Rima cried helplessly. She in fact cried more out of her helplessness than for the condition of Sushma, whose pale shadow seemingly it was, that lay down there in the psychiatric ward of the Government hospital. Coincidentally, she saw the doctor on round come and Rima quickly went to have a word with him. On asking, the doctor told her that all Sushma’s reports showed no complication or illness as such, but gross mishandling of stress may be the reason for her present condition. She was starved, dehydrated and psyched out. Rima had come to know about Deepak’s drinking habit lately, that was causing a lot of stress to his wife. Rima cast a look at Sushma, who lay there half asleep, a bundle of flesh and bones. With a heavy heart, Rima returned home.
Sushma and her pitiable condition kept playing on Rima’s mind, the whole day. She had a very disturbed sleep too. Though Sushma was just their driver Deepak’s wife, Rima had become quite attached to them over the past decade. She was very unhappy about the superstitions being followed while treating her, instead of a proper treatment. All this only had led Sushma to this pathetic condition and was needed to be hospitalized. Next day, she visited Sushma again. The timely medicines and food seemed to be working and a happy Deepak told her after about two weeks, that Sushma was getting discharged. He told Rima that the doctors have mentioned that the medication would continue for a long time, but she would be completely cured. Rima too was relieved on hearing this, and suggested to Deepak that he should take extra care of her. Deepak readily assured her of that.
Hardly two weeks went by that Deepak came asking for a day off. He told Rima that Sushma was getting the fits again and so he had to take her to some Dargah where such cases were handled very deftly. Rima tried explaining to him that the doctor had warned him of a long recovery period, and that he should not be subjecting her to just any sort of practices. It all fell on deaf ears and Deepak took Sushma to the Dargah. Next morning he himself narrated how Sushma was screaming in pain when she was being beaten up by the person there, with a big broom, apparently to scare away the stubborn spirit inside. After that she became listless and calm, he said, which proved that the spirit had left her. How could Rima explain to him that she was listless because of the terrible beating, she thought.
After that every now and then Deepak would tell her that Sushma had fits again and every time the spirits were shooed away by either some Puja or some chanting and beating by some priest or phakir or some one of that sort. One day Rima was stunned when Deepak told her,
“Ma’am yesterday evening again the spirits attacked her. This time my aunt called someone who is extremely well known for his knowledge of the spirits and ghosts. He is expensive, but we had no choice. He put Sushma with her hands and feet tied on a bed of burning charcoal, and you should have heard the spirits screaming in pain and anger. In no time, Sushma’s head fell back and she became calm. Since then she has been sleeping peacefully and we are sure the spirits have left her for good.”
Rima, with streaming eyes, could not speak anything. To put a living person on a bed of burning charcoal! She just shuddered to imagine the pain Sushma had to endure, and was still going through. Alas! When man has reached the moon and is exploring other planets, people still are so blinded with ignorance and such false beliefs. Next morning she went to visit Sushma. She could not bear to see the burns all over her body. Sushma was in so much pain and it angered Rima to hear her in-laws around say how wonderful and knowledgeable the Ghost man was! Rima sat there for some time and told Sushma’s eldest daughter to feed her after very short intervals, and to give her the fruits that she had brought for her. Having nothing else to do Rima returned home, very sad.
From Deepak, Rima got to know that Sushma was recovering well. She was getting stronger, her wounds too were drying up fast and, most importantly, the spirits did not return. The medication was on too.
Suddenly one day, Rima got a call from Sushma’s daughter saying that Sushma wanted to see her urgently. Rima went to her place immediately. As soon as she entered she could sense the antagonism in the air. Sushma saw her and just got up to hug her tight, as if she’d never let her go. Her disheveled state and uncontrollable sobs were breaking Rima’s heart. Sushma was just saying,
“Ma’am please take me away, take me away.”
Rima was perplexed. She calmed her down and asked her what had happened. Whatever Sushma narrated in between sobs, froze Rima to the very bones. She told her in-laws that she was taking Sushma to her place and that Deepak should come there after work. Sushma had told Rima,
“ Ma’am, yesterday I had a fit again after quite some time. This time they decided to call one Babaji, who is very sought after and helps only in very difficult cases. His charges are also pretty high and he is known to perform his puja in a closed room, with no one but the victim. I was not comfortable for this, Deepak too was at work, but I could not do anything. The Babaji came and shut himself in the room. After sometime he opened the door and signaled for me to be brought in. It felt like I was in a trance. The Babaji sat with his eyes closed and started chanting loudly. He asked me to sit in front on a mat. After chanting for a while, he opened his eyes and asked me to take off my clothes. He shut his eyes again and continued chanting. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. He opened his eyes and leaned towards me. I bent to the back and my hands touched a box of talcum powder. I opened it and threw it all on his face. It went to his eyes and I jumped up, opening the door, and ran out screaming. The Baba came out angrily, saying that I had disrupted his puja and would have to suffer heavily for that. Everyone started shouting at me and were pushing me into the room again, when I resisted and said that he was a bad man. He had evil intentions. All hell broke loose and the Baba stormed out giving out curses. No one believed me and called me a liar. That is when I told my daughter to make that call to you. Ma’am, what will happen now? Please help me. I want to be completely fine again.” Sushma was sobbing again.
Rima was shocked and pained beyond words. Her whole being was on fire at the very thought of that lecherous Baba. How can people exploit someone, in this way? Deepak came after work. Rima made him sit and explained everything calmly. Deepak could not believe what he was hearing, but the sobbing Sushma nodded in affirmation. Deepak was crestfallen and speechless. He was believing people who were so ignorant themselves and were in the clutches of such evil hands, who exploited the ones already in pain. He fell on Rima’s feet asking for forgiveness and thanked her for saving his wife. He now promised to never fall for such superstitions. Sushma’s medication continued for almost a year. Deepak followed it patiently and, in due course, Sushma was completely cured.
Rima was happy that Deepak had been able to get rid of both Alcoholism and Superstitions.