The bright morning sunshine appeared to mollycoddle her into total wakefulness. After the laboriously exhaustive party the night before, she was caught unawares by the brilliancy of the Sun God. Priyadarshini Sen had set the dance floor at the Tantra on fire. She had danced away like there was no tomorrow. It hardly mattered whom she danced with.
“Your morning cuppa.”
Her mother’s entry into her room with a sardonic smile had been enough for Priyadarshini to leave her bed pronto. Sipping her cup of freshly brewed Darjeeling tea in a porcelain- white bone china tumbler with a blue dragon embossed all over its body (the Sens preferred no other tea to kick start their day), she felt a sense of exhilaration running through every pore and atom of her own body.
The Tantra night had been suggested by Samir, her beau. He had earlier celebrated her birthday by sending bouquets made out of two dozens of red roses last year when she had turned twenty four to be precise.
“Priya, I have to meet my boss at eight at the Park Hotel tomorrow. If you could manage it, we might have a dinner there after my meeting gets over and shake a leg at the nightclub there. What say you?” Samir’s voice was as hard and matter-of-fact, as he himself had become in real life. No frills, no fusses. Pure statements which were meant to be followed as others followed his commands in his office.
Priyadarshini who was known as Priya to her beau and friends, was simply Rhea to her parents.
“But Rhea, are you sure that you would face no problems being up so late outside your home? Keeping late nights, sitting in front of your computer or reading a book is something quite different from staying outside late into the night,” Rhea’s father, Sabyasachi Sen had a note of sure concern for their only daughter, in his voice.
“Samir is a very caring guy and it isn’t every day that he decides to take me out. I would be back before midnight. Don’t worry. He would drop me. Dad,” Rhea had paused and had put her fully rounded arms lovingly around her father’s neck, “Don’t fret about me. I would be just fine.”
It had been a night to remember for a long, long time for Rhea. She had just turned twenty-five and was on the threshold of a very active professional career. Samir had come just like a west wind. She had been floored initially by his good looks, but later onwards by his caring attitude towards her as well as his talent. Samir laughs even today when he recalls the incident of their first tumbling against each other.
“You have got a very, very photogenic face.”
Rhea, aka Priyadarshini Sen had been jogging along the cobbled tracks at the public park, lying adjacent to the place where she along with her parents lived. The remark had made her stop in mid track.
A tall, fair lad with a pair of spectacles perched over his eagle-beaked nostrils and clad in a sporty orange sweat shirt and beige baggy pants, had interrupted and halted Rhea’s progress. He had an expensive looking camera dangling from his neck and a smile from the corners of his rather too-feminine mouth.
“What do you mean? Did you click a photo of me without my consent?”
“Yes. I did. I always capture beauty and it is almost ALWAYS” the stranger had deliberately laid an emphasis on the word, “without prior consent.”
Samir’s outspokenness that winter morning had captivated Rhea. She had blushed to the very roots of her voluminous, jet black hair. Mutual introductions had followed pleasantries, first from Samir and then only from Rhea. Samir, at the time, was trying to come out of a friendship soon after having discovered that the person was a gay.
“But don’t you know that the Supreme Court has legitimised LGBT rights and the relation between them as lawful and acceptable?” Rhea had been saying this to Samir, while they were sipping cups of Cappuccinos at a CCD outlet on chilly winter evening. She, a forthright person that she was, had been stunned by the fact that Samir had annulled a friendship just because his friend, Joy, was a gay.
“I am, as you might say, quite orthodox in such matters, Rhea. Besides, if I had furthered the friendship I might just have missed out on actual human, heterosexual love,” Samir had said with a twinkle in his eye, and had put his hand over that of the girl with whom he had accidentally crossed paths with, just a few days ago.
“Yes, we are star crossed lovers and I would like our tale to have a happy ending,” he had added, again with a smile which almost always drips from the corners of his mouth whenever he happens to be in Rhea’s company. Partly mischievous, but almost fully, devoted.
But what Samir didn’t know about Rhea was the fact that she was a schizophrenic.
