In characteristic style, film critic Baradwaj Rangan noticed something about a movie that had escaped many. In writing about the playful “PeigaLa nambathey” song in Mahanadhi, he detailed how the song was a subtle way of foreshadowing some of the ghastly events to follow. The hopeless Kamal Haasan fan that I am, I thought of that song on the eve of Halloween! One line in particular stuck out while I was listening to the number – “AchangaL enum bootham…unai andaamal nee oattu…” This roughly translates into, “The apparition that is fear…drive it away.” I know of a few people who are utterly fearless. I have known them well enough and long enough to know that they are not faking it. Nothing fazes them because they face everything with fierce determination. Or did I reverse that? I do not know. But I have utmost admiration for them.
I am not fearless. Have never been, will never be. But I would like to think that with a few grey cells in the right parts of the brain that I have learned to face my more important fears. To borrow a favorite imagery of my Aunt, you enter dark tunnels hoping for light, not fearing an incoming train! As I have written earlier, it is absolutely imperative that everyone has at least one anchor – be it God, science, family or friends. Instead of delving into my anchors, I shall share five of my fears, some conquered, others not quite. I have mixed up the lightweight ones with more serious ones. Regardless of level of seriousness, these are certainly things that I fear. (Needless to say, this list is not exhaustive for the simple reason that I didn't want you to feel exhausted!)
Bark, Bite and Fright – thanks to an insensitive pet owner who was my neighbor during my formative years, I have a morbid fear of dogs. Irrespective of size, my canine friends make me shudder with very little effort. I am just thankful for the fact that over the years, I have had some very sensitive pet owners as friends and acquaintances that respect my fear and give me my space. Well-wishers have tried to help me overcome this, only to realize that they barked (!) up the wrong tree.
Men in Boo, err…Blue – Being a die hard fan of the Indian cricket team is a boon and a bane. Victories can be really sweet. But defeat can be so bitter that even badly made chai would pale in comparison. To non-cricket fans, this may seem trivial. But I confess I have a real fear of defeat whenever India plays. Having grown up watching Indian cricket in the 90s and having seen the Indian team grasp defeat from the jaws of victory many a time, this is a fear that has been partly conquered by enduring, endearing images of Sachin Tendulkar’s sixer off Shoaib Akhtar and the most joyous moment of them all – “Dhoni finishes off in style…A magnificent strike!”
Hospitals – at the risk of sounding pretentious, I shall say that I do not have much fear for myself and my own health. Whereas near and dear in a hospital? Now I see the personification of pusillanimity in the mirror. I have tremendous regard for good Doctors. Having had the privilege of interacting with a few owing to the nature of my work (in a pharmaceutical company), I know that there are physicians out there with an unerring drive to improve human health. But the hospital is one setting where emotions trump rationale. I have had some positive experiences in hospitals but the emotional baggage of unfortunate experiences is yet to be lifted. One day I will feel lighter. Until then, I will have to keep my eyes wide open as I walk in, especially when my support is needed. After all, a bit of selfless focus on others is a surefire way to ignore what is in the mirror. And making a loved one feel lighter rarely makes us feel heavier.
Single Child Sentiment - Don’t blame me. Blame my 49-year old Aunt who passed on two years ago. Why did she have to be a sister, mother and friend all rolled into one? Why did she do so many things that she didn’t have to? Why did she never tell me - when she was alive - that she was the reason why I never felt any pangs of being a single child? Why does she make me feel - even after her death - that true, genuine affection is that exhibited by someone that doesn’t have to? Why does she make me fear a lack of sense of belonging and relevance? But as I think deeper, the answer is ridiculously simple. I just have to emulate my Aunt. I just have to be a good protective sibling to those that have given me the privilege of being one. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you - among those ‘siblings’ is my Aunt’s 14-year old daughter.
Delayed action, Useless inaction –Words can be impactful. Kind words uttered can be as soothing as unkind words spitted can be hurtful. We all know that. But I have come to realize that nothing can usurp the importance of action. Thoughtful gestures and supportive actions can mean the world to people. Having been a lucky recipient of many a kind gesture, I try sincerely to pay it forward. But I am no saint. I do know that there have been instances when my misdirected action, inaction and delayed actions have all hurt people. I can only say that I am a work in progress. One with a healthy dose of fear that I will cause hurt if I don’t spring into action timely, thoughtfully.
So, there you have it. Let the fears be. Time may help me conquer a few old ones while new ones sneak in. To me, facing the apparitions that Kamal sang about is as important as exorcising them. I don’t think that I will ever be fearless. But something tells me that with time, I will fear fears less!