuously for hours, without looking at each other, without even talking. In fact they refrained from talking. I had hardly seen them talking. Perhaps there has never been a conversation about love between them, but without doubt, both of them were in love. There’s been a love of strange kind. It didn’t fall into any classification that my concept-based mind was used to. It took time for me to understand their relationship and today I am the only one who understands it.
I developed a bond with them though I never wished to get involved. It was not a part of my nature and just wasn’t accepted by my profession.
“Getting involved with the patients was not only unprofessional but also dangerous to the patient’s life.” - That’s what Mr. Gidwani told me on my first day of duty.
I had joined his Hospital as Resident Medical Officer (RMO). It was a great day for me. Mr. Gidwani was an icon amongst medical fraternity. He was one of the top most Psychiatrists in India. He had built a huge hospital and to work in his hospital was an achievement by itself. It was not just a Hospital but also a research center. Many of my colleagues had dreamed of it but I was the lucky one to get picked by Mr. Gidwani.
For over a month, I had no cases in my hands. I just did the routine documenting of daily activities. I felt like clerk in an apron. Occasionally I used to keep a check on the patients handled by other senior doctors. But that was it. As I was a RMO, I had to stay in the quarter given by the Hospital. In case of emergency, the senior doctors used to call me from the comfort of their homes, and guide me to take care of the patients who occasionally lost their controls. It was in an asylum and I stayed there, day in day out.
My first case happened, when Ullekh was brought in. He was in deep trauma. I was told he had lost his family just recently. Ullekh was an advocate and happily married man with a loving wife and a 4 year old son. Life was going smooth for him. But on one strange day, Ullekh refused to defend his own client and that changed the course of his life. Ullekh was unknowingly representing a local Don. At first, he was convinced that the Don was innocent. But as the case proceeded, he figured out, that the Don had lied to him and that he was defending a guilty man. Ullekh abruptly resigned from the case, which led to the Don’s arrest. The aggravated Don had then arranged for massacre of his entire family. His wife and son were murdered in front of his eyes. He himself was in a crucial state. The doctors did their best to save his life, but they couldn’t save his sanity, which was lost along with his family.
He was then referred to Mr. Gidwani’s Hospital. Mr. Gidwani asked me to take charge of him. That was six months ago. Since then Ullekh has been with me. For a month, I studied him. I had lot to prove to Mr. Gidwani and Ullekh was my best chance. I researched thoroughly, worked for long hours, tried to talk to him, did everything I could but made no progress. Ullekh remained unperturbed to all my efforts. For him, I simply didn’t existed, nothing existed, not even the world. He was not even aware of his own existence. There was no retaliation, when ward boys helped him with his daily chores or when the nurses injected him with the routine prescriptions. There was just nothing. In all sense, He was dead man walking.
Then Lekha arrived. Lekha’s story was equally tragic one. She was from middle-class family married to a high society family. She couldn’t adjust to the new environment, not even to her husband, Rajeev’s moods. Still in her twenties, Lekha was looking for love while Rajeev was craving for something else. He had no time for love. He just wanted a wife to satisfy his occasional urges that aroused quite too often. And when Lekha failed to satisfy him, she was tortured, abused and even beaten. Lekha tried to save her marriage for over a year. Then she became pregnant. She nursed a new hope of a wonderful life. She thought she could overlook her husband’s inhumanity and relish in her child’s innocence. But that was not supposed to happen. One night Rajeev invited her to satisfy his desires but Lekha refused. She explained him why she couldn’t but Rajeev was not the one to give in. He made advances at her and she kept pushing him aside till finally she slapped him. That’s when Rajeev lost his cool and banged her head on the wall. Lekha fell unconscious on the floor and Rajeev kicked her stomach till he was tired. Lekha was bleeding when she was taken to the hospital where the child was declared dead. When Lekha heard the news, she cut herself from the whole of world and went into deep internal void. Since then she had not spoken. Even she was referred to Mr. Gidwani’s Hospital, by her father-in-law. Rajeev was arrested following the complaint logged against him by his own father.
I still don’t know what made me take that strange decision on that day. When Lekha was brought in and I was to assign her a place. I decided to move her next to Ullekh. She was my second case. Perhaps that’s why I wanted them to be together. That would make my job that much easier. I introduce them to each other but none of them even bothered to look at each other. Still I continued to talk to them, take them for walk in the garden and even persuading them to recollect their past life. I believed if I could make them react to something at least, then I could cure them. But that was too much to ask for, I guess. A month had passed and I had made no progress in either of the cases. I continued with my professional diplomacy while treating them but from within, I had lost my patience. I wanted to impress Mr. Gidwani and for that I wanted quick results. But Lekha and Ullekh were not ready to co-operate. Still I continued to follow my procedure.
