|She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. ..
Her thoughts chasing her mind to a distant land. To her childhood days of fun, frolic and some nonexistent yet apparently existent stress.
Her lost memories had re-surfaced the day, Divya had dropped in unannounced, out of nowhere at her office. It was such a pleasure to meet her after eight long years. She looked gorgeous, a little more than before. She was not crowned the Prom queen at Don Bosco’s hostel without reason.
Bubbly and chirpy as ever, her boisterousness and enthusiasm had an added excuse that day.
"I am getting engaged to Aayan", she declared gleefully.
Aayan Malhotra was the most eligible and talked about bachelor of Kasuali. Young, successful, rich and handsome, he qualified as husband to flaunt material. Divya had reason to be ecstatic and a valid one at that.
Mahi’s thoughts whisked her further away to childhood days when Divya and she were besties. While Mahi always felt that there were more sides to Divya than the world could see saying or even suggesting that would mean inviting unwanted and avoidable trouble. Praise was what the rich and affluent liked to hear even if all of was hollow.
Divya Mehra, the scion of the Mehra empire felt no differently.
A simple girl from a middle class family, Mahi, was smart enough to know that silence was often golden.
A loner at heart, Divya was sometimes aloof and shy. She preferred to cover her real self under the garb of a loud, prudish and demanding Divya, a girl she actually was not. Mahi knew this too well. Maybe the reason for Divya’s unexplained liking towards her.
There is a strange thing about life, it adapts. Sometimes so much that one forgets the past like it was never a part of their lives.
As friends at the hostel, Mahi and Divya were inseparable. Each felt life without the other was not a possibility. And yet, as they moved on, they moved far and apart.
Divya moved to Boston to pursue Business Management. Mahi followed her dream of becoming a medical research student.
Their re-union eight years later was a mixed bag of emotions for Mahi. She was happy to see Divya. However, she could not shrug a feeling of inexplicable discomfort.
Divya was bubbling with enthusiasm while flaunting her engagement invite. Excitedly dishing out details of the elaborate and lavish arrangements made for the union of the two most rich and famous people. Her cheeks adding a blush to her pretty face each time she mentioned Aayan. She seemed happy and yet, yet why was all of it reminding Mahi of the fake show of happiness that Divya would pull off so often as a child? Was Mahi wrong this time? Was she jealous? It could well maybe or maybe not.
“I must rush!” exclaimed Divya who was meeting Aayan for dinner that night.
The paucity of time disallowed Mahi the liberty to probe and ask the questions that were lingering in her mind all through. The questions when weighed seemed a bit unwarranted. Divya appeared happy.
Mahi consoled herself thinking maybe she was.
Divya and Aayan’s engagement was the talk of the town, the elaborate arrangements and the costs involved had become good fodder for expansive media coverage. Aayan was the heir apparent of the Malhotra Group of Industries and Divya Mehra, the scion of the Mehra Empire, obviously more was less.
Attendance at one of the most prestigious Medical Research Conventions at Germany was the perfect excuse for Mahi’s absence on Divya’s engagement ceremony.
While sending her regrets for being unable to attend the ceremony, Mahi knew she had severed chords, once again.
Divya will never speak to me for months maybe years, she thought to herself.
But that was not to be.
A freak car accident had Mahi rushing to Healing Touch Medical Center to check on Divya and Aayan.
She did know Aayan as well, they could not be called friends, but did know him.
Aayan sat by Divya’s bed in the ICU looking lost.
Mahi’s arrival did not take him by surprise. He ushered her in most chivalrously making her feel comfortable and welcome.
Divya had hurt herself on the head. She was lying unconscious majorly due to the shock of the accident. Being in the driver’s seat, she had taken the major impact while Aayan was mildly bruised. A bandage on the left side of his forehead and a few injections were the only medical care he had required.
Not wanting to disturb Divya, they both walked towards the hospital cafeteria. They both started conversing like old pals, like things had never changed from the days when all three of them hung out together. But things had, they spoke which they never did before.
