Avid Reader

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She thinks I am patient but she is wrong. I am a very lazy person. My untrimmed moustache seems to be of a rare fashion to her. Nobody looks at my crummy face for the second time except her. I still can’t figure out why she likes me so much. I am a cigar addict, have some absurd tattoos over my dark brown skin and to top it all, I am a murderer.

 

Yes, I am. I killed our much respected trainer. He was a disciplined man and had served us fore all these years. He was a doctor by profession, a psychiatrist. His strict rules and regulations never met with any protest.

 

He was a medical equipment supervisor and an amateur trainer in the mental hospital to which I was admitted. He appeared in our cell block almost every morning. Our hands were put in the small bed side lockers by the nurses. The inmates of our ward were regularly trained in different trades and crafts by him. We always thought he suffered from hearing problems, because he never listened to us. I never listened to any of his lectures. I just gazed at his animating figure. That’s probably the reason why I was his favourite prey.

 

I always wanted to tell him a lot of things. The many voices inside my head and the secrets in my heart longed to enter his ears. However, he never really took any interest in me or my stories. After every trial, the injection made me unconscious and I was not allowed to express my melancholy.

 

That day, I just couldn’t tolerate his indifference any more. I broke the chains that held me and struck him hard with the intravenous therapy pole that was attached to my bed. He lay there, motionless. Quickly, I checked if there were any nurses or maids outside but there were none at that time. I finally had him to myself. I caressed his face and stroked his hair and spoke my heart out.

 

“I am not a mental patient, doctor. I am an avid reader of books and I just can’t stop myself from behaving like the characters that I read about.”

 

To my surprise, for the first time he listened to me honestly without uttering a word. I checked his breath just to make sure he wasn’t alive; he wasn’t. I kissed his forehead and bid him farewell.

 

I had lost my identity by then. The cell-mates embarrassed me a lot. Moreover, I was kept locked down. Meals were served through chuck holes in the cell door and I was only allotted one hour of outdoor exercise in a day, alone. Normally we were not permitted to contact other inmates and were under constant surveillance.

 

All I knew was that I am a murderer. The incident never left me alone. It never allowed me to sleep in peace. I was often called as a murderer by the jail authorities. Not just me but every prisoner was addressed as a rapist, thief, killer and other such labels, instead of their real names.

 

I used to spend the whole day looking at the wall and scribbling on pieces of paper. I scribbled a lot, all day. Several thoughts aroused in my mind. I yearned for freedom, not from those bars but from the unfair life that I was living. I spent almost a decade there but could never commit suicide because they just wouldn’t let me die.

 

Every three months, she visited me. She was a widow and also extremely poor. She was the only one who stood by me through my hardships. The visiting area was always full of people but she never hesitated to push her way through the crowd and meet me. We exchanged glances and she put her palm on my face very often, sobbing uncontrollably. After that, she always handed me a tiffin which contained some delicious home-made food.

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One day I handed her a bunch of scripts that I had written. She was an asthma patient and didn’t have enough money for her treatment. I asked her to publish my work and earn some money. She agreed and did as I had instructed, completely unaware of what was to come.

 

The book made her enough money to hire an expensive lawyer and finally I was free. Later that year I was declared normal by the mind care unit after several tests.

 

“My son, you were born to write. The world wants to know your story today. Tell them with all your love and trust me, they will listen to you this time,” she said as she patted my back.

 

My mother’s words were very pleasing to my ears but I didn’t smile because I didn’t know how to. I couldn’t even remember when I had smiled last. Did I ever want to be called a psycho murderer again? Never!

 

~Zadid Hussain | Edited by Aditi Dhasmana

 

 


Image source: pixabay.com


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