She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf…...The weather outside was as gloomy as it could get. There could be a heavy downpour any moment. She had made up her mind by then. Suddenly, her thoughts were abruptly put to a halt by a phone call which she dreaded to attend. Nevertheless, bundling up courage she answered the call.
‘Where are you Dr. Aarti?’ Dr. Choudhary cried out aloud.
‘We have been frantically looking for you.’
Aarti did not reply.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Why did you run away?’ he continued.
Aarti tried to speak but she was not able to utter a word. She felt as if her vocal cords were paralysed. She was just recovering from the shock when Dr. Choudhary had called. His shrill voice was enough to bring back the shudder.
By then, the people around had also started looking at her quizzically looking at her changed expressions. She passed a faint smile to them in order to prevent any suspicion. The waiter took the empty coffee mug from the table. He tried to look around at her table in case there was anything to be cleared. Aarti waved a hand gesturing that she was fine and did not need anything. The waiter left with a smile.
‘Can you tell me what happened there in the afternoon?’ Dr. Choudhary continued.
‘How can you be so irresponsible Dr. Aarti? You should have stayed.’
‘Escaping from there can raise doubts against you.’
‘You have been summoned to the department right now by our Chancellor,’ Dr. Choudhary said slamming the phone down.
‘But I am concerned Inspector. She must not be alright. After all, this exercise is not easy. She had a brave heart to accept this case,’ Dr. Choudhary said resting his head on his palms.
The waiter approached Aarti with the bill. While the waiter was away with her credit card she quickly put the knife in her bag. After getting her card back she left for the institute. She was feeling dazed. The injury was deep and it was hurting her. She opened the door and ushered herself in. After locking the door behind her, she threw her bag on the floor and burst into tears. She took out the bandage and put her hand under running tap water. She had started feeling weak again with the blood loss. She dabbed the antiseptic cream along the cut, placed a gauge on it and wrapped it with a bandage. She made sure it was tied neatly so that no one could make out the intensity of the injury. She gulped down an analgesic and left taking one last look at her pale self in the mirror. The journey to the Chancellor’s room seemed endless which otherwise would have taken her just five minutes. There were ten missed calls from Dr. Choudhary. She felt nauseated looking at the ambulance and the piled up police vehicles. There couldn’t have been a worst nightmare than this for Aarti. Somehow she managed to maintain a normal gait.
As soon as she reached the entrance, a frantic Sukriti came and hugged her tightly. ‘Oh! My God!! Aarti are you alright?’
‘Where have you been all while? We were all so worried,’ Sukriti said almost bursting into tears. She hugged Aarti tightly and then looked at her hand.
‘I am absolutely fine Su,’ Aarti said with a laugh. That was the first time she had laughed during the day.
‘What!!!! Absolutely fine Dr. Aarti??? It could have cost us your life,’ said a furious Dr. Choudhary who had come out hearing Sukriti’s loud cries. Their entire department was standing outside the Chancellor’s room. Aarti was accompanied inside by Dr. Choudhary who had forgotten all his anger seeing an injured Aarti. He felt responsible for her situation.
Aarti was taken by surprise when she saw the Chancellor’s seat being occupied by a tall and well-built man. He looked at Aarti and indicated her to sit. Aarti’s legs were shaking already. She was feeling a little drowsy because of the analgesic. All she could dream of was her cosy bed and her soft rug. Her sweet thoughts were soon interrupted by the strong voice from the stranger.
‘Dr. Aarti, M.B.B.S, M.D, Psychiatry, posted in Psychiatry Social Work Department from 10th July 2012. Am I right doctor? IPS Rana read out from Aarti’s file.
‘Yes Inspector,’ Aarti said in a weak voice. Seeing her a little petrified Dr. Choudhary placed a hand on her shoulder. She relaxed a bit.
‘I am IPS Rana Dave, the officer allotted to probe into this case. If you are alright madam can I carry on with my interrogation?’ IPS Rana said keeping her file down.
Aarti nodded in agreement. She was feeling a little relieved seeing his casual demeanour. Noticing the bandage in her hand with a patch of fresh blood IPS Rana asked Aarti, ‘Do you need any medical help madam?’
