Humor Fiction posted March 26, 2021

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An amusing story on a serious subject.

The Man Who Married His Ghost.

by Seshadri_Sreenivasan

"I want to get married, Mother.”
 'Why not?"

 Those two words from his mother changed the course of life for Anand Apte.

"Mummy listen to me in full.” Anand pointed out that the Hindu culture of marrying within the family is prohibited by the holy books and Hindu personal law. However, nowhere in the Holy Scriptures is there a rule against marrying a ghost. 

When he told his mother that was exactly what he wanted to do, his mother fainted.

 Anand Apte was the only son of Bhavani and Sachin Apte. When he was born after many years of their wedded life, their joy knew no bounds. They named him Anand ('Happiness') even though there were a dozen Anand in the housing society they lived in. 

 As years rolled by, they observed that their son had a personality disorder. During the night, strange sounds were coming from his room. They were startled when they heard him talking to a woman. The sound of the female voice was unmistakable. Unable to bear the situation they were in, they tried various home remedies but rejected the idea of going to a psychiatrist, as they did not want their son to be labelled 'mad.' Instead, they followed the popular alternatives -elaborate Pujas (offerings) in temples, visiting 'quacks' and faith healers.

 Yet, the problems continued. The strange noises and conversations continued to come from Anand's room. Ironically, they started to increase with each visit his mother made to temples.

 Anand was not a dumb guy. His IQ was good enough to make his way through college. However, he was aware that one's mental illness cannot be seen. It has to be experienced.

Madness is like love - to know what love is, one has to be in love. It does not matter how many poems you read about it, how many romantic movies you watch, how many love songs you listened to. Nothing else matters but experience.

The same is with any mental illness. Only the person suffering from it can know its identity. It is not like cancer or jaundice, or asthma where one can easily understand the physical aspects of disease irrespective of their own experience. Anand knew he was suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID), also known as multiple personality disorder (MPD), a mental disorder characterized by the maintenance of at least two distinct and relatively enduring personality traits. He liked the state of his mind and was enjoying it.

 So that is how he hit upon the idea one morning. Anand created a ghost sympathetic to him and willing to listen to him and his woes. He slowly and steadily entered the habit of doing just that. Not in a romantic relationship, but in friendship.

 Sometimes, he thought very badly of himself and thought that everyone would be better off without contact with him. Sometimes he felt strongly about someone when they were too difficult or too needy for him. Sometimes he did not know what to say or do. So he justified that his take on his life was the best alternative.
But he soon realized that his case was of multiple personality disorder, the closest he had seen was in some Hollywood flicks.

He came to know through his friends that a woman in her 50s behaved absolutely normal through most part of the day but would suddenly start abusing her family members, which would get ugly most of the time. On recovering from that sudden outburst, she would not remember anything about it. When the family took her to a mental health expert, she was diagnosed with Dissociative Disorders, a mental health disorder.

In desperation, Anand searched Google for medical experts’ opinion. The mental disorders involved experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and identity. People with dissociative disorders escaped reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy and cause problems with functioning in everyday life. This usually occurred because of a combination of factors which included a severe trauma in life, which can be sexual in nature, physical, or mental harassment.

Probing further in the study, Anand learnt that the brain is the most technically advanced organ. It protects us from harm and distress. If we experience distress over a period of time, the brain sets in motion some coping mechanisms. It changes how we interpret our surroundings and situations. Dissociation is a strategy that the brain applies to cope with a stressor. But the brain doesn’t understand whether the method is adaptive in real life. It just helps the person to cope with distress. This results in a change that may come up every time there is a situation that makes the person feels threatened or anxious.

Dissociative disorder required long term treatment by a mental health expert who tries to stitch the two different personalities while healing the core issue. It may also include cognitive and creative therapies. Mortality scared of the treatment, Anand shunned the idea of consulting medical experts.

After some extensive search on Google, Anand concluded, that his symptoms included experiencing only two separate personalities, each with their own self-identity and perceptions. He found it harmless that when these other personalities take over, they often talk with a different vocabulary, and gesture differently. They are friendly with each other. So, he convinced himself that there was no need for him to seek medical treatment under supervision. He could live with it.

Nevertheless, once he convinced himself to let him marry the ghost of his dreams, he had to convince his mother and father. However, his parents were difficult to persuade.

His mother would not take it seriously and would beat her forehead with her palm and say, "Oh God! Why are you punishing me?" and burst into tears.

She kept nagging him "Why to marry? You can live with yourself?" or "Who will come to your wedding?"

Sadly, it drove his father mad. When asked who he would have sex with, Anand would pause briefly for dramatic effect and yell shrilly, 'Myself!' 

Now Bhairavi had to manage two frenzied people at home.

 Anand trusted his best friends were sympathetic toward him, but it was all a joke for them. He could not tolerate their digs any longer. One evening, when his father entered the home, Anand dashed out of his room and loudly said, "I want to get married." 

