“Why am I referred here? I don’t have a problem,” I said.
She didn’t react. Just gestured that I remove my shoes and take the couch. She had an office like any other doctor’s, minus the smells and cold, dangerous instruments.
She waited for me to talk more. I hesitated and spoke again.
“I’m sure people come here with big, insurmountable problems. Girlfriends dump their boyfriends everyday. Hardly the reason to see a shrink, right? What am I, a psycho?”
“No, I am the psycho. Psychotherapist to be precise. If you don’t mind, I prefer that to shrink,” she said.
”Sorry,” I said.
“It’s OK,” she said and reclined on her chair. No more than thirty, she seemed young for a shrink, sorry, psychotherapist. Certificates from top US universities adorned the walls like tiger heads in a hunter’s home. Yes, another South Indian had conquered the world of academics. Dr. Neeta Iyer, Valedictorian, Vassar College.
“I charge five hundred rupees per hour,” she said. “Stare at the walls or talk. I’m cool either way.”
I had spent twelve minutes, or a hundred bucks, without getting anywhere. I wondered if she would accept a partial payment and let me leave.
“Neeta is fine,” she said.
“OK, Neeta, I don’t think my problem warrants this. I don’t know why Dr. Ramachandran sent me here.”
She picked my file from her desk. “Let’s see. This is Dr. Ram’s brief to me – patient has sleep deprivation, has cut off human contact for a week, refuses to eat, has Google-searched on best ways to commit suicide.” She paused and looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“I Google for all sorts of stuff,” I mumbled, “don’t you?”
“The report says the mere mention of her name, her neighbourhood or any association, like her favourite dish, brings out unpredictable emotions ranging from tears to rage to frustration.”
“I had a break-up. What do you expect?” I was irritated.
“Sure, with Ananya who stays in Mylapore. What’s her favourite dish? Curd rice?”
I sat up straight. “Don’t,” I said weakly and felt a lump in my throat. I fought back tears. “Don’t,” I said again.
“Don’t what?” Neeta egged me on, “Minor problem, isn’t it?”
“Fuck minor. It’s killing me.” I stood agitatedly. “Do you South Indians even know what emotions are all about?”
“I’ll ignore the racist comment. You can stand and talk, but if it is a long story, take the couch. I want it all,” she said.
I broke into tears. “Why did this happen to me?” I sobbed.
She passed me a tissue.
“Where do I begin?” I said and sat gingerly on the couch.
“Where all love stories begin. From when you met her the first time,” she said.
She drew the curtains and switched on the air-conditioner. I began to talk and get my money’s worth.