Asif said without looking at him, "Just one last patient."He had so far studiously ignored introducing him to patients. This seemed to be an exception. He was introduced as a 'dear colleague from East Punjab'.
Prakash had crossed Wagah just that afternoon to attend a half day seminar on 'Depression across cultures' in Lahore, visa for which had taken four months with Prakash battling for it from Delhi and Asif from Lahore. They were going to Cuckoo's den for dinner to celebrate the success and Asif had insisted that he join him meanwhile in the clinic while Gul got ready.
"Mr. Haq is a client. He requires me off and on for what he calls his blue funks."
Mr. Haq looked to be a middle level executive on his way back from work. The loose tie, the wrongly buttoned jacket, the grey of the hair showing through carelessly applied henna and the grim moustache-less upper lip corroborated 'blue funks' alright. He nodded at Prakash, who thought he saw a momentary glimmer in his eyes while being introduced.
"No I am not better, Dr. Hussain" he came straight to the point. "Worse, in fact, if that were possible. The whole day is a drag. It is now like a black shadow drawn over the whole day, not just the evenings like before. Why don't I resign? It is not fair to the company. It is not even a valid medical reason. That is why I do not ask for these expenses to be re-imbursed."
"You should not resign because soon you will be out of it and will regret having resigned and would be depressed because of that and then we would be grappling with an entirely different blue funk" Asif said.
"How can I come out of it when he is in the hospital battling hundreds of tests and procedures? Operations are being talked about. Newspapers give so few details and Indian papers are not available here.'' For the first time Mr. Haq showed some interest in Prakash, "You would know. How are his test reports?"
Prakash had no clue to what was being talked about. He looked thoroughly nonplussed.
"Mr. Haq means Amitabh Bacchan, the actor. He is in hospital, apparently, with a suspected diagnosis of myaesthenia gravis. The last time Mr. Haq needed me was a year and a half back when Amitabh Bachan was in coma, after a fight scene went wrong during shooting. That was the longest blue funk that Mr. Haq has had. Six months, and he and Mrs.Haq flew to Mecca to pray for him, so that Amitabh Bachan could get well, so that Mr. Haq could get well. He didn't work for those six months and the company almost fired him, since he hadn't told them the real reason. He feared that he would be ridiculed. And it so happened, soon after Mecca, the actor rapidly recovered and Mr. Haq joined back."
"Whenever I slept then, I dreamt of dead bodies in red uniforms, like those of railway porters. Those dreams are back .My wife insists that we should go to Mecca again."
"But that was not the first time, Mr. Haq?" Asif asked for Prakash's benefit.
"No, the first time was many years back. It was just a viral fever he had. I was fine in two weeks. A short blue funk. We were thirty four then."
Asif informed Prakash, "These two gentlemen were born on the same day, at the same time in the same city. The senior Mr. Haq taught English at Allahabad University."
Mr. Haq was crying now. Tears flowed down the sides of his clean shaven upper lip into the hennaed beard as he asked between sobs, "Is it true that people die of myasthenia because they cannot breathe?"
Asif told him about the medications for myasthenia and fair degree of its treatability in most cases.
"I also worry about his future, our future, because he is getting old and will keep having one or the other medical issues as a matter of course. Then what will happen to me? And I have my own diseases, you know, high blood pressure and diabetes, which are barely controlled. Why don't I just die?"
Asif found a box of tissues in a drawer and passed it to Mr. Haq.
"Scores of children must have been born in the same city that night. I am sure they do not share his illnesses as you do. What makes you think that you are joined at the hip with him? He does not even know that you exist."
"I agree. Madness it is, Dr. Hussain and that is why I am here."
There was a weak attempt at a smile and Mr. Haq listlessly pushed the fresh prescription into his pocket, waved at them half heartedly and walked out with heavy steps. He turned at the door to inform, "I will have to miss the appointment, next week. Might as well listen to missus and go to Mecca".
"And whose health you and Mrs. Haq will pray for? Yours or his?" Asif asked.
"His of course, Dr. Hussain, I will recover automatically." Mr. Haq said from the door and was gone.