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3 Days Before Christmas

- by Nupur Gangopadhyay Lahiri

It was three days before Christmas.

Just at that moment I was going to pick up the phone and call my best friend Tania.
The phone rang and it was indeed Tania!
For the last four years, since I met Tania at Princeton YWCA new comers group, we have started this ritual.
Approximately three days before Christmas we drop everything and go for a girl’s night out. The rush of shopping for all the extended family, wrapping of the numerous items that we collect over the past few months although we may not remember who we bought them for, all the new tree trimmings that pile on the living room floor never stop us from having a little getaway before the big day. We discuss how we would make a curry stuffing for the turkey, whether a gulapjamun dessert will mix with cranberry preserve, a onion kulcha can be substituted for those tasteless Italian breads. We talk about our children and grandchildren and the hottest toys on Amazon that year.
I was so excited to hear her voice that I blurted out: 
“Tania! Lets do something wild and crazy! Let’s go to the Masala Grill downtown and treat us to the new and exotic items on their holiday menu.” 
There was silence at the other end of the phone.
“Are you tired Tania? Is your house a mess? Come on! My place is in shambles. I am so behind that I may have to drug my family not to catch my mistakes.”
There was not a sound at the other end.
After several dead seconds Tania spoke: “Sonia is having a problem. A very serious problem!”
“What is it Tania?”
“Could you please come over? I don’t know where else to turn.”

I drove to Tania’s house, which was only a short five miles from my place. I did not know what to expect, although I had many more surprising experiences in the past when a friend called me for help. I had a weird feeling that Sonia was going off the deep end.

When I pulled into Tania’s driveway, Suresh, the handsome, charismatic husband of Sonia took me aside.
He explained how Sonia has been under tremendous pressure at work. The IT outfit is going through a restructuring phase and all of the new employees were under threat of losing their jobs. Sonia has been working for that company for the last two and a half years. 
Suresh explained that Sonia just got an award for being the best programmer and consistently held the best performance record. Lately, she had been talking about taking the company to a global level of operation and could challenge the Vice President for his substandard policies. She was seriously thinking about taking over and buying all the stocks of the company. But, at the same time Sonia felt that everybody at work was sending blind emails to each other and looking to catch Sonia red handed. 
I asked, what is there to catch? 
Suresh said, there is absolutely nothing. Tania has had a flawless work history so far and everybody likes her at work including the Vice President. He also told me that Sonia has not slept for days, crunching numbers for the take over and writing hundreds of emails.

I walked into the house. Sonia was sitting in front of a blasting television. She did not look up or say hello auntie as she always does. She looked right at the newscaster and mumbled something under her breath. 
I asked, “Hi Sonia, how are you?”
She did not look up. Instead, she growled and moaned.

Tania came out of the kitchen carrying Rakesh, the two-year-old who was visibly upset and crying, “I want my Mommy.”
Tania signaled to me to move to the den and dropped herself on the couch with a loud sigh, “I don’t know what is going on with Sonia, but I know for sure she has lost it”. 
“Why do you say that Tania?”
“Sonia has not gone to work for three days. She sat up the whole night in front of her laptop and since this morning she stopped eating anything. When Suresh came home from work he made a cup of tea and took it to her as usual. But, she took the cup and threw it at him and said, 
‘You want to kill me, right? What poison did you put in this tea?’”

I went back to the living room. Sonia's eyes looked glazed and fierce. She turned back to the screen and said, “they are going to do it. I cannot hide anymore. They will come after me. They know the secret”. 
I asked Sonia, “who are they?”
She looked up in a blank stare and said, “don’t you see that man, pointing to the television. He has called the FBI already. I am doomed!”
I asked again, “how do you know Sonia?”
She was very upset by now. She screamed, “Stop him! Don’t you hear him calling my name He is sending IM to the vice president! I am doomed! Mom!” she called out desperately and burst into crying.
Suresh came into the room and held Sonia tight in his arms. 

I took Tania and BJ, her husband back into the den.
I had to tell them the truth, the sinister truth about their only daughter: 
“Sonia is exhibiting symptoms of Psychosis! I need to give her some strong drugs to calm her down.”
Tania said, “do what you have to do. Just save my daughter from this horrible state of mind bring her back to reality.”
I rushed back to my clinic and brought some potent drugs and coaxed her to take some immediately.

That was the beginning of our long winding journey with Sonia and her Manic Depression. She took her medications faithfully and recovered after two weeks. She was never the same jolly high-spirited girl with enormous ambition and self-confidence to take on the world. She became subdued and anxious. I supplied her with medications and checked her mental status from time to time. She lost her spunk and zest for life. Although she could go back to work, she never talked about taking over the company.

One of my colleagues once pondered: 
Are we destroying the creativity and brilliance of human minds by giving them these awful drugs? Would Van Gough be able to paint the Sunflower if he was treated for Manic Depression with drugs?

We never tried our girl’s night out ever again three days before Christmas. Our gifts were wrapped on time; the tree was trimmed perfect and the smell of the cookies filled the house for days. The turkey had curry stuffing, we never forgot to get onion kulchas and the gulapjamuns were warmed in the microwave. 

I never asked Tania to do crazy things. Never again!
I never joked about drugging my family again.