Monday, September 20, 2010

The Other

(Common and uninteresting confidential conversations: a 10-15 minute drama unsuitable for public viewing.)

Arjun, her husband
Dr. Shyam, their clinical psychologist
A man (twenties) & his father (fifties)
A woman (thirties) & her daughter (early teens)

The stage is divided into two by a partition. There is a single door on that partition between the waiting room (on the left) and the doctor’s office (on the right and occupying 75% of the stage).

In the waiting room, there is a single row of 6 chairs facing the partition. There is also a noisy table-fan placed on a small table. The waiting room is otherwise empty.

A woman and her daughter occupy seats 2 and 1 respectively. Arjun enters the waiting room leaving his shoes and wet umbrella outside. He takes seat 6. A man and his father enter the room, and occupy seats 4 and 5 respectively.

The man is in a tense and rather disheveled state. The other four appear calm and well-dressed. All of them appear to be troubled by mosquitoes and the noisy fan. Apart from that, the five people remain seated and stare blankly at the wall in front of them. Once in a while, the man rises, walks up to the noisy fan, tries to adjust the speed or gives it a thump hoping to reduce the noise.

The woman (addressing the three men): Excuse me.

Arjun (the only one who turns towards her): Yes?

The woman: Do you know how much to give the doctor?

Arjun: I asked him. He will tell you.

The woman: First time. (Arjun does not respond. She turns to her daughter.) Molu, when the doctor asks you questions, please answer, ok? (She hesitates. The daughter does not respond.) Molu, speak to him, ok…just answer his questions, that’s all. (She now lowers her voice.) Tell the doctor that Daddy works abroad. (She places her hand on her daughter’s arm.) Don’t mention about Uncle staying with us, ok? It does not matter but there’s no need to talk about him, right, molu? (The daughter turns away from her mother after removing her mother’s hand on her arm. The two then continue to stare at the door.)

The man’s father (to Arjun): What is the exact time?

Arjun: 4:16.

The man’s father: I hope we get to see him before six. When did the last one enter? (No one responds. He then addresses the door.) He takes so much time. (Then, he turns to Arjun again.) Are you next?

Arjun: No, they are next. (With a small turn of his head, he indicates the woman and her daughter.)

The man’s father (to Arjun, more urgently): What is the exact time?

The man (speaks rather sharply from seat 4): Appa, keep quiet!

The five people then continue to stare at the wall silently.

The light fades on that part of the scene and the other side brightens.

There is a desk, a large chair for the doctor and two smaller chairs for patients on the opposite side. There is a computer and the table for that on the right of the doctor. The room is not disorderly but there are lots of books, files and loose paper. Some kids’ toys can also be seen.

The doctor is talking to Swapna. When the light brightens, we are also able to hear their conversation gradually.

Dr. Shyam stoops a little, even while sitting. His face is pleasant and friendly.

During their conversation, Swapna is demure and maintains eye-contact all the time. She does not interrupt the doctor when he speaks. Her hands remain at her side. Her legs are crossed at the ankle and her posture is elegant. She does not fidget.

Dr. Shyam: Good…we have covered a lot, haven’t we?

Swapna: Do you really think that we still have a chance?

Dr. Shyam: Yes. And, that is not because I really like you two.

Swapna: But, it is not getting better. In fact, the situation seems to be worsening…

Dr. Shyam (laughs): I would have been worried if the situation had not worsened…it looks as if you two are at least responding in some way, right?

Swapna (shakes her head): But, we have not changed our stand at all…

Dr. Shyam: Look…we have had these separate sessions for me…for us…to understand the problem. Now, the three of us, at least, agree on what happened. Do you remember how it was in the beginning…even that was not clear…

Swapna (nods her head): Where do we go from here?

Dr. Shyam: I think we can start having joint sessions.

Swapna: That’s not going to be pleasant…

Dr. Shyam: Anything new at home?

Swapna (nods her head but keeps quiet)

Dr. Shyam: What happened?

