Wednesday, October 31, 2018


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 boothamunai 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! 


Anonymous said...

I know how a lot of people would never make a list of their fears- let alone talk or write about it. Kudos to you for intropecting about your fears and writing about it. Very nice read.

Anu Warrier said...

Reads, looks comically around, and leaves a tin of halo polish. :)

Zola said...

Ram : Awesomely original take on fears ! I thought you were going to go down the "Fear of Poverty" Fear of Death" territory but the first one was a riot ! Atleast (ahem) I dont have THAT one :)

The next two are really hitting close to home more and more. Maybe I should take this part offline.

"fear fears Less" ha ha - nice end to a sweet knock :)

Ram Murali said...

Anonymous and Ravishanker - thank you for your super kind words.

Anu - :))

Zola said...

That "fear fears less" is a real Tambrahm English domain. Attended a seminar two years ago where the Legal Head of Chemplast Sanmar was saying something similar.

"I dont have a Powerpoint presentation but will endeavour to Present my points Powerfully"