‘I am doing fine. I cleaned the wound and treated it myself. It is just a minor injury, ’Aarti replied in a shaky tone.
So, if you are in a comfortable state, could you please tell us about the incident that happened in Ward no-6, Room no- 10 this afternoon.’
Aarti was searching for words to answer him. His sharp gaze was making her uncomfortable. Seeing Aarti pause for a while, Dr. Choudhary spoke up.
‘No doctor. I want to hear it from her. I have heard your part of the story,’ said IPS Rana sternly.
Dr. Choudhary had no other option but to remain quiet.
‘Dr. Aarti, shall we continue?’
‘I was on the case from the last six months. He was referred to me by Dr. Choudhary,’ Aarti replied calmly.
Before she could continue further, IPS Rana questioned her again.
‘Why was he referred to you by Dr. Choudhary?’
‘Because I was too busy with my clinic hours and I had asked Aarti to follow up the cases in which she had assisted me,’ interrupted Dr. Choudhary.
‘Hmmm….. ,’ said Rana Dave as he flipped through Ramesh’s case file.
‘You may continue….’, he said turning towards Aarti.
‘Sir, I had been seeing Ramesh from the past six months.’
‘You have been telling the same thing madam. Please go ahead,’ IPS Rana said in an irritated tone.
The pain in her palms was slowly pricking her. It was a throbbing pain.
‘Ramesh reported to us with severe mental instability. He was confused and, disillusioned. We felt at times that he showed symptoms of depression and anxiety. We had put him on medications to relieve him of anxiety. Since he complained of sleeplessness we gave him tranquilizers and also suggested to his brother that we would need to put him on anti-depressants if the symptoms persisted.’
‘Ramesh was well educated. He was holding a good position in an MNC but one year ago his company suffered heavy losses and they had to sell it to someone else. He was not happy with the managers who had taken over. His brother told us that he was extremely stressed. One day he had an argument with his employer because of which he was sacked from office immediately. His changed attitude was noticed by his family as well. That is when his brother brought him to our hospital.’
‘Dr. Choudhary advised a regular fortnight check-up and counselling.’
Saying this Aarti took a large gulp of water. Dabbing her wet lips with a handkerchief she continued.
‘On one of Ramesh’s visit with his brother Dr. Choudhary was unavailable so I had to take up the case.’
‘I felt his condition was also worsening. The antidepressants were also not working much. He used to be normal while talking but at times was also very anxious. He had anger issues too. He was not too happy being brought to a mental hospital for treatment. He told me this during one of the counselling sessions.’
‘So, did you give me any more medications after that?’ IPS Rana asked.
‘Yes, I changed the course of the medicines after discussing with Dr. Choudhary,’ Aarti said looking at Dr. Choudhary.
He nodded in agreement.
‘I reduced the doses of tranquilizers and antidepressants and tried to increase the counselling sessions. I felt he needed more of psychiatric counselling than medications. He got a little aggressive at times when I asked him a lot of questions. I advised his brother to monitor his activities at home and give me a feedback.’
‘Today was one such clinic hour where Ramesh was supposed to come for a follow up. He came with his brother. I was not seated in my usual out-patient department. That room had been occupied by another doctor for the day so my clinic had been shifted to Ward no-6, Room no- 10 which is in the ground floor of the Neurosurgery block. That was a room allotted for neurosurgery consultation. Ramesh and his brother were the last patients in my list for the day.’
After saying this Aarti paused for a while. Her mouth had gone dry with the continuous round of explanation. Taking another sip of water, she continued.
‘Ramesh seemed to have improved a bit but his brother’s explanations did not match with my diagnosis. I was still confused about the course of my treatment. I advised him for an EEG since I had reduced by doses by then. Ramesh’s brother requested me to keep counselling him while he came after paying the bill for the EEG. I was a little hesitant but I had no other option then.’
‘I was in the process of my counselling session when I noted that he wasn’t too keen to talk. He was dull and very rude while answering. He did not seem to cooperate. I stopped for a while and continued again by advising him to do Yoga which could relieve his stress.’
