Vikas had a splitting headache. He felt disoriented and shook his head from left to right. He got up gingerly and sat up on the bed. He Looked around and saw a nurse sitting at a distance. He wondered what was going on. He thought he had been discharged from the hospital already. He walked towards the door and then right out of Gobs Hospital. He had to get home. He checked his purse and found thankfully that his wallet was intact. He waved to a taxi and got off at his house in Mulund, Mumbai.
He walked up to his flat and rang the bell. The door opened and he smiled with relief as his wife Madhuri opened the door.
“Hey, I am back” Vikas said and sat down on the sofa exhausted. He looked up at Madhuri and said, “I have a very bad headache. In fact it is so bad, that I am not able to even focus properly. Can you get me a Crocin? I think I will sleep early today.”
Madhuri looked at him with a confused expression, a sense of fear on her face. She said “What do you want?"
“A crocin. Crocin pain relief is better if available” replied Vikas.
Madhuri looked at him, and asked with her voice raised “But who are you?”
Vikas looked at her shocked “What do you mean. This is no time for jokes”. He smiled weakly and said “I really do have a bad headache”.
Madhuri repeated, this time her voice was raised even louder “Who are you?”
Vikas looked at her stunned and said “Madhuri, It's me Vikas. What's wrong with you?”
“You are Vikas?”, Madhuri asked inching closer to the door.
Vikas got up from the sofa and walked up to his wife. He reached for her shoulder.
“Don't touch me”, Madhuri said sharply. She shouted next “Help, help”.
The commotion brought the neighbours – Sanjay Jain and Neeta Jain came out of their flats. Madhuri pointed to Vikas and said “I don't know what this man wants. He has just barged into my house. He says he is Vikas”.
As Sanjay and Neeta stared at him, Vikas exclaimed “Sanjay, Neeta – don't know what is wrong with Madhuri?” Then he looked at them and smiled “Ah, I get it. An April fool's joke?” he exclaimed.
Sanjay looked at him and said, “Who are you? How do you know our names? I don't think we have met before”.
Vikas by now was confused. He tried to gather himself. Nothing was making sense – he found himself again at the same hospital he was discharged from a little while back and now his wife and neighbours were saying they did not know him. What was going on?
Neeta whispered to her husband “And he looks so well dressed and decent. Who would think...”
Sanjay brought out his cell phone and shouted at Vikas “I am calling the police, don’t try to flee”.
Vikas looked at him and asked surprised “Why would I flee from my own house? “
As Sanjay was talking on his phone, Madhuri heard footsteps and looked up. She exclaimed “Oh Vikas” and ran out hugging the new entrant to the house.
The man who knew himself as Vikas stared at them. He suddenly felt himself being dragged and bundled into a Sumo. His headache was as bad as ever, and he closed his eyes, trying to shut himself from the excited screams and yells around him.
He looked up only when he felt a hand grab him. He was half dragged, and he half walked into the police station.
Sanjay spoke up as he saw a police officer. “Inspector Ashok Dave?” he asked. As the officer nodded, he continued, “I spoke to you just a while back”.
“Sure, please sit” said Inspector Ashok Dave.
He quickly frisked the man who called himself Vikas and seated him in a chair, asking two constables to hold him.
Sanjay continued to speak “This man barged into our neighbours house. At that time Madhuri was alone. Vikas came just as I was calling you”.
“Ok” Inspector Ashok looked at Madhuri and asked, “What did he want from you?”
Madhuri looked confused. She said “He just came into the house, sat on the sofa and asked for a crocin”.
“What?” Inspector Ashok asked next “Did he threaten you in any way? Did he ask you to hand over your money or valuables?”
“No. He just said he had a headache and asked for a crocin” said Madhuri looking very confused herself.
Inspector Ashok looked at the man who called himself Vikas next and asked sternly “What did you want? Why did you barge into their house?”
The man who called himself Vikas looked disturbed. In a halting and choked voice he said “Sir believe me. I can't understand what is going on. I found myself sometime back at the same hospital I was discharged from. I returned home and now my wife and neighbours are saying I am not Vikas”. A tear escaped his eye and slid down his cheek.