Mahi remembered the conversation verbatim.
Initially impressed by the suave Aayan, she later felt disgusted by the façade in the name of legacy that he lived.
His response to when asked why he was marrying Divya, still echoing in her mind.
It is not for love or companionship, they are quite readily available everywhere. Marrying for money cannot be a requisite for me. But, yes, in line with maintaining the stature and reputation of the Malhotra family our match qualifies.
Their conversation thankfully ended albeit abruptly with the news of Divya regaining consciousness.
"Would you please stay over Mahi?" Divya insisted.
Mahi felt obligated.
As a psychiatrist, Mahi knew there was a conflict Divya needed to deal with, a resolve which was long overdue.
Divya had always had issues of conflict. Issues she chose to ignore and not deal with, because their resolve brought with them the pain of discarding unwanted baggage. She chose to ignore and pretend they did not exist. But pretence is not life; it is not real and is not worth the dead weight it brings along.
Divya had had to deal with tragic losses at a very young age. Just twelve, she had lost both her parents in a tragic car accident. Her sense of loss was compounded by the state of her younger sister Diya whose brain was injured during the mishap. She barely understood things; her brain registered no learning, no logic. She lived with limited movements and was kept at Mehra Mansion under the care of Mahendra and Kamini Mehra.
Mahendra Mehra, Divya’s paternal uncle was nothing like his elder brother; he was a strict disciplinarian and a male chauvinist who thought girls were lesser humans. Educating them was only to ensure they got good matches for marriage.
He disallowed his wife, Kamini, freedom of thought or expression. She lived avoiding issues of conflict quite diplomatically.
They had no children, a fact that disturbed her husband but not her very much. As instructed like a devoted wife she tried all methods, medical and religious to conceive, but to no avail.
After Aayan and aunty Kamini had said their goodbyes, Divya was tucked comfortably by the nurse. Mahi slept on the other bed provided in the super deluxe room.
It was past midnight when Mahi was awakened by the squeaking of the door.
Could be a nurse checking on Divya she thought as she rose out of her bed and peeked.
Someone had just walked out of the room and it was not the nurse.
Divya was staggering out in a dazed and wobbly gait. Mahi’s heart raced as she followed Divya silently.
The nurses were probably in their room and no one else noticed the two girls in the corridor. Divya walked upto the ICU where she was before being shifted in the room. It was dark and empty and yet she stared through the huge glass window before collapsing in front of it.
Mahi alerted the staff and had Divya moved back into her room.
Next morning none spoke of the previous night.
Divya was advised rest and Mahi was requested by the attending doctor to spend time with her and help her heal.
Even Aayan felt Mahi as a friend and doctor could be of great help.
Aayan was right, Divya needed help. Mahi had also figured at least that much.
Mahi spent more time at Mehra Mansion to understand the case.
Through their numerous conversations she had managed to find out that among other things, Divya most hated the fact that her sister Diya was treated like a non-existent member of the family. That none spoke to her or even acknowledged her existence.
“She may not be mentally sound and mature like the others, but she also has a right to opinion”, Divya would often assert.
From Divya’s conversations she knew that some of Diya’s talk was very sensible. Like her arguments about equal status to women, about they not living merely as shadows of their men made sense. Her dislike towards Aayan’s chauvinistic ways could not be brushed aside as a stroke of madness.
Divya struggled between her heart and her head. But beyond these two was a bigger conflict.
Diya knew all of Divya’s secrets and one deep dark one that she could hold over her to influence all her decisions.
During one of summer breaks, when Divya was at Mehra Mansion, Mahendra Mehra had succumbed to injuries when he had slipped off the stairs. It was an accident that happened in the middle of the night next to the stairs that were right outside Divya’s room. He was drunk and it was dark. There were no witnesses to see the person who had pushed him in his incoherent state.
