Things in India have a queer way of functioning. Primarily, there is an unparalleled disdain towards time, and appointments are more or less matters of formality. Such is the way this country and its countrymen have operated for aeons. It is our tradition to take time for granted even when we have been taught that time is of the essence.
So there I was, at 10.50 am, for a meeting with the psychiatrist fixed for 11.00. Now, why was I there, you’ll be curious. Well, we all could do with some external help to iron out the wrinkles created by the rough and tumble of our lives. Nothing unoffficial about it. So let us stop overreacting/judging/raising a brow and start treating mental health like any other common issue. We are all equally seeking sanity and sleep, so let’s not build back stories and bad guesses. Let’s just focus on running our lives on track.
Now back to my narrative.
It took a while for me to sum up that half of those who were seated in the waiting room were escorts. Sons, parents, spouses all accompanying turbulent minds of their loved ones. I was amazed at how deceptive appearances could be. Here was a group of people weathering storms of unspecified nature, and there was not a hint of it on their faces and even if there was, it was so adeptly disguised. We were born with cover-up techniques. That the mask became essential with the pandemic is only a coincidence that added credence to our camouflage.
The appointments were already running way behind schedule. Some people needed more than the allotted 15 minutes to offload their woes. A random entry by a severely affected person threw the appointments further off kilter. The delay slowly began to fray nerves in the waiting room. An old lady next to me began to demur in an obvious display of her disquiet. Her son, probably in his late 20s tried to calm her, alternating between soothing words and slight reprimands. She was hungry, she was edgy, she kept asking when her turn would come. I turned to look at them and gave the son a smile of empathy and understanding.
It was enough to trigger a conversation.
I was surprised at the ease with which he elaborated his aged mother’s condition to me. I gulped emptily and somewhat succeeded in showing equanimity when he mentioned she had recently attempted to kill herself. I struggled to link the lady with the extreme act. As if to placate myself, I at once put a hand on her lap and said that the doctor would call her in shortly. She nodded as if assuaged by my words.
I gathered that they were last in queue, after me. The rate at which things were going it would take at least an hour, I surmised, and that wouldn’t be endured easily by the old lady. She had become very fidgety.
Two hand half hours had elapsed since I arrived, and the heat wasn’t making our waiting any easier.