Letters from a Mad Man

Letters from a Mad Man
Letters from a Mad Man

1996

A year ago, when I came to know all about it, or in fact not all about it, I could never have imagined revealing it to you all. And now I can’t help it. It’s about one of my friends. In the autumn of the previous year, I received a letter – a most mysterious letter. It was from him. But it didn’t have any name or address of the sender. So I then did not know who sent me the letter. Not only was the sender’s identity mysterious but its content was also that much mysterious. It will be quite a mistake to relate the content in my own words for the chances of misinterpretation will be a heavy burden to bear. So I choose to present a photocopy of that first letter (and of the subsequent letters) for the readers.

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Circa 1995

Dear friend,

It’s a long time since we last met. We never even kept correspondence. And that is why you will be quite surprised of my correspondence with you after such a long time. To be fair and frank I even now wouldn’t have written to you hadn’t it been for that urge and necessity. And what was it that gave me the necessary urge? It was something that happened some years ago. I had gone to the library that day and was deeply engrossed in the books when I was distracted. A great distraction! I smelt something – a fragrant smell. My nose was at work. The fragrance was pleasing. I looked around. The library was empty but for me and a woman. She was sitting, with a book, at the far end of the library. She had a pretty face and flowers in her hair. It was certainly those fragrant flowers. And then when the library guard woke me up, before closing the library for the day, neither she nor those fragrant flowers were there. That was some years ago. Recently, one day when I was deeply involved with my work, the scent returned. The faint smell filled me with pleasure. As you know my garden is always filled with wildflowers. After the rainy season, there was a great influx of them. So I thought that the fragrant flowers would be among them. And you know – I found them. I took the bunch of them and put it in the flower vase. From that day in its pleasure-smell, I couldn’t do any work. Somehow you came to my memory. By now you must have become a doctor, so I wrote to you. From that day I am feeling numbness within me.

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That was the letter – the first one. When it came I read it once and kept it aside. I could have re-read it and stumbled upon some clues about the identity of the author of the letter; like the mentioning of the garden of wild flowers, but I heeded not. A month passed by before I received the second letter.

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Circa 1995

Dear friend,

The numbness is not due to those flowers. Much time has passed. The flowers have died. Faded and dropped. Still, the scent is there – no longer faint. That day I went to the vase and picked up the bunch and for the first time smelt those flowers at close quarters. They didn’t smell at all. I then held the stems close to my nose and the odour was that of some rotten vegetable matter. I threw them out of the window. So it’s the woman whose fragrance it is. Now I search everywhere – everywhere in my house for that woman. But can’t find her. One day while I was lying on the bed, engulfed by the fragrance, I felt the woman beside me. Another thing is that nowadays I don’t remember anything except for a few things.

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The second letter alarmed me, but I didn’t want to get more alarmed by delving deeper into those two letters. So it also went into its hiding after a single read. That might have been my greatest mistake. But I could never foresee anything. How could I know that one’s nose can be so dangerous? I have always found the ears to be the ugliest. Literally an outcast in the face. And the nose, if not more beautiful than the eyes and the lips, has a leadership quality. How can it harm? The third letter arrived a week later and answered the question.

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1995

Dear friend,

I lied. That day I did not fall asleep in the library. I fainted. I fell unconscious. It’s now quite evident that the fragrance has some intoxicating effect on me. The scent is ever stronger now. So is my memory of the smell. The faculty of smell has devoured all my other faculties of sensing. Now I fully rely on my memory of smell for my sustenance in this world. It might be that when we last met, you wrote your address in my diary with scented ink. I keep forgetting.

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The letter made me up. For two days I searched for my old diary. In the end, I found it. I matched the handwriting of all my friends with the handwriting of those letters. I came to know the author of those letters – my friend who has a garden of wildflowers. A couple of days after receiving the third letter I was on my way to his house. And I reached there without any difficulty. His, was a small house with the garden of wild flowers. I entered as the door was quite ajar. He was sitting with his head lying on the table. I called out to him. He didn’t respond. I went up to him and shook him and then I pulled up his face. And under his dead face was an overturned pad. On the last page was the fourth, unfinished letter. Since three pages have already been torn from there, I tore the fourth one also. I kept the pad with the right side up and put the dead face on it. I left the place. There was surely no odour which I was able to smell. A day later I read about his death in the newspaper. The post-mortem report said – “Death due to inhaling poisonous fumes”. The case might be buried in the police file titled “Unsolved Mysteries”. But many other questions remain unanswered apart from that of his death. Was the fragrance so strong that the numbness created by it made him forget the date or in fact the year? It is feasible to admit that he could write and post me the letters in his intoxicated condition as the post-office was just beside his house. But did he write those letters for a specific purpose? The best answer to all questions might be given by the fourth, unfinished (or finished, as none of his letters had any proper conclusion) letter.

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08-11-1995

Dear friend,

The odour is now suffocating me. But it is still pleasant.

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The exact time of his death, according to the post-mortem report, I came to know about from a reliable source, was 12:30 a.m. (on 8th November 1995). He certainly wasn’t mad.

 

Amit Shankar Saha
Professor, researcher, writer and poet.

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