Friday, October 29, 2010


For those of you who are like Maya, a great singer, a devout Shahnaz Husain fan and my copywriter colleague in Everest Advertising, I will give you something to worry about. Before I tell you what it is, I shall try and explain to you why it would worry Maya. In Kitab Mahal of which Everest occupied the entire top floor, there was a wholesale book distributing agency on the first floor accessible by the back staircase. I used to go there almost daily and pick up books at discounted prices. Once I picked up a Dictionary of Symptoms and took it up to my room where I dropped it seemingly carelessly on my desk to catch the eye of any visitor and after a while called Maya on the pretext of discussing a copywriting assignment. I knew she was like me an avid book reader who couldn’t pass a book within reach without picking it up and browsing. As soon as she arrived, I left my room saying I had to pee in a hurry. By the time I returned, she was already scanning the book looking worried. I pretended not to have noticed and started chatting about this and that. Mayamemsaab was not listening. She had got up from her chair and was pacing behind it with the open book in her hand. Then, she asked me if she could borrow it for a while. She had swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker. The next few days were hell for her. Every now and then, she would come to my room and check with me if she was looking all right. She kept on dropping dark hints of suffering from some new malady every few minutes. I also caught her off guard checking her pulse once. Others too noticed her unease and we all had a big laugh about it. She never returned the “borrowed” Dictionary and I did not bother to remind her. The ghastly deed had been done! In retrospect, though, I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. I had played the dirtiest trick one could on a hypochondriac. Which brings me to the very same dirty trick I’m about to play, with advance warning, on those among my few and far between readers who are in the habit of imagining that they suffer from some rare psychological malady. In this case, the malady on offer is “Dysthymia”. This deadly sounding condition is defined as “a mood disorder characterized by chronic mildly depressed or irritable mood often accompanied by other symptoms (as eating and sleeping disturbances, fatigue, and poor self-esteem) – called also dysthymic disorder”. Any self-respecting hypochondriac can easily delude herself into believing that she is the victim of this scourge – thanks to the vague “one size fit all” wording of the definition, just the kind of stuff a bestselling Dictionary of Symptoms is full of. Want more food for thought? How about “Dysrhythmia”?