‘What happened further?’ asked IPS Rana.
‘I was casually asking him about his family when he suddenly got into a fit of rage and hurled himself towards me. I panicked and rushed towards one corner. Later, he pushed me and my palm hit against the edge of the metal cot. He came very close and was going to injure me again when I pulled my bag from the cot and rushed out of the door. I screamed and ran out of the room. I ran as fast as I could.’
‘Did he just push you or do anything more violent Dr. Aarti?’ asked IPS Rana.
‘No, he just pushed me very hard. Before he could react further I escape.’
‘Are you sure there was no more harm done?’ he asked again.
‘No, ’Aarti replied confidently.
‘Where did you vanish off Dr. Aarti?’ asked IPS Rana.
‘Yes, where did you run to after this incident?’ asked Dr. Choudhary
‘Sir, I was too tensed and scared to understand what had happened. I ran towards the staff clinic. It was past 3:00 PM so there was no clinician there. The nurse was also not to be seen. I grabbed a gauge piece and a bandage roll from the first aid box and went out of the campus not knowing what to do. I headed to Starbucks Café which is next to our campus.’
‘There was so much that had happened and you managed to go to a cafe?’ Dr. Choudhary said in amusement.
‘Sir, I was too scared to think logically so I just left the campus,’ Aarti said in a composed and calm way.
‘What happened after these incidents? Can anyone explain?’ IPS Rana asked out aloud in the room.
A ward boy came forward and answered. ‘Sir, we were in the same ward but in a different room. Hearing the shriek of a woman we came out and saw a doctor madam running and a man was running after her. That is when we rushed and prevented him from running. More ward boys came and helped us. He was very violent Sir. He also hit my friend with his fist. Mad fellow’
‘Who called the police?’
‘Sir, it was me,’ told the security guard.
‘Sir, don’t you think there should be more security designated in such areas?’ IPS Rana asked turning towards Dr. Subbarao, the Chancellor.
‘Yes, inspector, I do agree. We have had a very rare incident today and we would like to investigate on the internal security breaches. I will be meeting the security supervisor tonight.’
‘So what is the conclusion inspector?’ asked Dr. Subbarao.
‘Sir, if I may interrupt your investigation, can you please tell me how is Ramesh and where is he now? Aarti asked. She had suddenly realized that Ramesh was nowhere in the picture and she had forgotten about his condition too.
‘I will summarize this in a while.’
‘And…. Ramesh is in the police station with his brother,’ IPS Rana said looking at Aarti.
After completing the report he asked Dr. Choudhary, ‘Sir, I need to record Dr. Aarti’s final statement in order to take further action on this case. The media can print a different version of the incident tomorrow. ‘We need to file this case report by today.
‘You can go ahead,’ said Dr. Choudhary.
‘Dr. Aarti, what is your final opinion,’ IPS Rana asked.
‘As a doctor who has been treating Ramesh I would advise him to be released from jail and admitted to our rehabilitation center. He requires counselling and rehabilitation. This incident is an unexpected psychotic episode. He could be potentially drifting towards Schizophrenia if we do not treat him soon. This patient needs another chance,’ said Aarti.
‘But doctor, he might be potentially dangerous to the other inmates,’ said IPS Rana.
‘We have special cells for such patients who need to be in isolation,’ said Dr. Subbarao.
‘That is at your risk Sir. However, we would keep him under observation in your rehabilitation cell for six months. If another such incident happens then it might be difficult for us to follow the same course of action,’ Rana Dave said while he stood up to leave.
‘I do agree. Meanwhile we will also work on tightening our security system. Today, one of the most able clinicians of our hospital has been injured. I don’t want anyone to be harmed in this way,’ said Dr. Subbarao.
‘Thank you for your cooperation and timely help Inspector,’ said Dr. Subbarao and Dr. Choudhary as they shook hands with IPS Rana.
‘Thank you Sir,’ said Aarti looking at IPS Rana.
‘We are here to help you. Please inform us if you notice anything unusual about Ramesh and…..madam, please be careful next time,’ said IPS Rana.
Originally written for TOI Write for India Contest- Author of the Month- Chetan Bhagat