“Then, just out of nowhere, a crouching tiger jumps up at an approaching doe. The victim yelps and runs as fast as she can, but the tiger is like a bolt for her. She accepts, as she feels the deathly teeth crushing her tender and supple neck….”
“STOP. JUST. STOP.”
She looked at her father shockingly. Why did he say that? Why did he have to do that?
Why did he react in such a way to a bedtime story for kids?
Raj looked away from his baby girl, ashamed.
By now, his wife had rushed into the room upon hearing his scream. And she knew.
“Come to bed, dear. Sleep for now. You must be tired.”
My wife is so supportive, he thought to himself.
“I'll… ok. I should rest now. Goodnight, baby.”
Mayra looked at her father through tears. She didn't understand why Papa had to shout so much these days.
She was too little to comprehend the things happening in and around her.
As he entered the room, the sudden sound from the blades of the fan made his skin jump!
He took his gun out of the hiding place, pulled the safety, and held it with all his might. Right in his wife's direction.
She started shaking.
“Please, don't ….Raj, it's me.”
Hearing her trembling voice, he dropped the gun. But his body refused to stop shaking.
Slowly, he mumbled.
“Meeta… I think I need help.”
He sounded like a teenager, scared and worried about whatever was happening to him.
“I know… we'll go tomorrow”, she said, taking him in her arms.
“How long has it been since you've come back?”
“About 6 months, Doctor.”
“All right. This is something which you shouldn't take lightly, okay? I know how this topic is kicked around like a football amongst your friends and in their light chatters. This is a serious matter because it is not only affecting you, but your wife and daughter as well. Have I made myself clear?”
Raj was suffering from PTSD. Not only had he tried to hide it, he had also contemplated the thought of ending his life over it.
PTSD was something which was very normal to occur, and yet it was the most disgruntling, disturbing and unusual thing to take place.
Not everyone would be diagnosed with it.
But then, Raj was not just anyone.
He was the one who had led his army and won against the militants.
He was the one who had held his own against 15 of them. Killing them eventually.
He had been shot, and had had a miraculous escape.
Here he was, today. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A cooker's whistle, the door being shut, the bed creaking— all of these, and much more, made him jump and expect an enemy to be behind or near him.
He had become paranoid about everything. He would follow his daughter's school bus to ensure that she reached safely. He followed his wife to the supermarket to make sure that no one was following her.
All the other honking engines around him filled the entire journey down the road with fear, distress and paranoia.
He wanted to wish it all away, and get back to a normal life.
The tears were no longer salty: they tasted of blood.
The hands were no longer clean: they were tainted red.
His family was no longer safe; they had been attacked by an emotional monster.
It wasn’t Raj anymore.
“Tell me more about this, Doctor”, said Meeta
“PTSD is something which can drive anyone insane. It's like this dangerous world being built and nurtured in one's mind by every sound, step and action. You cannot help it, you can only try to curb it.
The fear will claw through you and eat you up.The best you can do is try to make it take away lesser each time”
“Let's go home, Meeta. Please”, said Raj, getting up and walking out of the room.
“All right. I’ll follow up, Doc.”
“Sir, this is your script, all right? Is everything matching the facts?”
“Yes”, whispered Raj.
Raj had become a hero now. He was the 'saviour' of his country after rightfully achieving it. He had gone back to war, and proved his mettle yet again.
Now, as he sat and read the script of the documentary being made on him and his life, his fingers and toes quivered. But he read on, he could see the old demons and devils waiting to greet him … all he had to do, was give in.
A door banged shut.
His lungs made him scream.
It was back… or maybe, it had never really gone.
Photography By: Yash Mistry