I don’t know how this experience will affect me but I know that it has touched me. For the first time in my life, I had a conversation with someone who was a bit soft in the head. She was smiling to herself and seated on the row of chairs arranged for passengers to sit. I was waiting for my train to arrive. I was travelling alone to Chennai. I sat down beside her. She looked intently at me and exclaimed: “You look very beautiful.” I smiled. She lovingly caressed my left cheek and again said: “You are a beauty —calm and quiet. You smell very good. I like the way you look and smell.” I again smiled at the obvious admiration. I still did not think she was mad.
Then she asked me about my education. I struggled to tell her as I was not sure if she would understand. I anyway told her. She smiled and said: “You are very intelligent. I am not. But I have mingled with many people like you and a bit of their intelligence has rubbed off on me.” I patiently listened. She went on: “I know many wise people like you. What I know is nothing. My knowledge is but a drop.”
She told me that I reminded her of a person she used to know who also quite beautiful and smelled good like me. She looked at me intently and smiled. Then she started talking non-stop about the entire pantheon of Hindu goddesses and how we should not burden the earth. It was only then I started feeling a bit uncomfortable as I wished to be with myself. She talked and talked and when I did not respond by saying ‘yes,’ she would force a ‘yes’ from me. I was a bit reluctant to continue sitting there.
From then on started my meanderings on madness. She seemed much wiser than many common people. Her examples and diction were impeccable (in Tamil). Was she mad? By the standards of the world, yes but otherwise . . . I don’t know.
What makes someone mad? There are degrees, I presume. I might be saner than X but less sane than Y. Is there madness in everyone? Maybe . . .
Have you pondered on madness? Do you think that you might be mad in some way? Maybe . . .