“What, you think you are her husband?” exclaimed Inspector Ashok and slapped him across the face. Now the man who called himself Vikas started sobbing, holding his head and bending low.
With tears streaming down his face, he said “Believe me. I am Vikas. I work with Astro Financials. I was hospitalised for a brain tumor surgery last week and got discharged after the operation. Today, I suddenly found myself at the same hospital I was discharged from. I had a bad headache. I came home and now I find my wife and neighbours denying that I am Vikas”. He broke down completely, unable to speak further.
Madhuri, Vikas, Sanjay and Neeta looked at each other. Vikas looked at the man who called himself Vikas and asked “How do you know all this about my operation?”
Inspector Ashok looked at the man who called himself Vikas and said “Answer my questions to the point. What is your age?”
“31” replied the man.
“Company? Designation? Job profile”
“Astro Financials. Sr Equities research analyst. I joined about 6 months back” replied the man.
“Phone number office & mobile?”
The man reeled off two sets of numbers.
The four people sitting close to him gasped. Madhuri shrieked “How does he know all this? What is he up to?”
Just then a constable whispered something in Inspector Ashok's ears. Inspector Ashok excused himself and moved to a distance, staring at a page in his hand. He made a couple of calls and returned to his seat.
He reached forward and put the paper in his hand in front of the man who called himself Vikas. Inspector Ashok spoke up “See this fax? It is from the Thane police station. Do you recognize the photo?”
The man who called himself Vikas looked at a photo of himself. He nodded surprised “It's me”.
Inspector Ashok said softly “You are reported missing from Gobs hospital. And your name is not Vikas, it is Sridhar. I have already spoken to the hospital. Your wife is on her way here. Sir, I think you are sick. You need to consult a good doctor”.
“Sridhar, Sridhar.....I own Elegant Decor, Furniture Shop” said the man who called himself Vikas suddenly.
They all turned as they heard footsteps and watched a woman enter the police station. The man who called himself Vikas looked at her and recognition crossed his face.
“Revathi” he exclaimed “So nice to see you after so long”.
“Ha”, said Inspector Ashok. “Looks like you are returning to normal. So you do recognise your wife”.
The man who called himself Vikas looked confused. He thought carefully and said, “Yes, Revathi was my wife. But Madhuri is my wife now. I went with Madhuri to Juhu just the past weekend”.
Inspector Ashok got up from his seat and gestured to Revathi to step aside. He told her all that had happened before Revathi came to the police station.
Revathi listened stunned. “But why would he think he is someone else?” she exclaimed.
“I think you need to take him to a good doctor at the earliest”, said Inspector Ashok.
“Ok, in fact he was in Gobs hospital for a while after he had a small auto accident and was bleeding. I will check with the doctor if this could be related”, said Revathi.
She took Sridhar gently by his hand and said, “Let us go to Dr Vinay at Gobs hospital again. All this confusion may be the result of the accident you had. You did suffer a mild blow to your head as well though it was primarily your leg which was fractured”.
Vikas, Madhuri, Sanjay and Neeta also got up. They excused themselves with Inspector Ashok and set off for home.
Madhuri spoke “Even assuming the man is ill. How could be know so many details of us?”.
“I cannot explain it either” said Vikas confused. “Anyway, this episode is probably over for good”.
The man who was now identified as Sridhar, and Revathi landed up at Gobs hospital. It was already past 8 pm. Thankfully they were able to catch Dr Vinay in his room. They narrated the entire incident to him.
Dr Vinay said “Well, it is like this. Mr Vikas was also admitted to this hospital and in fact was in the next room to you, Mr Sridhar. I operated on him for a tumor. In your case I examined you for any head injury and found there was none. But I remember mentioning about Mr Vikas to you once when you asked who was in the next room. You have been tired and groggy with all the medication and your body has taken a knock due to the accident. So this is a temporary hallucination and there is nothing to worry about”.
Sridhar said “Ok. Let us say I am Sridhar and not Vikas. But I remember a number of details. How could I know his address? Names of his wife and neighbours. His contact numbers..How is that possible?”
