I have asked him to arrive punctually at 4.00 P.M. today since I would be free and relaxed after a heavy schedule of consultations. I run a clinic in Colombo- the Lankan capital helping people needing psychiatric treatment. They call me Sarojini, and I am the only woman consultant in Wellawatta, a Zonal region in Colombo. I am 32 years old. I have a teenage brother living with me and my husband.
At two minutes to four, I hear a faint scratching sound-his nails on the door-
“Come in, the door is open”
“Good Evening, Madame- I mean Doctor”
I turn on the soft green overhead lights while observing my young patient, who could be 19 or 20.
He sits on the sofa rather hesitantly but with underlying excitement. He stares blankly at the white walls.
He has not even noticed the glossy Western art - photography magazine featuring fully naked women with statuesque figures that I put out for him. I had wondered if he would react, which would give me a tentative psychiatric diagnosis.
I clear my voice softly.
Noticing him wearing a branded half-sleeve white shirt and dark blue slacks, and trendy black shoes and socks, I thought to myself that in real he is not what appears seemingly naïve. He has come to see me with a purpose to impress me than asking for help for some sort of psychic problem.
Nevertheless I am curious to know what he intends to do at this session. “Lean on the sofa here and talk to me”
I smile; hoping t put him at his ease so he will be open to his revelations.
He hesitates for a moment. He avoids looking into my eyes and instead rests his gaze on my shoulders.
“It’s all right to talk,” I tell him.
You are a patient after all, and anything you say is confidential.”
‘As it pleases you, “he says.
“Fine. Tell me, Hari, why you are here. You don’t have any serious problem except that you are little nervous.”
Since yesterday when I saw him at the Hindu temple, I have doubts about Hari’s sincerity because by intuition I feel that he is a pretender - Just to get into conversation with attractive women. At the same time I also feel I need to help him to be sociable without disturbing his worthiness of his individuality. I should be discreet in my action and not harm my reputation as a professional, I thought to myself.”
“So, what is your problem, Hari?”
“Yes, Madame. I feel out of place in Colombo. Here most people speak in Sinhala and English. I can’ understand these languages.”
“Why, what language do you understand<”
“I know only my mother tongue- Thamil. I came to the capital city in search of a job.”
“So, where are you from?”
“I am from Yaalpaanam, Madame. He foreigners who ruled Sri Lanka could not pronounce my place’s name and called it Jaffna to sound like Yaalpaanam.”
“Yes, I know that because I am too a Thamilian from the northern region. But we studied in the English medium. So, I am proficient in English.”
“Why, are you weak in English?”
“We are taught in Thamil medium. Young people there don’t speak in English.”
“So what is your problem today? How can I help you?”
Suddenly he becomes speechless. I notice him to him be uneasy. I pour a glass of water and give it to him.
He takes the glass with both of his hands and tightly holds my right hand. His hands are trembling.
Pushing away my palm from his hold, I tell him, “Hari, relax now. Drink the water, it will do you good.”
He seems embarrassed by the situation.
“Oh Madame, forgive me for holding your hand. It’s not a done thing to hold the hands of a married lady like you, in our culture.”
I pretend not to have heard.
“Madame, you speak my language, Thamil. That’s why I came to you to ask you a favour”
“Favour? What kind of favour?”
“Please find me a job and…”
You know it is very difficult to have one here when you are not competent to work in Sinhala and English. HARI, and in any case, finding you work is not my job.”
He starts weeping and I feel sorry for him. To keep him away from the subject, I ask him to reveal his goals in life.
Anxiously, he asks me if I know that girl with whom I spoke a few words at the Hindu temple yesterday.
There was a pretty Thamil girl with flowers on her pigtail wearing a lengthy skirt and praying. I told her that she was pretty. All of a sudden Hari, who was also there praying, came close to me and asked if he could come for consultation today.
I asked him how he knew me as a Psychiatrist. He told me that he had seen me getting into a car previously from my house and clinic and noticed my profession from the name board.
I had watched them smiling with each other at the temple. I didn’t pay any attention to the casual observation then. But it draws on me now that Hari is pretending to be a patient and he really wants me to be a go-between- him and the lass.
Although empathizing with his jobless situation and his teenage urge to befriend a sophisticated Thamil girl from Colombo, I tell him that I hardly know her except to speak a few words with that girl.
Hari’s face falls. However, he regains his composure and touches my fee and begs me for help. I am touched and shake his hand.
I tell him, “Come on Hari, I will make inquiries about that girl and let you know. But I saw you both smiling at the temple last evening. You know her already, better than I do!” ”
“No Madame, I promise that was the first time I saw her.I smiled at her and she shyly returned the smile.”
“Anyway, it is not my job to introduce unknown persons to each other. I am only a counselor for mentally affected people .Since you seem to be ignorant of working knowledge of other language; I hope that Thamil girl might help you in finding a job for you.” "“
Hair’s face blossoms sparkling. I smile with him, admiring his change in emotions.
“Contact me tomorrow. Good-bye for now.”
“Madame, your fees?”
“I beg you to forgive me, Madame, for touching your hand and feet.”
“It’s all right. You are a patient to me and I am a doctor studying a patient’s anxieties and suggesting remedies. So, there is no question of bodily contact intentionally. I could see you were desperate. I wanted to help you as a fellow human being.”
“Thank you. Madame Thousands of time!”I will call over tomorrow evening. Bye”
I begin to think about Hari and that girl. Is it a ploy between them to hoodwink me? Hari says that he is weak in English, but he speaks all right with me. Is he really from the North of the country? How could he, without a job, carry on with an unmarried and sophisticated girl? Could she be rich and willing to find him a job? Or was she really interested in him and that smile was merely a spontaneous response as a matter of courtesy? Why am I willing to be a go-between for him and that too without getting a fee from him?
My clear thinking is getting blurred
Tomorrow would be another day!