Week 7: Sunil

Paul is trying to reach Arun about Sunil. He learns Sunil is in custody and has been since Friday night. 


Paul is at the detention center to see Sunil. Sunil is brought in in a jumpsuit and sits across from Paul. He says we meet again. What happened, Paul asks. Sunil says Paul is his first visit. He says Julia is probably out on the town celebrating because he is being deported back to India. Sunil says no one is hurt. Paul’s call to Julia was enough -- she called Arun and then the police. And he was taken into custody. Paul is surprised and apologizes. Paul says he can fix it. Paul says he called Julia because of the cricket bat. Sunil says he is not disappointed in the outcome and offers him his thanks. He says he was arrested. Julia said he pushed her and it was intentional. The police requested his papers and he refused. Paul asks why. He says he refused because he chose not to present them. Paul asks if he knew he would be arrested. And he knew that he needed Julia to call them. 

Paul realizes he has been set up. Sunil says it was his only way home. He needed someone to persuade Julia that he was dangerous. He knew after he met Paul he had met a friend who could help him. Paul says then that their work was a fiction. Sunil says everything was not a lie. Paul asks about the jealousy about Julia -- Sunil says he did those things. Paul asks about the dreams. Sunil says he had several disturbing dreams. The two he told Paul? Sunil asks why he wants to do this because there is no point, that Paul has been a good friend. Paul protests that he has been Sunil’s therapist. Sunil asks if they cannot be both. They shared tea. He allowed Sunil to smoke. They spoke of their families and Sunil says they connected at some level and he must have helped him in some way. In the 4th session Sunil began to realize how Paul could help him get home. 

Paul is angry at being deceived. He asks if Sunil treats every relationship this way. Sunil says he does care but his son will be better off without him there because his presence has made a problem for him. Paul says he may never see his grandchildren again. Where will he live? Paul asks if he has friends or family? Sunil says he will be fine. He says Paul has given him a great gift, the opportunity to live his life in the way he chooses, something he has not had since before he married.  He says he will feel free in Calcutta. Everything he told Paul about Malini is true. Sunil says it is vital that he believe him -- after they found her body, there was an autopsy and she was pregnant, just 6 weeks,. She was sparing Sunil what she thought would be shameful for him and his family. He had no idea she was pregnant. He says he is sorry he resisted talking about it with Paul. He thought he had left it all in the past. The guard says one minute. Sunil says he hopes someday Paul will forgive him. He says he helped him with Malini and Kamala, that Paul is a good therapist and a good man. He asks if he is okay because he worries about him. He knows what it is to feel such loneliness and he hopes he will free himself from it. He sings the song he sang to the children. The guard comes. He hangs up and leaves.


Sunil is in charge this session, if we can call it that. In reporting his concern to Julia, as Paul did last week, he set into motion the events as Sunil wanted. It was a risk Sunil took, that Paul would breach and contact his family or the police but Sunil read Paul accurately. And throughout this session, it is Sunil who understands what happened and why. 

Paul is angry that he was used by Sunil as he was. It is painful to recognize that one has been taken as Paul was, to have reacted out of anxiety and in doing so done exactly what the patient hoped. It is painful to have one’s concern turn out to have been something that was used to further another agenda. Any conscientious therapist would be upset and probably angry if this happened.

What to say? Sunil wanted to go back to India. His son would not let him go, so he forced the issue and used Paul to accomplish his goal. If, as he said, the dreams were real dreams , then what Paul helped him to see in them was real. And it seems likely he was obsessed with Julia. But I doubt he posed any threat to her, any physical threat anyway. I think that was something he fabricated to make his plan work. 

Paul, and we, the audience, are left to wonder how much of Sunil was real and how much was fabricated to get his way. I believe the story about Malini. I doubt the threat of violence. But this whole thing will further call things into doubt for Paul, who we know is wrestling with whether or not he wants to continue his practice. Sunil’s ploy to get himself deported and thus removed from a place he does not want to be is really quite similar to Paul’s fantasy that he has Parkinson’s because that would get him out of his life and practice. Sunil believes he could not act on his own, that his son would somehow prevent him from leaving. And Paul seems to believe that without some dramatic factor, he also cannot act to change his life. Not only are both men lonely and immigrants but they both look to others to give them ways to be able to do what they want to do. Sunil has lived with Kamala’s wishes since his family arranged the marriage and only now that he is being deported, thus forcing his son to abandon his efforts to fulfill his mother’s wishes, is he free. And in a similar fashion, Paul has been living according to the wishes and desires of others for much if not most of his adult life.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.