Dr Vinay “Some of the details would have been overheard at some time by you and some of it may be imagined”.
“Ok” said Sridhar.
Revathi led the way to their home in Thane. As they entered their flat, Revathi asked, the concern showing in her voice “Are you feeling better now?”.
“Yes, the headache is almost gone” said Sridhar. He continued “Revathi, I do recognise this flat, but I cannot explain it. I don't remember having been here for quite some time and even having seen you for weeks actually..”
Revathi bit her lips “Sridhar, take it easy. We have seen each other even this morning in the hospital”.
Then she suddenly said, “Open your purse and check if my photo is there”. Sridhar opened the purse and found Revathi's smiling face looking at him from a photo.
“See. Are you convinced now? Ok, it is late. Let us have our dinner and go to sleep” said Revathi.
They had a quick and light dinner and retired to bed. As Sridhar got up from bed in the morning, he saw Revathi walking up to the bed. He held her hand and then hugged her.
“Are you feeling ok now ?” asked Revathi concerned.
“Yes, I am ok” said Sridhar quickly. “You may have to help me with some things. I think as a result of the treatment and accident, I am having some memory problems. But I am feeling so much better now.”
Tears welled up in Revathi's eyes “I was so worried. I am so happy now”, she said.
“Thanks for your support. Where would I be without that?” said Sridhar smiling at her.
Revathi left the room after a while to go into the kitchen. Sridhar thought to himself 'My mental confusion is no better today than it was yesterday. Why do I still feel I am also Vikas? What is going on? Maybe I have some kind of multiple personality disorder. But then a woman who prays for my sake since early in the morning could only be my wife. I owe it to her to not alarm her any further with this talk of Vikas. Some mysteries will always remain unsolved. I will pick up the missing pieces of my memory and Revathi will stand by me. God – I look to you for support'.
Dr Vinay had been restless and excited. It had been difficult to sleep. Despite the risk, it had been wonderful to see years of hard work at research bear fruit. He had been working on retrieval, digitisation and reintroduction of human memory. He had worked alone through the years, keeping his work entirely confidential. Some further work was needed but once done, he would announce this to the world, he was certain he would win the nobel prize.
He had obtained memory extracts from several patients. He had then digitised them and was now trying to segregate the extracts by time periods. He had digitised the extracts and had made two vials of Vikas memories of the past 3 months and another of the past 1 year. He had made two different ones in case the first one with a 3-month extract proved ineffective. He had labelled the vials as sedatives so as not to arouse suspicion in his office. He had then asked a nurse to administer a sedative injection to Sridhar – the one with a 3-month memory extract. Since it was only a 3-month timeframe being injected, he was certain over time this would be superceded by Sridhar's real memories with no long-term implications for him.
As he sat in his office, he found he could not focus. He was excited at what had happened. He knew there was a risk but was also sure it would not lead to him. His excitement growing he found himself to be a little breathless. He worried if he was having some kind of an attack. He found it difficult to speak and reached for the door. The nurse, who worked for him, saw him and hurried over to him.
She asked in a worried tone “Doctor, what is wrong?”
Dr Vinay spoke with a lot of effort “Attack..I think it is an attack” he spoke haltingly. At this point he fainted and fell forward.
The nurse brought another doctor over who quickly examined him. The doctor spoke “Not as serious. Seems more of a panic attack. Get a sedative”.
The nurse reached over for the vial marked sedative in Dr Vinay's room and quickly injected him with it.
Around 4 pm that day, there was a knock on the door of Vikas and Madhuri's apartment in Mulund. Madhuri was alone at home and opened the door. The man looked at Madhuri and spoke up “ Madhuri, why did you come home leaving me alone at the hospital?”. He then walked in and slumped on the sofa.
Madhuri followed him in and asked in a confused voice “Dr Vinay, what do you mean?”
“Dr Vinay?” said the man looking perplexed “ Madhuri, what are you talking about?”
Madhuri's hands covered her mouth and with an effort she asked “Who are you then?”
The man looked up and said “ Madhuri, get hold of yourself. It is me, Vikas”!