Swapna (hesitates but she does not turn her head away): We tried to make love, have sex, whatever…

Dr. Shyam: Some argument…

Swapna: I just couldn’t…the thought of him sleeping with her…that hit me like a blow to the stomach…

Dr. Shyam: He is not sleeping with her now, is he? (He pauses till she nods in agreement.) At that time, both of you had mutually consented for a divorce, wanted to try living separately before filing for the divorce, am I correct? You even went abroad…

Swapna: But, I did not sleep with anyone…

Dr. Shyam: True. And, your husband did not sleep with just anyone. He met a woman he really admired and the two of them got close mentally and physically. But, for some reason, that did not work out and after eight months, that affair ended. Were you here then?

Swapna: No. I returned after Lehman collapsed, after I got laid off. We started meeting again…and we wanted to give it another try…

Dr. Shyam: What happened then?

Swapna: We started living together once again.

Dr. Shyam: Your husband told you about the affair before that, right?

Swapna (nods her head): Yes.

Dr. Shyam: If Lehman had not collapsed, you might not have returned at all other than for the case, right?

Swapna (nods her head)

Dr. Shyam: Anyway, after your husband tells you about his affair, you think a lot about it. But, you still wanted to try living together. Correct?

Swapna (nods her head): Yes.

Dr. Shyam: Then, what happened?

Swapna (remains silent)

Dr. Shyam: In the first week together, you come across a photo of that lady in one of his personal diaries.

Swapna (protests): I was cleaning.

Dr. Shyam: The fights start then?

Swapna: I asked him why he wanted to keep her even now.

Dr. Shyam: Her or, her photo?

Swapna (she ignores the doctor’s question): He does not even apologize. He does not even wait for the divorce…cannot even wait…he does not even say sorry for his infidelity.

Dr. Shyam: You two were separated…you were away…

Swapna: Does that justify his infidelity?

Dr. Shyam: Is there anything to be justified? If someone were to tell you that staying away is a kind of infidelity, what would you say?

Swapna: Are you on his side?

Dr. Shyam (laughs): Then, I would get paid by him only, right? (He pauses.) Let’s leave that. Before that…I asked you a question…what was it…ah, yes…do you think that he still keeps her or her photo?

Swapna: It is worse. He wants me to accept her. What kind of woman does he think I am? I am not willing to share my bed or my husband with any woman. I do not want such a husband. When we sleep together, he must be thinking about her, I am sure.

Dr. Shyam: He does not think about you?

Swapna: How do I know? But, I know that he thinks about her quite often.

Dr. Shyam: You know that?

Swapna: A wife can make out such things.

Dr. Shyam: Ah…it is possible that he fantasizes about her…

Swapna: So, he told you that he does, is that so?

Dr. Shyam: If he had told me, do you think I would admit that? (He pauses for a while.) Isn’t it normal for married people to fantasize about people other than their spouses? How about you? Don’t tell me that you have never thought of Hrithik Roshan or Brad Pitt or some Greek god?

Swapna (laughs)

Dr. Shyam (laughing along): Why? Don’t you fantasize?

Swapna: I was laughing at the Greek gods…I prefer normal men…Balraj Sahni or Humphrey Bogart or (she appears to be thinking)…

Dr. Shyam: Or, Arjun?

Swapna (nods her head and smiles): Yes.

Dr. Shyam (looks at his watch): Let’s call it a day, ok? Next time, let’s have a joint session. Trust me. You two are doing great.

Both of them rise. Swapna takes an envelope from her bag and gives it to Dr. Shyam. The doctor slips it into a drawer. Then, the two come out through the door to the other side. The whole stage is now bright. When the doctor enters the waiting room, the 5 people there stand.

The doctor goes towards the woman and her daughter on seats 1 and 2.

Dr. Shyam: Ah, good! You have come with your daughter. Very good! Look, do you mind if I see this man first? (He points towards Arjun.) Just for a few minutes to arrange the next meeting. Is that ok? (The woman nods her head vigorously.).

The doctor then goes back to his office. Swapna does not take a seat but stands near the exit. Arjun goes to her.

Arjun: Will you wait?

Swapna (nods her head and says softly): Yes.

Arjun then enters the doctor’s office.

