Saturday, July 31, 2010
Revathi sat in thought, wondering what was the best approach now. She and Suraj had decided to part ways and live separately six months back. They had been married for seven years and it was a hard decision to make. They however felt that in view of their continued differences, it was the best approach under the circumstances. Their arguments could have also potentially impacted their 5 year old son Arun.
Revathi finally sighed and made her decision. It was around 1 pm. She called Suraj and spoke "Hi, how is everything with you?"
Suraj, pleasantly surprised to receive her call responded, "I am fine. How are you?"
Revathi's voice caught as she said next "Listen Suraj. I need your help badly. Can you come over for a few days?"
Alarmed, by her words and the concern in her voice, Suraj asked "Why? What happened?"
"It is regarding Arun" said Revathi. "I need to explain a lot of things to you. If you can come over, we can discuss".
Clearly worried, Suraj started packing a bag. Not sure how long his trip would be for, he packed several sets of dresses to last a moderate stay of a few days. He mulled over his conversation with Revathi and wondering what could be the problem with Arun. Revathi had not revealed much over the phone, making it all the more worrying. He got ready quickly and left home.
Once he reached Revathi's flat, Suraj rang the bell. Revathi opened the door and quickly drew him inside. Still somewhat breathless after his travel, Suraj asked concerned "What is wrong with Arun?"
Revathi replied "It will take some time for me to explain. Fortunately, Arun is asleep. I want to explain this before he wakes up. This started around 3 months back. Both me and Arun were returning from the market. When we were walking towards our building, suddenly Arun stiffened, his body started shivering and there was a look of panic in his eyes. I asked him what was wrong but he did not speak. I had to literally drag him home. It took him some time to calm down. He then spoke to me and said 'The smoke. Mummy, save me from the smoke'. I was not sure what he was talking about. He explained again that he had seen some smoke and was afraid of it, but did not know why."
Revathi got up strolling towards the window, her restlessness showing. She sat down again and continued "Though I had hoped that this would be a one time occurence, Arun had a couple more of these attacks over the next 2 months. In both these cases he had seen some smoke, which immediately triggered an attack. After this I visited our family doctor Dr Gupta. After reviewing the details, he referred me to a psychiatrist Dr Dubey. I visited him around two weeks back. He noted down all the details and said it will take some time to get to the root of this. He said I should bring Arun to him every fortnight. I have another appointment with him today evening"
Revathi's voice was choked, and tears filled her eyes as she spoke next "I need your help, Suraj. Can we put what has happened between us aside for the time being till we can set this right for Arun ?"
His face white, shaken by Revathi's account, Suraj bent forward, shaking his head and muttering "Oh god..Oh god...". Suraj then rubbed his face with his hands and after taking a few seconds to compose himself he spoke "Of course, Revathi. I can understand what you must have been through. I am so happy you have called me. I am sure we can handle this".
Suraj stood up and held Revathi's shoulder. Just then Arun walked to the hall and seeing Suraj, said happily "Oh, Dad. You are here" and ran over to hug Suraj. Arun said next "Dad, if you stay till tomorrow I will show you all the new drawings I have done". Suraj smiled realising Arun was saying that as their meetings after his separation from Revathi was mostly for a few hours only.
"I will be around for a few days, Son. We are going to have lots of fun", said Suraj.
"Oh great" said Arun hugging his dad.
The three of them spent some time having a snack, sipping tea and just chatting. They left in the evening for Dr Dubey's clinic. After a wait for around 15 mins, they were called in.
Revathi introduced Suraj and then waited while Dr Dubey referred to his notes. He finally looked up and said "Arun, can you wait inside in the examination room. I will join you in a few minutes".
He then addressed Suraj and Revathi, "Ok. As I explained last time we will need to do a few sittings with Arun. Once we get to the source of Arun's fear of smoke, we should be able to address that".
Revathi asked hesitantly, "What could be the reason for this?".
Dr Dubey responded "Such phobias generally have their origins in some incidents in the past. These memories express themselves as such fears. There are variety of techniques used today to unearth the origin of such phobias. Only you need to be patient".
Revathi asked "But I have not heard of smoke phobia before. Is this a known condition?"
"There are literally hundreds of phobias which are known to science and documented. Fear of smoke though not common, is not unheard of. As such you know most people have their fears for one thing or the other. It is when such fears are irrational that they become phobias" replied Dr Dubey.
"Are such phobias always related to past incidents? Could there be other reasons, say genetic?" asked Suraj.
"They are largely due to past incidents, though there have been some studies on other potential reasons including genetic conditions. There has not been agreement for alternate theories though." responded Dr Dubey.
"There also has been a lot of interest recently on past life regression" said Revathi.
"Well, there are various theories, of course. Don't confuse yourself too much over this. We have had very good success in dealing with various types of traumas".
Dr Dubey then got up and went over inside the examination room. He re-appeared around 20 minutes later with Arun. "We had a very good session" he announced patting Arun.
He then asked Suraj and Revathi to come back and meet him with Arun after two weeks, and make any notes if Arun should have an attack again.
Suraj, Revathi and Arun returned home largely in silence. Suraj tried his best to lighten up the atmosphere at home by playing some loud music and goading everyone to sing along. Arun slept shortly after dinner. Suraj and Revathi sat in the balcony.
Revathi was the first to break the silence and asked "Can you think of any incident in the past from Arun's childhood which he was involved in or would have seen which might have caused this?"
Suraj thought carefully and said "No, I can't".
"That makes me think. Should we consider the possibility of a past life trauma? I saw a big advertisement in the newspaper just yesterday on a past life regression specialist. Do you think we should check him out?" asked Revathi.