 "To whom?" his father thundered in response. "To that stupid ghost?" 

 Bhairavi started beating her forehead with her palm and was repeatedly saying, "OMG. OMG!"

 Anand dug his heels in and threatened to run away if they objected to his wedding. To avoid further melodrama, they caved into his demand.

His parents fixed an auspicious day for the wedding and invited a handful of their relatives and Anand's friends to a clandestine ceremony at home. They were sympathetic. The main priest did not care as he was handsomely compensated to keep his mouth shut. Anand had insisted that there should be no Hindu fire rituals as his' bride' was scared of fire. After the wedding, his friends spent time making fun of him and led him to his well-decorated room. 

 "First Night. First Fright. Fright Night," they sang in unison, doubling with laughter. 

Anand felt it was demeaning to get some presents from them, pornographic magazines, candles, even a huge mirror. They had been giggling since the priest was urging him to take marriage vows.

 When all this drama was over, Anand was a happy man for getting a soul-mate that he trusted. He wished he had some understanding friend with him to unburden his deepest feelings and fears. He never forgot the days when his former girlfriends would walk out on him when he was opening his heart. It was then he realized that his perfect partner was closer to home.

Anand thought his marriage was a great success for the most part. He rarely argued with his spouse. The few times that he did argue, he invariably won. Besides, the sex was, well - it was whatever he made of it. His poor parents were mute witnesses to strange happenings in their house. 

 As time went by, Anand realized he was mortal, and he, therefore, wanted an heir. He was in a great dilemma, and after many days, he discussed the matter with his wife. At the end of it all, he reasoned that he would separate from his otherworldly wife and find someone closer home.

 His parents readily agreed. That evening his mother dashed to the nearby temple to offer special prayers.
 His father sat in his easy chair in a contemplative mood. Finally, he spoke, "You can't file for a divorce on a moment's notice. There should be a legitimate justification," he warned.” Wanting a baby is not one of the good reasons to divorce.”

Divorce was possible if he started living apart from his spouse for at least a year, which would be difficult if his 'spouse' had not treated him cruelly for at least a year. The situation became tricky. After being once again in deep thoughts, his father suddenly got up and rushed out of the house. 

 He returned late in the evening, exhausted. He called Anand to come to his room when his mother was in the kitchen. He lowered his voice, looked at the door and said, "I have consulted my lawyer friends, and they say you are left with only one option: adultery. Anand had to have sex with someone other than a ghost; normal, straight, human sex, and he would be free from the bondage of marriage.

And so, from that day, Anand started searching for a mate. His friends were cruel about it, saying that he was separating to stop himself from exhaustion! "Self-help is not the best help, you idiot!" they mocked.

However, his mother was relieved and ecstatic when he told her that his relationship with the 'ghost' was coming to an end. His father paused for dramatic effect, opened his eyes wide and shrilly yelled. "Not the ghost. Yourself!" 

 "No, father," Anand protested. “I have put an end to the relationship.”

 "And how did you do it?" Agarkar queried, confused, unable to comprehend what his son was arriving at.”

 "I have committed adultery!" Anand grandly announced.

His mother fainted.

 Anand expected it would take him quite a while to find someone who was both willing to marry him and had not read the newspapers enough to know that he was married.

 A year passed, and the divorce was easy after that. Anand felt sad that his father was keen to tear him apart as if his marriage to a 'ghost' had been a big mistake. He felt lonely for several months after the 'breakup.'

A mutual consent divorce was the simplest way of legally dissolving the marriage. A divorce petition was filed in the court through a lawyer. The father provided the lawyer with the relevant details of the earlier marriage and an understanding psychiatrist's report to enable the lawyer to file a court petition. The court sent them the consent papers without any queries. 

 It took Anand many years to find a good wife. Meanwhile, Anand summoned all the courage he had and wrote an autobiography in the local language. Included in the book was a detailed account of his marriage to the 'ghost', how he dealt with everyone's criticism and fun poked at his 'spouse', and some intimate details of his relationship.

People were curious to read about the implications of such an unusual marriage. It made people think. They would read the book and question themselves."Am I easy to live with?"….. "If I had to live with me, how life would turn out for me?"… And "Would I make a good spouse to anyone?"

The book 'Paripurna Bhagidara'(Perfect Partner) was a best seller for a few weeks.

That is an old story by now. Soon, Anand and his new wife moved into a new home, big enough to accommodate their new child. 
 Anand was happy. 
His wife was happy. 
The child was happy. 
His parents were happy. 

As they say, 'all is well that ends well. There is only one happiness in life. To love and be loved.



Oddballs and Eccentrics contest entry

This story is set in India and I have loosely based it on a real-life incident. Split personality is also known as multiple personality disorder (MPD), is a mental disorder characterized by the maintenance of at least two distinct and relatively enduring personality states.
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