“What did he say?” Niveda sat on her bed, bombarding Praveena with questions about their conversation with James. Praveena answered patiently, “he said he’d talk to a therapist friend. He’ll see you and then he’ll tell us what to do.”
Niveda bit her lip doubtfully, “you think it’ll work?” Her dark eyes widened in horror.
“Come on,” Praveena reproached, “it’ll work.”
Niveda smiled. She was glad to have Praveena and Anil by her side. They were her pillars of support. She felt lucky they hadn’t thought of distancing themselves from her after knowing about her addiction. She had thought they would, along with the others, hate and abandon her. They didn’t and, for that, she was thankful. She didn’t know if Anil had meant what he had said the other day; about being a drug addict himself. She didn’t care though, it was great of him to say that, and she was happy to be his friend.
Praveena smiled at her. She wanted this to work; it had to. Niveda was the first real friend she had had. She had even made future plans for them. She imagined Niveda and herself, practising together as psychologists, and remaining as best friends forever.
Then all of a sudden, Praveena thought of Anil. He had proposed to her and she still couldn’t believe it. She had never though of Anil that way. Whenever she thought of Anil, she always pictured Niveda standing next to him, and the both of them waiting her to join them. ‘Maybe you could think about it a few years later, after Niveda’s back to normal—‘ ‘Yeah, yeah. Maybe,’ Her second inner voice overrode her first. She had more pressing matters to think of.
The next day, Niveda again stayed back in the hostel while Praveena left for college. She met Anil in the canteen, and after a half-cooked breakfast, they left for class. The first session was James’ class. Praveena and Anil still maintained that Niveda was too sick to come attend classes, and the other students attributed their hushed conversations and not-so-happy faces to Niveda’s prolonged absence. James too showed no sign of having spoken to them. He continued his lesson, appreciating a few students for their exceptional observations about the infamous Milgram experiment. Praveena was surprised James liked her essay as well.
All the students strove to get James’ approval. He wouldn’t appreciate a piece unless it was worthwhile. He was an excellent judge of psychological analysis and the mind behind it. As the bell rang signalling a break, almost all the students rushed outside, eager for some fresh air. Anil and Praveena stalled however.
James called out Anil. Glancing at Praveena, he went over to the teachers’ desk where James was collecting his things. When Anil was close enough, he stopped his work and spoke in a quiet voice. Praveena watched as Anil nodded once and turned towards her, his face impassive.
Suddenly Barry Bedbreath, another student, cut in Anil’s path. “What did he say?” the boy asked wheezing through his massive body.
“That my essays are no good, and I should concentrate more,” Anil shrugged.
“Did he really say that?” Praveena asked him in disbelief.
“No,” Anil whispered in triumph. He picked up his books, and turning to Praveena added in a lower voice, “the therapist’s here. He want’s to see Niveda.”
It was lunch break, and Praveena ran up to the hostel to get Niveda. When she opened the door to their room, she found Niveda asleep. She woke her up.
“Niveda?” she called out gently, her hand on Niveda’s shoulder. When Niveda was awake, Praveena noticed her eyes swollen and bloodshot. “What’s wrong with your eyes? You’ve stopped taking them, right?” she asked concerned.
“No,” Niveda defended herself, staring hard at Praveena as if she were an insane suggestion. “I’d go mad if I stop it.”
“But you have to,” Praveena insisted. She was confused, how could Niveda kick the habit if she doesn’t even make an effort?
“Not before I start treatment,” Niveda said sternly.
Praveena wanted to argue, but decided against it. If Niveda was under drugs, it was best not to say anything. The two of them left the hostel. When they caught up with Anil outside James’ office, he thew Niveda a concerned look, but said nothing.
They knocked and hearing approval from within, entered.
Inside, along with James sat a balding and much older man. He wore horn rimmed glasses too big for his beetle eyes. James made the introductions. The therapist, Dr Rasheed, had had experience in the medical field for more than fifteen years. He would be a good adviser, James assured them.
Dr Rasheed wanted to speak with Niveda in private, and James led them to an empty class room nearby. James, Praveena, and Anil gave them some privacy as they waited outside the locked class room.
Some thirty minutes later, the duo appeared. Dr Rasheed spoke with James back in his room while Anil and Praveena stayed with Niveda.
“How did it go?” Anil asked Niveda.
Niveda shrugged unconcerned, “It was OK. He just asked me about the type of drugs I use, and a bit about my family. He then called my mother, who advised him to ditch me to rot.”
Anil frowned as Praveena covered her mouth in shock. “Your mother really said that?” Praveena whispered, too shocked to say anything more.
“I told you; they don’t care.” Niveda didn’t seem to care either. It was like she knew all along this would happen. Praveena saw Niveda was discontented, and said nothing.
As they sat quietly, James came in to the class room. “What are you all doing here? Come on in, we need to talk.” He led them into his room, while Niveda hesitated at the doorway, “Should I join you, or do you want to talk alone?” she asked her eyebrows creased in doubt.
“Of course you should be here.” James looked surprised at her disbelief. “C’mon” he gestured her inside.
They sat facing James, who preferred to stand.
“Now,” James began, “Rasheed says Niveda’s condition is on the edge. We can get over it, but it requires discipline. That’s where you two come in,” he gestured at Praveena and Anil, “Remember, we’re doing this as a team.” He turned to Niveda, “Rasheed wants you to stop using those drugs and try this instead. Whenever you think you need drugs.” He gave her a piece of paper. Anil and Praveena leaned over, and read the name of the prescribed medicine. Anil took a sharp breath, “That’s the same one I took,” he observed. “It’s good, really helps,” he added as the other three raised eyebrows at him.
James nodded at him, “Good. We’ll try this, and then a couple of weeks later, Rasheed will meet with you again, Niveda.”
Niveda nodded, “Thank you, Sir” she said her voice constrained with emotion. She tried hard not to tear up.
“You’re always welcome,” he smiled, “now do us a favor,” he said as he walked over to her. Niveda looked puzzled, “chuck this thing out.” he said patting her on the shoulder.
Niveda smiled, and assured him, “I will.”
National Blog Posting Month – Day 25