It is the middle of the night. I am thrown out of sleep. My body is all shaky and sweaty. I must have had a scary dream. Yes, it is all coming back. I saw someone, a faceless man perhaps, rummaging through all those books kept on my study desk. He didn’t even spare the pen holder, or the photo frame that I always wipe with a certain brown cloth in the mornings.
I lift my head and take stock of the desk partly illuminated by the gentle rays of the streetlight coming in through the half-open window of my dorm room. The two stacks of books are still in perfect symmetry. The photo frame is aligned to the edge of the table at my desired angle. All the pens in the holder lie towards the left, staring at the two pencils standing on the opposite side. Pens and pencils can never be at peace, I have always been told, and neither can peas and carrots.
I lie back, relaxed. This is when I notice that there is something wrong with the way my slippers are resting against the line that separates the two marble sheets under my bed. Their tips are supposed to only touch the laxmanrekha, always. They must never cross over the line, not even in the event of war.
I have been betrayed. I can smell treason.
Either one of my two other roommates must have accidentally kicked them in while going to the washroom. He might even have done it on purpose. They are all the same, these people without any obsessive compulsions. They hold no respect for order, discipline, and cleanliness. However, that is not what bothers me. That is not what I find treasonous.
I fell asleep only after I was sure that all my belongings were in harmony with my thoughts. Once I had no control over my senses, someone or something had overridden my command and changed their position. It is quite clear that I had been asleep even when my slippers were not in the same order they were supposed to be in. Had that person cared to wake me up, it would not have amounted to betrayal. Letting me sleep while my slippers had crossed the red line is what I call treacherous.
Now I understand what that faceless man was doing in my dream. I should thank him for waking me up, or else I would have slept till the morning while the damn slippers would have still been out of order.
I have rearranged them now.
It is hard to go back to sleep. I must wait for the first rays of dawn to engulf the streetlight. For now, I can watch the latter pierce through the gaps in the leaves of the mighty peepal outside our window.
Back home, we don’t have peepal trees. There are apple trees and poplars, almost everywhere. Now, an apple orchard is an excellent example of how we should plant trees, that is, in neat rows. Poplars standing in queues on both sides of the road are also pleasing. However, an occasional fir in a vast field of mulberry trees is like a big hard-bound resting on a small paperback. I just can’t sleep with an image of the former in my mind, let alone having the latter on my desk.
I can always tell if anyone has touched my books, or used my pens, or even sat on my chair. I don’t claim any sixth sense. It is just that I always know exactly how far my pen holder will be from the books, and at what angle the pens will be lying inside it. I know it because I can never see them in any other order and still be at peace.
My friends tease me whenever I tell them that “it is almost impossible for me to lose my belongings.” Sometimes they even take out all the cash from my wallet and put it back haphazardly. Perhaps they will never know that I only enjoy putting it back in order.
Well, apart from petty thefts, most people lose their mobile phones, cash, cards, and wallets because they misplace them and then completely forget about it. That is never going to happen to me since I know how to fold the currency notes of different denominations differently and where exactly to put them inside my wallet even in my subconscious, or otherwise my heart will be restless and I will feel something evil is going to knock humans out of the earth, like dinosaurs.
That is how it works. I don’t believe in superstitions but I am superstitious when it comes to cleanliness and order. I am compelled by some mystic force to check thrice if I have locked my cupboard or not. If I don’t do that, I know something bad, evil, and nefarious is going to happen to me and to the people I love. Deep inside, I know that is not what I believe in, but then you tell me, is it something to take chances on? Isn’t it easier to avoid stepping over the lines of the marble sheets than seeing your loved ones being destroyed by a calamity?
That is precisely how I am forced to justify my compulsions.
Even while writing this, I know there is no link between this impulse to keep all the shirts on hangers inside the cupboard at equal distances and the destiny of the people I love, but then it is an excellent explanation of why I would spend so much time on determining whether they are equidistant from each other or not.
I accept that I am obsessed with these compulsions, but it is ironic, and beyond me, how an urge to have everything in order is termed as a disorder.