Divya had no intentions of doing that, but she could not take his behavior anymore. He was her uncle, none would believe the sad story of abuse she had endured and suffered silently. That night, she was merely trying to whisk away from him when he grasped her firm by her hand and started to drag her, gesturing her to keep silent. Alone she could not have mustered enough courage to push him away, that’s when Diya gave him a lending hand. They used all their grit and pushed him away. It made him lose his balance and roll over the twenty more stairs only to land on the ground severely hurt and thankfully dead.
The thud of the fall had the servants awake and running towards the hall. Diya slowly nudged Divya back to her room and switched off the lights.
Divya could never thank Diya enough for that night. But her gratitude had gone a bit too far. She had in return of a favor, given away her life.
While Aayan was not the perfect guy, Divya did have a soft corner for him. While the thought of losing her identity was not too endearing, the charm of exploring life in a different role did entice her. Diya thought otherwise and Divya felt lost.
Diya was by now very vocal and obstinate. She disliked Divya and Aayan’s togetherness and made all attempts to foil it.
Mahi knew Diya and Divya had to part, but how, for they were the same person.
Diya truly never existed in reality, not after her untimely death at the age of ten. But in Divya’s mind she was a living person, her friend, her confidante and her savior. She was her escape from the real world of sadness and betrayal to the cozy and fantastic world of perception.
Divya had long endured a split personality disorder. She spoke to Diya to get answers from her own mind, answers that she was to could otherwise not accept.
Aayan did not quite understand. It took Mahi considerable effort to contain his misplaced anxiety about Divya's mental health. The implications of attracting unnecessary media attention were his cause for genuine concern.
He assured to comply with Mahi and her plan to reclaim Divya from the dominating clutches of Diya.
“You must maintain utmost secrecy about this. Have all your staff briefed and allow none to speak to outsiders”, he implored.
For privacy and isolation they were shifted to the Mehra Farm house away from city limits.
Only Mahi and her most trusted staff were allowed access.
Most evenings passed in counselling sessions, most of which had Divya deluding about her arguments with Diya. As days passed the arguments were getting more and more aggressive and emotionally draining.
Mahi knew the day of verdict and the end of one identity was nearing. The fear was it could resolve either way. It could pull Divya out of Diya's clutches or could drag her into deep mental seclusion. She could well lead to madness believing she was Diya.
As days passed, the need to put one identity to death was becoming increasingly obvious.
The plan was discussed and rehearsed by Mahi and her team of medical experts. It had to be executed to the tee, without any room for mistake.
Divya and Kavya, Mahi’s assistant who was to play Diya’s role, were to be isolated in Divya’s bedroom. Their conversation would be the gist of all Divya and Diya ever spoke. Only this time, Kavya as Diya would agitate, excite and even attack Divya with a dummy weapon. With the help of dim lighting and layers of smoke, Divya’s mind would be fooled further.
The stage was set. Divya was administered mild doses of hallucinogens to create total impact.
She was left alone in her room and Kavya sent to push start the end.
Kavya spoke as planned, igniting and exciting Divya.
Mahi nervously monitored through circuit cameras.
After minutes of heated arguments, they were up against each other in arms.
Kavya tactfully pulled the knife and threatened her.
Scared and confused, Divya snatched the knife and pierced it through Diya’s stomach making blood gush all over the place. She continued to stab her in a fit of rage until Mahi rushed into the room.
“Stop it, she is dead”, screeched Mahi while slapping her.
Then snatching away the knife from Divya's hand, she hugged her tight to calm her.
“It is over. You life is now yours”, Mahi whispered.
Without any further reaction Divya collapsed unconscious.
Relieved that their plan had worked, Mahi walked out of the room carrying the blood stained knife. Her assistants walked in and took over.
Divya was moved back to Mehra Mansion.
It would take days of psychiatric help before Divya would regain normalcy.
But for now, she had attained freedom from the ghost she once lived with. It took courage to put an end to the dual life she was living.
She was now free to make her choices without having to put up a farce.
In killing Diya, she had killed her need to be artificial just to be acceptable.
Even if she was wrong, she was her not someone else.
Mahi smiled sipping her coffee and staring out of the window….