“I am afraid but your daughter suffers from mild schizophrenia,” Dr. Chaudhury had informed her parents when they had gone to him for help.
He was the person who had diagnosed their daughter’s symptoms, including her hallucinations and the habit of talking to herself sometimes, as a result of her particular anomaly. There had been days when Rhea, or Priyadarshini Sen, would lock herself in her room, which she prefers to call “my cloister”, and unending pleading from her parents would fail to induce her to open the door.
Samir, when told that Rhea bolts herself in sometimes, had advised her parents to dismantle the locking system of the door to her room. He alone had free access to Rhea’s “cloister”, besides her parents of course. So he was hardly surprised when one day he had found the door to her room ajar. But at first he thought that she was talking to someone. He immediately called her mother and together, they tried to make sense out of, what appeared to be, another of Rhea’s tantrums.
It was Rhea’s voice alright.
“’ Are you sure, Rhea?’ asks my mother.
‘Of course I’m. Survival of the fittest, mother. I’m not going against Darwin. Also I don’t want unnecessary scars on my body.’
It’s a known fact that we are all born to die. And frankly, I don’t understand why it has to be made into such a big deal. If it were not for my mother, I would have said that to the bunch of people outside my house, some of them with young kids, shouting slogans, waving placards outside my house, literally wanting me to cut one of my beating hearts out. “SAVE A LIFE. DONATE.” They shout.
For someone who is one in billions, 7.125 to be exact, I expect to be treated better. Scientists are all befuddled regarding my condition that gave me two hearts in my mother’s womb. But years of research and sticking needles into me have led them nowhere, and they have labelled me as a freak mutation. It’s so rare – literally one in all humankind – that they didn’t even name the anomaly (as they call it, I will call it awesomeness). I wanted to name the condition myself, something on the lines of Rhea’s ‘HeartAWESOME’ but the doctors aren’t thrilled with the suggestion. Instead they want to cut one of them out and save a life. Huh?
An IQ of 180, increased concentration, exceptional athleticism and a phenomenal metabolism rate – are just the few boring benefits of an increased blood circulation. Why would I ever give that up?”
“Rhea, RHEA,” Samir hollered from outside the door. “What are you up to, dear?” her mother, had brought honey, as though by deliberation, into her voice.
Slowly Priyadarshini, aka Priya, aka Rhea unfastened the door hinges.
“Why are you shouting Samir? And what did you expect me to be doing, mother? Suicide? No, I am far from it.”
Rhea showed them inside, all the while keeping her back towards them. “You see, I have been preparing the script of a play which we are going to stage at the University Hall by the end of next week. I have got a monologue which I have to deliver to perfection.”
Both Samir and her mother stared at the clutter inside Rhea’s room.
Shreds of cloth, all variously coloured, lay strewn on the floor. There was a bundle lying on top of her bed which seemed to have been tied in a hurry because costumes (supposedly) and patch-worked quilted items were peeping out of it. The two of them felt like they had entered a stage set where all the props had been hung, but there were not enough characters to lend life to it.
One look at her daughter’s mirror and Rhea’s mother turned away in disgust.
There were necklaces of multicoloured beads hanging from its corners. Rhea’s herself was dressed as an overly bloated personage. She had tucked layers of clothing into her ‘ Kaftan’ , which she always wore indoors during the day, in order to achieve that particularly obese appearance.
“What the hell…?” Samir had stopped in mid sentence.
“Rhea, my darling. What is this all about?” Her mother tried to pull her daughter towards her, because she felt that this could be just one of her fits.
“Mom, Samir. I am directing a one-act play called A Peculiar Case . I had been practising my dialogues. In this particular scene, I am required to be talking to myself in front of a mirror. I play the lead role of a girl who accidentally or otherwise has been blessed with two hearts. I am trying to step into her character and internalise the script.”
“When did you grow the knack to direct plays, Rhea?” Samir’s voice could not hide a note of incredulity. He had known Priyadarshini Sen for quite some time, long enough to know that she enjoyed watching plays but had never exhibited any inclination to direct one.