Write ups


By Deepti naval


So what did I conclude from my stay in the women’s ward of a mental asylum, to prepare for a film role?
Do I feel sorry for the inmates, or do they fascinate me?
Do I perhaps envy them? What is it?

I left the ward in twenty-three days, delirious. It was not a mental state. It had by now become a physical thing. It was in my blood. Like addiction. Madness was addictive, I had experienced it. I had been emotionally sucked in. it was like an internal collapse.

My friend Kunal insisted that I leave ‘that place’ instantly and come back home for Christmas.

‘Christmas? People? No… please… don’t push me among people… I won’t be able to deal with that!’

‘Come on, Deepti, they are normal people… they’re friends! Okay?’

I panicked. The prospect of normalcy unnerved me.

‘I will come home for Christmas, but not to be thrown among people with whom I’d have to make small talk.’

Kunal relented. ‘Okay, we’ll drive out to the Crocodile Farm... Ratna and the kids will join us there…’

A long drive with brown fields on both sides of the road - it gave me a chance to breathe. Winter had come to the land in tones of umber I hadn’t noticed in all these days. Kunal allowed me to remain with my thoughts most part of the drive. I soaked in the afternoon sun and the clear sky like one who hadn’t seen daylight in a long-long time.

By the time we reached the Crocodile Farm it was already late afternoon. The light was changing. Seeing a crocodile could excite me; I hadn’t quite known that. But my excitement was to be short lived. As soon as I saw Ratna and the kids, I realized there were other people around. My look towards Kunal was one of betrayal. He had called people after all. Strangers. I clamped up.

Kunal tried to smile his way through my ‘suddenly stoned’ expression. His friends sat down on the grass. Food was laid out on newspapers and it was supposed to be picnic time. I do not remember what everyone was talking about. My head kept reeling with just one sentence, ‘No, I don’t want to be here!’ How I hated Kunal at that moment. ‘You are my friend! But you don’t understand the first thing about me! I trusted you! And you have done this?’

People laughed and talked. Ordinary things. Polite, but insignificant conversation was jarring to my ears. What are they laughing about? Why don’t they just be quiet if there is nothing to say!

‘Deepti… Sit!… it is okay… Be charming!…(I am telling myself)… Smile for God’s sake… smile!’

I sat down, smiled… and tried to eat something. One of the men passed a chicken leg to his friend, who retorted - ‘Yeh kya de diya… sookhi…Madhuri Dixit!

I stiffened.

The guy put the skinny leg back into the casserole and handed over a fat fleshy piece saying with a grin ‘Yeh le yaar… Tu Sridevi le le!’ They all laughed. Including the women.

I got up, nauseated. I puked.

Suddenly the images from the hospital started to run in my head like newsreel. I wanted to go back. I just wanted to return. I craved for the sensitivity that existed within the walls of the mental asylum. I wanted asylum from this mediocrity. I wanted to be taken back to one of those dim corridors and be left there.

All I remember after that was walking away towards where the cars were parked; my poor friend Kunal running after me, begging me to come back and not ‘create a scene’.

Finally we left. But not before Kunal went back and forth apologizing profusely to his friends and their wives for my most
unpredictable behavior.

Today I feel bad for having spoiled everyone’s Christmas Eve. After all these people were showing their regard for me by coming all the way out to be with me. But at that point of time, that was the only way I could have behaved, because that was how I had honestly felt.

After all, you cannot come out of that place, unaffected…
Can you?


Tell me I can fly

I may not go nowhere

It’s just necessary
For me
To know

You won’t
Drag me by my feet

Sit on my wings



It’s the same city again
Familiar traffic light

There’s something about the air
The winter, I feel it coming

I have no memories here.
All is gone, as if to
Another life…yet, one image

Lingers in the mind …
I try to recognize it –

Is it part of my life? From
A film I have seen, or was it
A sepia-toned image, captured by
an unknown photographer?

The fog slowly moves, covers
The concrete. Cows
Have all been driven away from
The main roads.

The light is different

Like it was
That one winter night –

Your face in the car window;
Dark glass moving up…slowly
Shutting me – out of your life

I stand at the traffic light and
Forget… to walk
At the ‘Walk’ sign

It’s uncanny –how the pain
Comes back - raw, real –

Pain I felt on leaving you,
And going away

To another man.



Beat the flight out
Of their fucking minds

Grill them, drag them
Shove them in the bin

Split their skulls
With electric things

Char them with ‘sanity’
Make sure they crack it!