“Doctor I am at my tether’s end, feeling incredibly low. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, no purpose to my existence. I’ve made up my mind. A final thank you for all your assistance and the treatment you provided,” wailed an inconsolable and visibly intoxicated Rachel, as she cut the call on her plenteous appearing mobile.
“Wait, Rachel ... Do not do that to your precious life. Please listen to me,” were the soothing and calm but firm words of Dr Aditya Bannerjee, an estimable psychiatrist of the city who had called back on Rachel’s gizmo. She finally answered the call after several missed calls had been made by the renowned headshrinker.
“It is futile doctor alienist. I have laced my drink with two strips of Alprax. It’s a heady cocktail … am slowly slipping into….an abyss,” mused Rachel weakly.
Rachel was a prepossessing woman working at a call centre. A call centre is invariably a centralised office utilised for receiving or transmitting a large volume of enquiries though various means of telephony.
With her charming disposition and mellifluous voice, Rachel struck an instantaneous and amazing chord with callers which garnered her widespread support. Though she was new to the job, with her impeccable command over the English language and a highly polished accent, she rose up the ladder of the company like a self-propelled rocket.
Meanwhile, the charming woman became addicted to the conversations as several men and women of different age groups, apart from discussing their official problems crossed the barrier, the unspoken Lakshman Rekha and began to pour their hearts out and narrate personal misadventures.
It was no surprise that the enchantress felt like an empress presiding over an empire, and treated callers and her colleagues as her vassals. To put it mildly, she became snobbish and arrogant while dealing with colleagues. Through one of the callers, she also landed a job as a radio jockey and was to become the toast of the town in her new avatar; the host of ‘Rachel@11’ which aired every Wednesday and Saturday.
The city seemed to come alive at 11 pm and the next morning blurry-eyed youngsters and elders headed out for the day. Rachel was a celebrity now and the cynosure of all.
Mark, her husband was a software engineer and management consultant by profession. He struck profitable deals with several companies and earned a handsome salary. But today, he was slowly but surely getting eclipsed by the growing popularity of his wife. Mark, who spent hours footslogging on the treadmill and pumping iron, felt deeply insecure. His physical six-pack capitulated as he imagined the stolidity of the mental six-pack of his wife.
One day a colleague did not turn up for work and Rachel was compelled to engage in a conversation. A young man vented his anguish about his wife and how he felt deprived of love. Rachel was sympathetic and engaged him in a profound conversation. Soon, the gentleman became a regular caller and always found solace when Rachel comforted him with her vivacious and intelligent conversations. She provided this gentleman with an echo chamber which he was yearning for desperately.
It all began with an inferiority complex that set in, after some years of marriage. Mark had been Rachel’s senior in school; virtually her teacher. She was timorous while he was unabashedly flamboyant. He mentored her through the entire period of their schooling. Love blossomed over the years. While Rachel pursued English Literature and Mass Communications, Mark was tutored in Computer Science and Marketing Management.
Financially there had been no necessity for Rachel to pursue a profession, as her husband earned a handsome salary which took care of their demands, desires and holidays.
She was satisfied with being a homemaker. But it was not long before ennui set in, in Rachel’s life. They had not planned any children and thus her boredom was magnified. The talented and beautiful lass was only tending to the garden, looking after his parents, her parents, making mandatory visits to an orphanage, a perfunctory attendance at an old age home besides attending Sunday Mass.
“The fizz is missing from my life Mark, I am merely baking cakes and having an occasional glass of wine,” she blurted out after faking an orgasm.
Mark was an intelligent man and realised that his beautiful and gifted wife was now merely a vase in the drawing-room who desperately desired her place in the sun.
After a series of arguments, he acceded to her request to work. Finally, she began working at the call centre, which was in the neighbourhood. After a few months, there was a renewed spring in her step and Rachel regained her old charm.
