There Is No Melody in Madness
Sitting in a white plastic chair, I look around. A small room. A huge table in the centre. Yellow-coloured wall with a big clock, ticking...tick...tock...tick...tock.
I look around. Five faces. They look like five sad puppies. I look happy or maybe I pretend to be happy. I am good at pretention. I can teach them—the five women—how to pose a big smile even when one is filled with emptiness as vast as eternity.
I look up—SHANTI CLINIC—a placard hanging on the wall. The first three letters shine brightly, others look a little faded and the last letter, C, dangling precariously like the promises of a former lover. Or maybe, it is mocking. For choosing a name—shanti—meaning peace and tranquility in Bengali, for a psychiatric ward.
The two older women stand up; they want to leave. They look like angry, impatient dogs, wagging their tails. They don’t like waiting. I don’t mind waiting. I have waited all my life. For sunny days, moonlight nights, red roses, white marshmallows. I am still waiting. For Mrs. Regina Begum, the art teacher who claims to be a doctor.
Mrs. Regina enters and asks the two older women to sit down. She smiles at them. She smiles a lot. And she wears glasses, bigger than her face. And she tells stories that make me disoriented. I try to hold the thread of her stories but all I get is bits and pieces of a bad narrative. Some sad metaphors.
Today, Mrs. Regina talks about an art show. There is a museum called Maison de Victor Hugo which put on an exhibit titled ‘La Folie en Tête’ in Paris a few years ago. Never had the people of Paris or any other city witnessed such an exhibition before where all the arts were created by mentally ill patients.
Inspired, Mrs. Regina wants to do something unique, too. She asks us to draw and paint to our heart’s desire. “No rules, no restrictions,” she says with a smile.
I look at the table before me filled with papers, pencils, colour boxes and brushes. I feel good and young. Back to the kindergarten. Colouring time.
Mrs. Regina says she will come after an hour. She will look at our artworks then. She puts a young attendant in charge who looks sad and hardly looks up from her cellphone.
We set out to create art with great passion and a little unintentional madness. The young woman sitting next to me tears papers into tiny pieces and pours colour on them. The colours spread all over the table and then drip on the floor...tip...tip...tip.
Seeing her, the two older women rip their papers too. One of them makes a boat with a blue chart paper and tries to sit on it. A middle-aged woman walks up to the wall and draws a monkey. Or is it a mask? Or is it a monkey wearing a mask?
I take a brush and dip it into colours. I try to draw a cuckoo, but it looks like a crow. A crow who cannot sing like a cuckoo.
I look around; the floor is cluttered with shreds of papers, pencils and brushes. The carpet under the table is wet. A cacophony of colours. A magnificent mess.
Mrs. Regina returns one hour later. She stands still, mouth agape.
We stare at her, bemused. The young woman rubs her coloured hands on her face. Her face looks refreshingly bright.
The two older women stand up, frowning. They want to leave. They don’t like waiting. I show Mrs. Regina my drawing; she doesn’t look happy, though. She looks like us. Numb. Dazed. I feel sorry for her. I'd wanted to tell her that there is no melody in madness. But I forgot.
Marzia Rahman is a Bangladeshi fiction writer and translator. Her writings have appeared in several print and online journals. Her novella-in-flash, If Dreams had wings and Houses were built on clouds, was longlisted in the Bath Novella in Flash Award Competition in 2022. She is currently working on a novella.