The passenger seats of the Qualis were so designed that the passengers faced each other. Meenal glared at Vipin and took over, trying to reassure Tara Desai.
Tara ji, please, can I call you Taraji. We are not kidnappers, we are doctors. Vipin is a cardiologist and I am Dr. Meenal, a psychiatrist. We want to help you and your husband.
Tara looked around. There was a driver and a security man in the front seat of the car. Vipin was sitting next to her and this lady who said she was a doctor was sitting opposite her. She was sobbing bitterly. Vipin handed her a box of tissues and instructed the driver
Outer Circle ke chakkar lete raho
I don’t know what to say
Vipin just said “Madam please read the file”
She tried to control herself and read the file. It contained reactions of readers of Shirish’s novels and also the opinions of their loved ones. Fresh tears broke out. She was a timid person, easily bullied by people stronger than her.
What can I say? What do I do?
Can you tell us exactly what is your husband suffering from? What does your doctor say? , Meenal asked gently
We have a GP, a family doctor. He says Shrish is overstressed and needs to stop writing. Ashwin, my brother is his agent. He does not agree. Shirish wants to keep writing. He gets violent when I try to stop him. Yesterday night he turned violent while writing.
“You say he turned violent”, asked Meenal taking Tara’s hands in hers. “Tell me”
Tara started speaking. She had a lot bottled inside her. She spoke her heart out, her worries, her concern for her husband, her fear, her pain at watching Shirish deteriorate, her anger that her brother did not share her emotion.
Meenal said “Taraji, I have some colleagues in NIMHANS. I would like your husband to be brought to the hospital and we can take care of him. He will be safe there”.
He never will, and Ashwin won’t let him
“You have to try”, said Vipin firmly, as he instructed the driver to drive to the Café. “If you can get through to him, he will remain a historical writer of repute, otherwise he will be known as a mad man with dangerous powers”.
Meenal said angrily “Vipin”
He was relentless. “Madam what does he get, some kind of sick pleasure by messing with the brains of the people who read his books?”
Tara got very angry. “You don’t know Shirish. He was shy, quiet, a thorough gentleman, and then ……..
What happened? Tell us more.
“I have to go home” she said, shaking her head, “My husband is not well”
Vipin said firmly,
“Madam tell your driver to follow our car, we will accompany you to your home” and when she looked unsure, he added “You can tell anyone who asks that we are fans”
Tara looked at them pleadingly and whispered “He says he hears people who force him to write their stories. Once I took away all the writing material and he nearly killed himself”
Meenal looked worried. She said “Madam, Hearing voices is considered by clinical psychiatry as an auditory hallucination and as a symptom of conditions such as schizophrenic disorders, manic depression and psychosis. I am surprised that a competent psychiatrist was not called in to treat your husband”
Tara looked cornered. She spoke “My brother and the doctor told me it was stress”
Meenal said “I understand Taraji. Hearing voices can be a very disturbing experience, both for the person who hears voices and family and friends . Moreover, it appears that your husband feels the voices he hears have control over him. It can be a stressful experience coping with such a patient, not to mention dangerous for the patient can attack his care-givers”.
She then added, “I have informed the doctors at NIMHANS and they are apprehensive that your husband may harm himself and others. We request you to kindly give us permission to take him to the hospital where he will be safe and get proper treatment”.
Day 4, 8 p.m., Desai Residence
It was a simply constructed double storey house, noted Vipin, as then entered.
Tara asked a servant “Bhai Sahib kahan hain?”
“Bahar gaye hain” was the reply
Meenal exchanged surprised looks with Vipin – this woman asked for her brother, not her husband who was ill.
“Tara” came a querulous voice from somewhere in the first floor.
“Coming Shirish” she answered. “I’ll be up in a moment”.
A thin, pale bespectacled man came to the stairs limping. He started coming down blinking curiously at the new faces.
Kaun hai? Tara, where were you?
Tara was trembling by now. She said quickly, “I had gone to the mandir. I have brought you Prasad. I thought I would bring it up with your dinner”
Shirish was looking at Meenal and Vipin, as he limped down the stairs into the hall. Vipin walked up to the author and introduced himself
“Sir, I am Dr. Vipin Chaddha and this is Dr. Meenal Vashisht. It is a pleasure to meet you. My Didi is a very big fan of yours”.
Shirish limped to the sofa and sat down inviting them to sit with a gesture. Meenal sat down quietly to observe. She did not approve of the steps Vipin was taking, but both Vipin and the minister were angry at what had happened. Moreover, the SHO of Noida had been contacted on the phone. The man was frustrated and angry. He went far enough to say dire things about JAADU-TONA, which had freaked the minister’s mother who was now getting the house purified by tantrics. She could understand why he was being pushy, though she felt uncomfortable.
All human beings are superstitious, even if they profess to be rational and scientific. She could not give a rationale explanation for what had occurred in Noida and Panchkula. The man looked weak and bookish. His writing had proved powerful beyond the rational world!
