Friday, June 27, 2008

Total Internal Reflection

In the fifteen years of his experience as a psychiatrist, Dr. Goldberg had come across a myriad different cases but no one confounded him as much as the man sitting in front of him across the table, waiting for an answer.

Siddharta was an Indian who had recently moved to Los Angeles. He was healthy and physically very fit, so the possibility of his condition being a side effect of a physical ailment was eliminated. He had no stress at work or in personal life. He had had a very happy childhood. As one by one, Dr. Goldberg eliminated all his hypotheses, the look on his face grew more and more confounded. There was the possibility of a defective dormant gene but even that would need a trigger to manifest. Maybe he missed some important detail.

"Could you repeat your story Mr. Sid?"

"For as long as I can remember I've been living two lives. One in Delhi as Siddharta and one in bangalore as Kumar. The instant I fall asleep as Sid in Delhi (and now in Los Angeles) I wake up as Kumar in Bangalore and when I sleep as Kumar after a while, I wake up as if after a nap/sleep as Sid. Neither of these lives has any effect on the other and each goes on continuously and consistently irrespective of what happens in the other. So I have two families, two jobs, two sets of friends, two of everything...

I have told both sets of parents about this condition when I was a kid but they just wrote it off to a hyperactive imagination. My (Kumar's) therapist in Bangalore suggested that I investigate about Siddharta but I couldn't find any trace. I tried it the other way too but failed again. In fact it was he who suggested that I contact you but I didn't want to stop seeing him so I moved here as Siddharta."

"Who did you see in Bangalore?"

"Dr. Sreenivasan"

"I know him. Tell me something you know about him."

"I don't know him personally but I've seen a photograph of him in his office, so I know he has two children, one boy and a girl. He has lots of little figures of Buddha in his office so I know he is interested in Buddhism. I particularly liked the one made from Rosewood."

"OK Sid, I have another appointment so I'll meet you next week"

"OK Doctor, have a nice day."

Six weeks passed by, six sessions of sitting, looking totally dumbfounded. Dr. Goldberg never felt so stupid before. He made Sid repeat his story many times over and one by one eliminated all possible explanations except two, either the monists were right or Sid was lying. He had called Dr. Sreenivasan, who confirmed every word that Sid said. He also vehemently denied ever knowing any person named Kumar. He had thought this was some prank being played by Dr. Goldberg and was annoyed that his personal details were being used. Also Sid didn't seem like a guy who'd make up such a story just for kicks and also pay $500 an hour to do so.

It was time to meet Sid again. He had told Sid that he'd come up with an explanation in six weeks; this was the seventh week.

"Hello Doctor."

"Hello Sid, sit down."

"I need to make a confession.", started the Doctor.
"I have no idea what's wrong with you, if at all anything is. I understand your situation and would like to ask you something before I proceed. In this age of consumerism where everyone wants more, your condition is a blessing. You get to live twice, you get to have double of everything, you are practically living the Epicurean dream. What I don't understand is why is this a problem? What is it that you want?"

"I just want to sleep Doctor... I want a break."

Dr. Goldberg looked at him for a long time but somehow couldn't get himself to doubt the man sitting before him. He had the feeling that this was one of those moments when truth is stranger than fiction.

"Fair enough. I can't help you with therapy of any sort. As far as your problem is concerned, you have come to me to help you decide which of your lives is real. I can't help but remark that to give you advice of any kind I have to affirm the reality of my existence and if I am real then Sid is real and not Kumar. As far as I can gather, your two lives are totally independent and any physical injury or ailment to one does not affect the other in any way. So if you really want to live just one life then I suggest you choose one. As a doctor I cannot be more explicit than this with a patient. I hope you understand what I mean."

"I understand Doctor, I will think about it, thank you."

"Good, I hope you find what you're looking for. Good bye."

"Good bye Doctor."

A week later, Dr. Goldberg found a note on his desk...
"Thank you doctor. I chose Sid and finally slept last night but I'm sure it would have worked the other way too..."

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