The Mr and the Mrs didn’t get it. Medical tax? What’s that? They had received two notices asking to pay medical taxes worth Rs. 63,028 and Rs. 60,053. They weren’t financially downtrodden, but Rs. 1,22,081 couldn’t be short change for anybody, right? They were accountants who hated rounding off. A rupee + 99, 999 rupees made a lac, after all.

The Mrs had been out for a few days, she returned to find the two notices. The Mr said, he’d been to the medical storeowner who is mentioned in the notice and the Rs. 60,053 bill was close to being cleared, some misunderstanding that has been sorted. The same storeowner refused to clear the other bill. The Mrs was furious. She was also the "easily agitated by the minutest injustice" kind.

There she stomped into the pharmacy, a copy of the meticulously saved bill in hand, "chacha, why won’t you clear this other bill?" Chacha looked up slightly from his furrowed brows hidden behind thick glasses. And almost immediately, he calmly went back to wiping a medicine bottle with a rag. He just shook his head that clearly indicated that he won’t do it. It was time to shut shop. He egged the Mrs out and brought the shutter down.

She pleaded, she demanded. She called out to the human in him, she invoked God’s name. She followed him to his house and went in too.

He had had enough. He turned back and said, "You don’t want me to go through the process of clearing that one. Your despicable act will be caught," his disgust was apparent. The Mrs knew not what he was on about. "The items on that bill, they tell your story."

A glance at the paper, brought bumps on her skin and shivers down her spine –

    • <some form of paracetemol>
    • Home pregnancy test
    • Birth control pills

The Mr couldn’t make babies. It had been medically proven. The Mr was right behind her.

The first thought to cross her mind, "Damn this country and its organized systems to track every single thing down."

He held her hand softly, turned around with her and walked out of the storeowner’s house. He looked a little heartbroken. Is this passive aggression, she thought. But he had no aggression, he was only passive. "But, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you," she said out loud. "Hmmm…", he barely responded.

They were sitting on tenterhooks, at the edge of their bed, an unusual distance apart. She didn’t know what to say. She loved him, she did. She knew he was getting his thoughts together. She wanted to know if all will be well, that she will be forgiven. She couldn’t bear to look in his direction.

She heard a slight snore.

Still on her bed, she woke up with a start.

"… it…was…a…dream…" She turned around to check. The Mr was sound asleep, snoring lightly.

"Of course, it was a dream!!!"

    • Their medical expenses had never been high enough to raise that big a medical tax.
    • What the heck is a medical tax?
    • How can a medical bill not have the names of the medicines on it!

And most importantly,

    • They were not in THAT organized country when this had happened.

She gave a nervous smile to herself, as her heart paced.  She looked at the Mr and kissed him on the forehead. He turned to give her a sleepy hug. A tear of relief rolled. Ghosts from the past are scary indeed.

[Last paragraph edited in to replace a line from the earlier version.]