Then one day, while we were out for our routine walk, a breakthrough happened. I was walking ahead as usual and Lekha and Ullekh followed me. While I was talking to them about the wonderful world that was outside the asylum, I heard them both laughing, or rather giggling. Usually, there used to be complete silence amongst them. Amazed I slowly turned around and found their wide-eyes staring me. The giggling had stopped though. Asking them would have been futile, so I turned back and continued with my lecture. As I turned back, I heard the giggling again. This time I was furious. Just then I felt a slap on my head as if my hair was being plucked. I turned around and found Ullekh just behind me holding a butterfly in his hands. Lekha was jumping with joy has Ullekh placed the butterfly on her palm. The butterfly didn’t stay there for long. But the breakthrough I was waiting for stayed. That was the first time I guess Ullekh and Lekha interacted with each other in a real sense. It was the first time I had seen a smile on their faces. And for the first time all three of us were happy being together.
Since then, I have observed their budding relationship. It just took them couple of days more to accept each other. One morning, while I was on my routine visit, to the other wards I decided to take a quick look at my own patients. It was six in the morning. I knew they would be sleeping, but still I couldn’t resist. Assuming them to be sleeping, I just decided to take quick look before proceeding to other wards. I entered the room and stood shocked between the two beds that belonged to each of my patients. The beds were vacant. Ullekh was sleeping, in a sitting position, with his back to the table that was kept between the two beds. Lekha was all curled up on the ground, asleep with her head resting on Ullekh’s lap. It was a moment that touched my soul. For once I literally wished for a miracle. I started manipulating the hospital rules and policies to some extent in order to nurture their relationship. During my shift my patients were free to do anything and I would justify it as a part of routine study. It helped and their love bloomed.
It should be called love. Al though it doesn’t fit the criteria the society has defined. For us, Love is love only when it is amongst sane people. Love is love when you express it. Love is love when you get married to the one you loved. Love needed lots of things to justify its very existence, a sensible reason, two way willingness and life-long commitment. I have seen people talking about love and needs in a same tone and often with the same meaning. For most love was a desire as to what they want from the relationship. Love was planned and made to happen. And it happened only when the other person fitted the bill else there was no love.
Even for me, love was a practical arrangement. Being a career man, I thought love would follow marriage, which I didn’t care much about. I had decided when I achieve my goals, and feel that my life has been well established then only I would consider marriage. Whoever it would be didn’t matter much. I believed I could be happy with any woman as long as she takes care of the family. I was too busy to focus on that. That was my concept of love – a practical arrangement or rather a compromise with life.
But Ullekh and Lekha taught me a different lesson. They taught me first of all that love was the most precious thing in life. They taught me that love was powerful enough to create miracles. How else could it be possible, that two people who didn’t knew their own names could bond with each other? Probably they didn’t even know the word - Love, but they experienced it every single moment of their day. There was no scope to judge each other. There was no need to understanding each other. There wasn’t even a reason to communicate. All there was between them was a simple desire to be together. And I believe that is love. Somehow their love seemed more pure than what I had seen within and around. But pure things do get polluted. Stories of my strange experiments were spread throughout the hospital. I heard people bitching and laughing behind my back. Ullekh and Lekha soon became the topic of every discussion that took place within the boundaries of the Hospital.
Mr. Gidwani was the last one to know. He summoned me and I obediently obliged. I entered his cabin dot on time. Mr. Gidwani was pacing the room with hands clenched behind his back.
“What’s going on amongst your patients, Doctor?” he enquired curtly.
There were no greetings exchanged and He referred to me as Doctor instead of calling my name. It was evident that he was not in a good mood.
“I don’t understand what are you referring to, Sir?” I asked timidly trying to dodge the situation.
Mr. Gidwani stopped instantly and pounced towards me but stopped just feet away. Then composing himself He walked across the table and sat in his chair, his eyes pinned on me all the while. I was scared like hell. It surely meant a severe blow to my career. To be rejected by Mr. Gidwani was as bad as giving up the profession. There was no way I could fight the man, who had secured himself a place amongst the whole of the Medical fraternity. I was no one. I just didn’t stand a chance. It suddenly occurred to me that probably I made the biggest mistake of my life by getting involved with Ullekh and Lekha.
Mr. Gidwani narrowed his eyes and stared me for a while as if evaluating me and then he spoke in a horrid tone -
“Now, listen to me carefully. I am not going to repeat this again. I want you to certify Lekha as medically fit and healthy.”