Swapna keeps standing in that corner. The woman turns to her as if to offer her a seat or to engage her in conversation. Ignoring her, Swapna stares at the door.

Then, except for Swapna, the action there continues to be the same as before, with mosquitoes and the noisy fan.

The light dims in the waiting room and the office brightens. Arjun has taken a seat and he is leaning forward with his arms on the doctor’s desk.

Dr. Shyam: I was telling Swapna that we can have joint sessions from next time.

Arjun: Will it help? She has not changed her mind one bit.

Dr. Shyam: Have you? These fights will not disappear so fast.

Arjun (edgy and embarrassed): So, she told you about yesterday?

Dr. Shyam (he remains silent and keeps looking at Arjun)

Arjun: I am still not comfortable about discussing my bedroom matters with strangers…or doctors.

Dr. Shyam: Does she tell strangers?

Arjun: How should I know...I guess not...

Dr. Shyam: Do you talk to her about your…bedroom matters?

Arjun (exasperated): Doc, there is nothing to talk about…that is one of the problems, remember?

Dr. Shyam: Do you talk to her about the lady?

Arjun: Talk? Her photo is enough for Swapna to see red. The only time I could talk about her was the time I told her about that blasted affair.

Dr. Shyam: Do you regret that it has ended?

Arjun: Doc, it has ended, period. I don’t cry over spilt milk. If only she…my wife…could understand that…

Dr. Shyam: Maybe, your wife thinks that you would like to keep that lady, too…

Arjun (laughing nervously): What…a ménage à trois? When I can’t even keep one in bed? Do you think I am crazy?

Dr. Shyam: No. But, don’t you think your wife could feel a bit jittery about your feelings for that lady?

Arjun: Doc, jittery is an understatement. For her, that lady should not even exist. Not even a memory. I get so mad when I hear those crazy demands…burn her photos, never think about her, that’s all she has to say…that lady is…I mean, was…part of my life. I will not discard any part of my life, period.

Dr. Shyam: It won’t hurt anyone, will it…if you forget…erase that part?

Arjun (rather agitated): You are beginning to sound like her, doc. Can’t you understand? It is the past…can I erase that? Even if it amounts to nothing…even if I could…will I have to erase something else after that? Myself?

Dr. Shyam: Don’t worry, I understand you, Arjun. And, you will make her understand. Give her some time.

Arjun (tired and downcast): It’s been more than a year.

Dr. Shyam: Hey, just some more time, ok? Trust me, both of you will understand each other better soon.

Arjun: I hope so, doc. Just getting tired of it all…

Dr. Shyam: So, let’s meet together next time. I will call you about the exact appointment, ok? Till then, think about what we talked about…

Arjun nods his head and stands up. He hands over some folded money to the doctor who puts that in the drawer. When he is near the door, Arjun turns to the doctor.

Arjun: Doc, what were your conclusions from the Rorschach tests?

Dr. Shyam: Ah! The tests you don’t believe, right? (The two laugh.)

Arjun: I studied about all those ink-blots…thanks to the Net…about what you expect me to see in those stains…

Dr. Shyam (laughs): Did your Net tell you that one of them……what was it…ah, yes… looks like a naked gymnast with one leg up, correct?

Arjun (laughs): Just kidding…but, a joke to a shrink can be dangerous, right?

Dr. Shyam (laughs along and after observing that Arjun was waiting, as if, for something): Are you nervous about the psychological assessment?

Arjun (sheepishly): Not really.

Dr. Shyam: Here, let me show you the preliminary report…I hope you will be satisfied with that…even though you do not believe in what I do…

The doctor searches in a couple of files. Finds a sheet of paper and hands it over to Arjun.

Arjun (reading aloud bits and pieces): …seen in detail, in mental status examination and in diagnostic testing…do not manifest features suggesting any psychiatric illness or abnormality…there is poor frustration tolerance and mild impulsivity…intellectually bright and judgement in non-emotional matters are also good.

Arjun gives the sheet of paper back to Dr. Shyam, shakes hands with the doctor and leaves the office. The woman and her daughter enter the doctor’s office. Swapna and Arjun exit the stage together.

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