As Rachel’s career graph ascended at the call centre and as a Radio Jockey, Mark’s professional hazards compounded. The fortunes of the company plummeted. There were series of lapses and misdemeanours callously conducted the top honchos of the company and several officials were sacked, which included Mark. He was forced to work as a minor functionary in another company, at a reduced price and an even lower self-esteem.
Some years later Doctor Bannerjee was treating Rachel for a mental disorder which in common parlance is termed depression. Only through a deeper understanding of the term, the psychoanalyst was to apprise her devastated parents, can one empathise with the mental health of the victim. “Your daughter requires loads of sensitivity, not mere sympathy,” remarked the proficient doctor.
“This ailment is different from the mood fluctuations which people regularly experience as a part of their daily rigmarole,” the therapist was to advise Rachel’s disturbed parents.
“You see significant events in life such as bereavement or the loss of a job, often leads to depression. But we consider it as a disorder only if the condition persists or worsens,” said the doctor softly.
“Depression is an ongoing problem, not a passing one. It invariably consists of episodes during which the symptoms persist for at least two weeks and this tendency can last for several weeks, months, or years if not treated properly,” mentioned the doctor to Rachel’s father.
“Rachel is an archetypal case of depression who experiences symptoms of irritability, anxious mood swings, insurmountable fatigue and also ruminating on Sisyphean and antipathetic thoughts,” Dr Bannerjee was to tell her distraught parents. “It is also tragic that her husband is not present and listening to our conversation,” the doctor added.
It was one of those typical nights. The day spent at the call centre and the night at the studio. ‘Rachel @ 11’ had just got over for the day. The company car dropped Rachel home just as the date on her mobile phone altered.
As Rachel tiptoed into the house, she overheard Mark conversing passionately with a female over the telephone in a faked voice, expressing his love for the lady. The conversation was like a thunderbolt which in one stroke slew Rachel’s persona and ego.
“Oh God, Oh Gosh … It was Mark in those deadly conversations, how so naïve and juvenile on my part,” gasped Rachel. In utter desperation, she consumed a bottle of wine and collapsed on the sofa.
The next morning both husband and wife looked at each other quite sheepishly. Both had erred, but their delusions were hidden from each other. They did not utter a word and there was no conversation. Only a deathly silence prevailed in the house. Neither of them attended Sunday Mass. It was Easter Sunday.
The much-feted Rachel had now become a quotidian drinker, while new assignments took Mark to different cities. They were together, yet lived apart and very soon Rachel realised some extramarital dalliances of her husband. It gutted her to the core that she, her husband’s wife was among the first to have had a conversation with Peter. She became a mental wreck and was compelled to say goodbye to her professional life at the call centre and as an RJ.
Mark paid scant attention to the well-being of his wife and there were virtually no conversations between them. Amidst all these developments, Rachel shifted base to her parent’s place and was under the medical care of Dr Aditya Bannerjee. She had a drinking problem, a broken house and was suffering from acute depression; the sounding board was Dr Bannerjee. She could converse only with him. Rachel learnt from a friend that Mark had been spotted with a woman in a bar two days back and that they had been involved in an animated conversation.
It was past midnight as raindrops fell rapidly on the streets of the city. The place was next to her favourite haunt – the ‘Call Centre’. She was extremely enervated and had a mild bruise on her forehead. There was a half-empty bottle of liquor in one hand and a strip of sedatives in the other. Her pretentious phone was still working, though lying on the street. She was lifted by Dr Bannerjee and they both smiled at each other.
“Fortuitously your maiden effort to commit suicide failed. The Gods have been kind to you and the medication,” remarked the doctor.
“No renowned psychologist, it is not the treatment. By now I would have been in the empyrean and you would have carried my corpse if it were not for your conversations,” muttered Rachel.
“I would have positively consumed the remaining pills and the leftover liquor in the bottle had you not prevented me. Your conversation persuaded me from doing so,” said the young woman to the doctor.
The tipping point between life and death was the conversation which Dr Bannerjee had with Rachel.