Suraj said "Let us first continue with Dr Dubey for some time before considering other options".
Suraj and Revathi walked over to the window looking out into the sky, both in mental turmoil.
Revathi looked at Suraj and said "There is no way we can protect Arun from smoke also. It is so common to chance upon smoke be it in marriages, on the road and so many other situations. With winter starting, it is usual to see people burning fires also. In fact there are some people sitting by a small fire right across. See? It is good Arun is asleep".
Suraj extracted a packet of sugar sweets and popped one into his mouth. He bent his face forward with his eyes closed.
"You are lost in thought again. And again eating sugar..I have told you so many times that eating so much sugar is not healthy", said Revathi.
Suraj looked up, his face looking tired. He said hesitatingly, "Revathi, there is something I have to tell you.."
"Sure, what?" asked Revathi surprised.
"Well", said Suraj. He paused and then continued "I can see how difficult the past few months must have been for both you and Arun. I am sorry I have not been around".
"Well, though I hestitated for some time not knowing what to do. I am happy I called you", admitted Revathi.
The next few days remained free of any events. It was time to rebuild a lost relationship. Suraj and Revathi managed to revitalise their relationship to the happier times. Howver, Arun's condition clearly continued to prey on their minds.
Arun had gone down to play with some other kids. Revathi and Suraj watched him from a distance. Revathi asked Suraj "It is Nishant's wedding in 2 days – Mr Malhotra's son. I am thinking we can probably only go to the reception. There is certain to be fire and smoke as part of the wedding rituals".
"Right, we can think of some reason. Anyway nobody these days expect people to attend both the wedding and the reception", said Suraj.
As planned Suraj, Revathi and Arun attended Nishant's wedding.
One night as they sat in the balcony after dinner, they saw Arun suddenly stiffen. As Revathi followed his gaze, she saw a bunch of people sitting around a low fire. She quickly caught Arun and dragged him inside.
Revathi called out to Suraj, "Suraj, come in. Arun is having an attack'.
Suraj was gently slipping a sugar sweet into his mouth and bending over muttering to himself.
Revathi called out again impatiently "Suraj, please come quickly".
Suraj walked over gingerly and sat down with a sigh on the sofa. He then touched Revathi's hand and whispered "Hold on, let me handle this".
He reached over to Arun and drew him closer to him. He slipped a sugar sweet into his mouth and whispered to him "Arun, close your eyes for a second and eat the sweet slowly till it dissolves in your mouth. Take a deep breath and think of God. Say Om slowly in your mind a few times".
Revathi stared at him and exlaimed "Suraj, what are you..."
Suraj gestured to her to hold on. Arun opened his eyes and seemed to be regaining his composure. In a few minutes he seemed to be back to normal.
Surprised Revathi turned to Suraj "But how..."
Suraj interrupted her and said softly "Later......"
After dinner, once Arun had gone off to sleep, Suraj and Revathi sat on the sofa. Revathi looked at Suraj and asked "Can we discuss now?"
Suraj looked at Revathi and said "I have a confession to make. Maybe you have already guessed. I have a phobia of smoke myself. Having coped with it for so many years, I knew what to do for Arun. In fact I wanted to tell you before this, but I was not sure what you would think of it. Lot of what I am going to tell you may seem strange and unreal to you".
"Go on" said Revathi, "Though it did strike me now, I cannot imagine how I never realised this over all the seven years of our marriage".
"Well, that is not surprising. Except my side of the family, nobody else knows. Over time I learnt to cope with the attacks and hide it. I thought of telling you many times but held back since it was embarassing and I was not sure of what you would think".
"How much you have gone through. And you never reached out for help" said Revathi holding Suraj's hand.
Suraj continued "A lot of people in my family have had this phobia. My grandmother told me that it was a curse on the family. There was a legend that one of our forefathers several thousand years back had once killed a giant dragon with fire, who had left his curse on the family, that for generations to come we would fear smoke. The dragon's spirit is said to hover around the family".
"But Suraj, do you really believe something like this", exclaimed Revathi.
"As a matter of fact, not entirely. However, my fear of smoke is a fact which cannot be denied. My grandmother used to say that the dragon can only be fought with sugar and the grace of God. I developed this phobia when I was also around 5 years old also. My parents used to immediately give me some sugar and ask me to close my eyes, think of God and chant Om. Many of us in this family who had this phobia learnt to cope this way".
After gulping some water, Suraj continued "I have also often wondered if the origin of this phobia could be genetic. This would certainly explain many of the family acquiring this. In due course, possibly this phobia can be explained by science".
Revathi asked "Did you ever consult a doctor?"
"I did not" admitted Suraj. "That is why I was tempted to ask Dr Dubey during our visit if the origin could be genetic since I was extremely curious".
"Ok, from what you are saying then, Dr Dubeys therapy is unlikely to lead to anything since he is focussing on past incidents" said Revathi.
"Well, maybe not. But let us not give that up. Maybe something will come out of it as well", said Suraj.
As they held each other closely, Revathi said "Though events have been too fast for me, I am happy about one thing. We have a way to help Arun during his attacks now. When I was with him alone I was terrified when he had his attacks. The fright on his face, his body being stiff – the whole situation was terrible. I cried that night like I have never before".
Suraj said "I know. The early stages are always difficult".
Revathi smiled looking at Suraj, "Arun is a mature and brave boy, like his father. He will overcome this, won't he""Of course" replied Suraj also smiling, "I have no doubts at all. My parents also used to say every one has their fears. Our family has only got an overdose by chance! The real purpose of life is to overcome our fears, and live life to the fullest".