The Curse of the Astral Body

She gave him an edited version of events, leaving out how close she had been to Harish. She was looking hopefully at him for his diagnosis. Shivram drummed his fingers on the table, his head rolled back, eyes closed. Then he shifted his attention to her. “It looks like mania. My treatment will take long, but if you want to get better fast and cope with office, you can go to a psychiatrist.”
“Don’t worry. It’s a simple thing. The doctor will write some tablets and you will be fine within days,” he quickly said, looking at her expression.
Accepting that she needed help was not difficult – she had already taken her mother to a psychiatrist a couple of times.
— * —
Dr. Praveen Kumar remembered her mother when Ramya went to him, and enquired about her. She told her own story in bits, ending with the message, leaving out what had preceded it. She would halt in between, wondering what bit to bring up next; she had taken stoically all that happened as her lot.

“My parents did not love me and my youngest brother, right from my childhood.” She began.
“What makes you think so? How many children were you?”

They were three children. Ramya was the first child. They had wanted a son, she was told by her grandmother when she was older. Raghu was born next; he displaced her in their affections and they spoilt him. Vishnu was the youngest. Ramya and Vishnu were sent to live with their grandparents in a village. They were called back when she completed her high school because she had got admission in an engineering college in Bangalore.
“My youngest brother left home without telling us. He now visits when he is not well or something. We don’t know what he is doing. We two were very close. I missed him badly. It was like I’d lost my only support. After my wedding, I moved into my in-laws’ home. I did not realize it then, but I had a tough time.”
She sat quietly, staring at the doctor.

“What makes you say that? Were your in-laws unkind to you?”

“It was a joint family with his parents and three other brothers. When my child was born and had to resume work, my mother-in-law said to leave her in crèche. My sisters-in-law did not offer to help. My husband hardly talks to me from the beginning. Their family is like that. I had all this tension bottled up and then developed sinusitis.”
She did not mention her acupressure treatment or her father’s raging temper when they were kids. It was not relevant, she decided, and the doctor might think her silly to believe in alternative treatments. He counseled her and wrote out a prescription; she had to give up her infatuation over Harish, focus on work and take her tablets regularly. Praveen assured her she should be fine in a few weeks. She asked if it was mania. He shook his head and said it was depression. It sounded much better. Two tablets daily and she had to return for review after a month.

“What happened?” Satish asked.
“It’s only a temporary depression. I’ll be fine in a week.” He looked relieved. Looking at him, she too began to believe it.
She stopped going to Harish’s side of the office and did not reply to his messages asking her out for lunch. He did not get the message. He called her a few times and she gave evasive replies.
Even as her health improved, the environment at office deteriorated. There were vague rumors going around about the company’s being sold. People looked tense. Some chatted too much and some became guarded.
– – * – –
The CEO’s gaze and manner were more shifty than usual. The top management was gathered in a semi-circle. There were three new men next to the CEO, one of them wearing a suit. These three had an expression of waiting for something, while they sized up the rest of the employees facing them.
The CEO cleared his throat and began, “Many of you might have had an inkling that something was going on. Change and evolution are inevitable and should be welcomed. To take Mindware Solutions in a new direction to face challenges, a new management is taking over.”
The crowd shifted, you could sense everyone was stunned but did not want to let on. He had it coming for a long time, she thought with satisfaction, maybe things will now change for the better. The new CEO’s name was Subhash. Within a week he was in charge. All the managers were called for a one-on-one meeting.
“If you were in my place, what changes would you bring about?” This was like a magical invitation, so many things she had been brooding about, and wanting to tell. She felt a slight smile spreading on her face as she launched off.
A few days later she was called for a meeting and found the head of HR and of Quality in the CEO’s room.
“We’ve been looking at the appraisal and rewards system. It needs a total overhaul. Since you have been in quality for long, we thought you could share your inputs”. Subhash gave her a bland look. It was to be a secret between them.
She became part of the small team which analyzed the current appraisal system. She got to see Harish’s past records. He had not achieved his goals, or anything close to it. Yet he had got good increments and a promotion. She had suggested that the new system should monitor work done and achievements and link them to rewards with a two levels of reviews before approval. This would fix him and the others for good. The change in management and now would come the accountability. Her words at the party had come true – she had power to make things happen.
Two weeks later she was called for a meeting. The head of HR and IT manager were there this time.
“We are looking at communications within the company. You had suggested a blog. We want to discuss the feasibility of implementation.”
She was made the editor and moderator of the intra-company blog. She got to choose its name.
About a week later she was back in the room. It was full, she had to fetch her own chair. Most of the heads of departments were there.
“We are discussing linking business planning, KRAs and budgeting”. Maybe he did not want to mention she had suggested it or he might have forgotten. It did not matter. She was in the thick of things. She had to keep a notebook to track all the new initiatives and make follow-ups.
A month later the new blog was ready. They had a presentation at the conference room to launch it. After Subhash’s talk, she took over and unveiled the design and explained its features. When she finished, he started clapping and others followed him.
She came home exuberant. “We had a launch of the blog. It’s my baby. Meet the editor.” She bowed.
“Are they giving you a promotion?” Satish joked.
“What is blog, amma?” Shruti demanded.