Vipin had started a polite conversation about the Desai books and the author’s fascination with Rajasthan. The living room was full of paintings and knick knacks from Rajasthan. Shirish was smiling gently as he said
“My wife painted some scenes for my books. We got the original paintings framed and they are hanging here”
There was a pause as tea was served. Vipin asked
I hear you are not well. The stress of writing is getting to you?
Desai carefully put his tea cup down and said in a stronger voice “There is no stress in writing”
Ashwin burst into the room in anger. He had been shocked when he saw the ministerial Qualis parked outside. He shouted
“Shirish these people have come to take you away. These people will not let you write. They will lock you up and keep you away from your work!”
The man reacted with astonishing speed. He sprang up and ran to the wall that was adorned with an antique sword and shield and ripped them off. His stance was catlike, of a person who was an adept fighter.
Tara screamed “Shiirriiiiiiiiiiiish”! Ashwin don’t do this. They only want to help!
Vipin yelled “Meenal, take her out with you”
Ashwin continued to add fuel to fire
“Every one thinks you are mad, Shirish. Look even my sister, your wife thinks you are mad. No one recognizes how brilliant you are. Even Tara …. Your darling wife got these doctors here to take you away!”
Meenal did not wait a second, she half dragged, half pulled Tara to the living room door. The author was screaming abuses at the top of his voice, and when he saw that his wife was escaping, he started throwing things at her, the tray, tea cups, snack bowls, decoration pieces. A brass artifact hit Tara on her back and she fell. Meenal ducked, escaping being hit by the edge of a tray and both women crawled out into the porch.
The gunman and driver along with the policemen were looking towards the house. When they saw the servants and the women flee, they jumped into action. Meenal shouted after them,
Stop that man, Ashwin. Bring Mrs. Desai’s brother out. Bring them out safely. We can help Mr. Desai
The men did not stop to listen and they rushed in. The minister’s brother in law was inside and no one wanted to face the minister’s anger in case something happened to him.
Tara was totally shell-shocked and went and sat down crosslegged in the grass. Meenal looked at the house, from where they could hear sounds of metal clinking and crashing furniture.
Tara started chanting softly “Please God, Please God, Please God ……….. make them stop. Don’t hurt him. He is not well”
Vipin was scared. The tired mild looking bookish man had transformed in front of his eyes into a lethal warrior, holding a shield in one hand and throwing whatever he could at his wife. He quickly crouched behind the sofa. He could hear that idiot Ashwin whipping the writer into greater fury.
What happened next was totally unexpected. Goaded into extreme fury the writer bit his own arm, and started licking the blood. It drove him over the edge. Picking up the sword he started thrusting and slashing any and every thing that came in front of him. Splinters of wood, shards of glass started flying all over the room.
Vipin raised his head, wondering if he should flee or stay and try to overpower the man. He saw Ashwin walk towards Shirish, still talking, trying to control him
“Only I could see your genius. No one else has ever understood you. You have to write your stories. Forget everyone, I will get your stories printed for the world to read”
The man stood swaying on his feet, licking his own blood from his lips. His eyes were wild and his hair and shirt wet with sweat. His lips parted in a horribly demented grin and he thrust his sword into his agent’s body.
The cops and his driver and gunman saw the opportunity and overpowered the man and disarmed him, and tied him up. An ambulance was called and the writer was heavily sedated and sent off to NIMHANS, the wounded agent was given first aid and also shipped to a nearby hospital.
Day 5, 9a.m., Chibber suite, Maurya Sheraton, Delhi, breakfast
Meenal was glaring at Vipin and Ramola, giving them a piece of her mind.
You two owe me big time. I am a psychiatrist, not a leading character in a thriller. I do not appreciate being in this situation.
“Sorry Meenal Didi, but you do look after mad people, so I thought you would be okay with this” said Vipin with what he hoped was a winsome smile.
“I treat disturbed people, not mad men” said Meenal coldly
Ramola said softly “ Meenal Didi, we really appreciate your help”
Meenal smiled slightly mollified. She mock threatened “You owe me big time, young man and I will collect”
Alpana said firmly “I am totally with Dr. Meenal, Vipin. There was no need to do such herogiri”
Dee, I did not expect any danger. We were just going to persuade the writer to agree to some mental examination, that is all.
AC was busy on the phone. He looked up and said “Well, Mr. Desai has regained consciousness and has been given his laptop. He can continue writing at the hospital. Mrs. Desai has agreed to not get any further books published”
Mrs. Desai is also undergoing treatment. The poor lady has been under a lot of stress. The doctors say she is quite relieved right now.
And her brother? enquired Vipin
“He has certain habits that have to be corrected’ said the minister mysteriously. “Our men have had a talk with him, and he has agreed to go abroad for treatment”
Ramola and Meenal looked confused. Alpana shook her head and said ‘Don’t mind him. He loves to feel important. All this means is that Ashwin has some previous police record and has agreed to leave the country rather than be punished”.
Every one was eating when Ramola voiced what all were thinking but no one had said
“There are so many Desai books in the markets. I wonder who they will affect next”