This too Shall Pass-My Friend Gets a New Phobia on Corona Crackdown
Five days into the lockdown, I received a frantic call from Priya, my friend Arun's wife. She said I have to desperately rush to their house. " But why?" I asked. "He is not talking at all and simply shut up in a room," she said sobbing. "Why don't you call helplines that provide counselling support or is he sick or what?" I asked. "This is not the time to ask such questions, will you please help?"
I soon got ready, not even bothered to take bath. It was risky to take the car and I preferred to go in my scooter. But police was everywhere and how to overcome them. "Why don't you take the list of groceries we have made and show it to them or the ration card." my wife quipped. Armed with such documents and ID proof and of course the facemask, I started to my friend's house five kilometres away.
The situation in Arun's house was pretty gloomy. Priya felt something bad happened to her husband while their two kids were also looking terrified. I had called a couple of my acquaintances who were psychologists and psychiatrists but they said unless he talks it is difficult to help! Or they have to personally see the patient to help!
As I went inside his room, Arun just looked at me and didn't answer any of my questions. "What is bothering you?" "Please have food or water." "Are you ok?" "Why don't we go out for a walk in the surroundings?" "Should we call a psychologist friend?" I was told he didn't take any food since yesterday and I found his water bottle was full. What bothered me was he was a good conversationalist and an ideator. Arun had started his own IT consulting venture recently after working with big MNCs for two decades and was also good at digital marketing. I sometimes sought his help for new ideas for online promotions.
In the meanwhile, I found his wife frantically calling her friends and relatives. I could understand that they were all comforting her and telling her to seek counselling support. I decided to call a friend who had nothing to do with psychology or psychiatry- Sanjay who was my school mate and belongs to UP as I was feeling helpless. But he was someone who was fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and his bag always contained atleast one crime thriller. In this age also read the children's books-Enid Blyton and Harry Potter. Since he was based in Singapore, I could only do Messenger calls or whatsapp calls.
He said look for clues from what Arun was doing, observe his bedroom or work area. I found his laptop was in sleep mode and his smart phone was beeping sometimes with messages and ofcourse writing pads scribbled with something. I couldn't get any clues but his wife said he had been working from home and irritated over some project deadlines and unhappy with his team performance. But again, that he is going to face throughout his life anyway. So what? Being a poor conversationalist myself and a man of few words, I couldn't get past asking a few questions. But my friend Sanjay said keep on asking questions or give some advice.
I again went to his room and asked questions. I thought many entrepreneurs are worried about business loss and salary payments. I asked whether he could make people work from home. But only silence was the answer. My throat began to run dry and I started drinking more and more water. Priya brought some snacks and tea but I was in no mood to have it. I told the family members to remain in their rooms as I continued with my questioning. At one point, I said, "This too Shall Pass!" just remembering what celebrities and psychologists are all talking about now. To my surprise and also shock, Arun suddenly stood up and said, "I am sick of hearing and seeing these dreaded words." "You repeat it and I will smack your stupid head," pointing his power bank at me. "What words?" "Do I have to repeat it?" he asked. I mistakenly said lockdown is not the first time in history, we have faced this before and we shall overcome this epidemic (I told him in Malayalam-' this Mahamari' or epidemic-that is what I hear constantly from our Health Minister Shylajaji's briefings and Comrade CM's briefings). Hearing the word 'Mahamari' he again became violent and tried to throw his tab at me. Then I quickly left the room shutting the door.
I again called my friend to tell him that things are going out of hand. But he began to laugh and said, "Eureka" "Eureka". "I have diagnosed his problem." What? "It is Onamatophobia." I also started getting sick as medical terms make me dizzy even otherwise. I told him to remove the suspense and help me out. He said Arun's fear of hearing certain words is keeping him isolated. in this case it could be "This too shall pass" or Mahamari! "Now you go back to his room and find out what he is doing," he advised. I again knocked on the door and hesitantly went in. And I saw him sitting calmly and asked him whether he is ok. As my face itched, I removed my facemask to scratch my nose and face. Then his face brightened up. But I was afraid to ask him more. I told him to drink water and take bath. He agreed. In the meanwhile, I went out and called my friend about what happened. He again said " Eureka". I couldn't understand. " Your friend has another phobia, it is Iconophobia? Again, it made me confused and desperate. "What the hell is it?". "You said he was happy when you removed your facemask?" "Yes," I said. He might be fearful of repeatedly seeing the face mask everywhere, my friend said.
Soon I called my friend’s wife and said all that had happened and there was nothing to worry. A psychologist rang me asking whether any support is required, I said everything is calm now. But she said her family members should spent some time together and don't ask any questions to him. Let them play snake and ladder, carroms or some puzzles and riddle games. Everything will be fine. Meanwhile, I started getting frantic calls from my wife. There was no masala, coconut, sugar and tea powder at home. I had to rush to the grocery and get it before reaching home.