“But sir, she is not…” I interrupted him impulsively but then stopped when I saw him soaring from his chair. This time he didn’t stop at a distance. Grabbing my collar, he dragged me out of my chair and pulled me closer to his face. I could feel his heated breathe on my face.
“Now, Get this straight. You have an option. Either you give me the certificate by tomorrow morning or your resignation. And remember, if you are out of here, it simply means you are out of this profession.”
I left the cabin scared and shaken, lost in my own thoughts, trying to weigh my options. It was career against guilt. Career was important, but choosing it meant dealing with the guilt for the rest of my life. I knew well, if I resigned, another Doctor would replace me in a day and he would willingly prepare the certificate. Although, Mr. Gidwani spoke about option, I actually didn’t have much choice. I felt week in my knees and so I leaned over a pillar on one side outside Mr. Gidwani's cabin. I was compelled by my thoughts to consider jumping from the fourth floor, where I stood. But then, I saw Rajeev entering the building. As I was still unable to stand properly, I sat at the chair outside Mr. Gidwani's cabin where the office boy usually sat. He was suddenly called in and sent out by Mr. Gidwani. Rajeev didn't take any notice as he entered the cabin. Perhaps he considered me to be the office boy.
“Good Afternoon, Doctor!” Rajeev greeted Mr. Gidwani who welcomed him wholeheartedly.
“Your job will be done!” Mr. Gidwani said without wasting much time.
“But you do remember the contribution you had promised for the new wing of my hospital.”
Mr. Gidwani’s tone was absolutely different. I had known him as a very influential man but then he sounded like an ordinary man.
“Of course, Mr. Gidwani, Of course!” - Rajeev replied in a dominating tone.
Clearly, he sounded superior to Mr. Gidwani and that left me puzzled.
“As you know, my dad, passed away last week due to severe heart-attack. But the idiot had transferred all his property to Lekha’s name, before his death. So I want her back to sign the documents. And then I will give you as much donation as you want. But of course, we will have to put the old man’s name somewhere on the marble so that he could rest in peace. ” And the two laughed villainously.
Somehow I mustered enough strength and walked away from there and went straight to meet Ullekh and Lekha. As usual both were sitting by the window. Lekha was busy looking out at the street and Ullekh was trying to tie her hair together with a piece of ragged cloth that he torn from his bed sheet. I went over to them and greeted them in my routine manner.
“Ullekh, I need to tell you this, Lekha will be going away tomorrow, back to her family.”
I paused to see if Ullekh reacted, but as expected he didn’t. I slowly grabbed Lekha’s arm and pulled her away from him watching him all the while waiting for him to react. He didn’t. Then I said –
“We are leaving now. From tomorrow she will be with her family, where she belongs.” I guiltily lied to him and coerced Lekha to walk along with me.
Just then I heard sound of breaking of a glass. I turned around and found Ullekh staring at me like he was considering an attack on me. He had a piece of glass in his one hand and the other arm was bleeding profusely. He had savagely pierced his nerves. There was no sign of fear or pain in his eyes. But I could clearly see hatred in it for me. Ullekh continued staring at me and I was too shocked to move. My grip loosened and Lekha quietly walked towards him. She felt the flowing blood for a while then came over the other end and extended her arm towards Ullekh. Ullekh turned towards her and his face softened all of a sudden. The anger had disappeared completely. He gave a faint smile to her and handed over the piece of glass. Lekha took it and swiftly pierced her arm. Neither did Ullekh utter a sigh of pain nor did Lekha cried. Both then looked at me. I knew exactly what they meant. I realized at that moment, that to take them away from each other was like taking their lives.
Before my day’s shift was over, I got their wounds dressed up and put both of them to sleep. They will not wake up till tomorrow. And tomorrow would be my final day with them. Mr. Gidwani had asked me to report by 11: OO am and was expecting me to submit my report on Lekha’s progress.
I thought over it a lot. I still feel guilty for the two souls. Because of my timidity, those two will never come together. I am responsible for their tragedy. But I am helpless. And so I have signed the paper that puts an end to my career. Mr. Gidwani will get my resignation tomorrow, but that wouldn’t serve the purpose and that is why I am writing this letter to you.
I know it wouldn't be easy even for an editor of a National Newspaper, to write anything against an influential man like Mr. Gidwani. I know you have been writing articles about him and publishing his interviews in your paper. There is no way I could prove what his true character is. I know a simple letter wouldn't compel you to take this issue seriously. And so I have decided to make this a suicide note. I have already injected myself with poison. I will pass out any moment now. My time is over. But before my final moment arrives, I would like to request you to investigate this matter sincerely. And if you can't let them both out of this Asylum, then let them remain inside but let them be together. Because for them, their togetherness is Life.