lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Nothing to fear

Parents dote on their children, it is a given. When my baby son, just learning to articulate and struggling to speak, informed my husband about an incident that happened during his absence, we entertained visions of his becoming the next Arun Shourie.

My baby son took an interest in the wildlife that is still extant in cities, all urban homes and got spooked by a lizard. A lizard is a 'balli' in Telugu.

When my husband came home, weary and worn after flunking students and reducing them to quivering masses of fearful jelly (kidding), my son declaimed his first story.

"Ba," he said excitedly. "Ba!" he repeated and added succinctly, "Mummy shoo. Ba gone."

My husband remarked that our son had the makings of a great reporter. He didn't know that I was scared of lizards until I needed to reassure my son that they are harmless.

Lizards used to worry me. They scuttle around on the walls and make you feel you are being watched. I wasn't scared of them, exactly, but I didn't like them, either. This was my relationship with lizards. My sister had touched the golden lizard in Kanchi and she touched me; so what did I need to fear about lizards and omens of what their falling on which part of my body signified? Yet I was semi-spooked by them.

But my nervousness was overcome in a rush of protective love and trying to reassure my baby that the lizard is a perfectly harmless creature.

I am afraid (yeah, afraid) I have to admit I am scared of the creepy crawlies. I am dead scared of earwigs, centipedes, cockroaches and suchlike. They scare me out of my wits. I know it's irrational; silly, even, to be scared of things you are some zillion times bigger than and can squash, swat or step on and obliterate with no trouble. But I am.

I used to have an irrational fear of what my mother used to call a glass-worm, a teeny tiny millipede crawling into my ears while I slept. Maybe it's because we had a garden area where plants and worms flourished and the worms would persist in seeking dry areas in the monsoons. But I used to be petrified with that fear.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
-Frank Herbert

This famous "Litany Against Fear" is a great motto for me. I invoke it when I have to do scary things, like figuring income tax returns or fiddling with my blog template, or crossing the street.

Being scared is a useful thing actually, as it triggers the fight or flight reflex and adrenaline rush, giving us impetus to act.

But there are other kinds of fears. Nah, we aren’t touching phobias as yet. Let's stick to simple fears.

Yesterday I saw a young man walking to meet his future; I could sense his apprehension. It is not really fear but a heightened state of awareness. I am sure he will do well, however nervous he feels.

There is stage fright, there is fear of making a fool of oneself, there is fear of commitment and there is fear of being alone. Fear comes in many forms.

Irrational fears or phobias are a different kettle of fish. Those afflicted suffer; tremble, hyperventilate, sweat, and feel nauseous and sometimes faint in throes of panic attacks. Phobias can be controlled to an extent, but never release their grip on the victims.

We all know about agoraphobia and acrophobia, claustrophobia and such.

In the days I used to chat obsessively online, I used to talk to an Australian ex-lawyer. We used to set each other puzzles to solve and riddles to figure out. For instance, he wouldn't say how old he was, but say that he was born 37 years after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. We used to bicker about cricket teams, bitch about time zones, trade obscure words and tease each other if we couldn't figure them out quickly enough.

I flummoxed him with arachibutyrophobia, and he got his revenge with medomalacuphobia. But then I made him wish he hadn't chosen that one by teasing him mercilessly about his being a sufferer.



Anonymous Ash said...

Do you find that as you age you are prone to rhytophobia?

7:31 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ash- Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety.

I earned my wrinkles by being alive every moment, and I certainly don't want to relinqusih the crowsfeet I earned in laughter and joy to a surgeon's knife.

Um, I was asked recently if I had a portrait in an attic, though. :D

9:46 pm  
Blogger Raj said...

I read somewhere that quite a few people suffer from Paraskevidekatria Phobia — fear of Friday the 13th. Phobias are getting more and more specialised and acquiring longer names too.

As Robert Benchley said, " Tell me your phobia and I will tell you what you are afraid of".

9:57 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Raj- triskaidekaphobia I used to think was fear of the number thirteen. I guess you are taling about the 'specialised' fear of Friday the thirteenth.

I was born on Friday the thirteenth, so I am sorta immune to panic about it. :-)

"Tell me of thy desires
And I will tell thee of thy need"

Thus spake Frank Herbert.

10:12 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Hey Lali, a human post at last. So you are scared of creepy crawlies? It makes you seem vulnerable and less of the Iron Lady persona you adopt for your blog. I will squash worms and shoo lizards and swat flying pests for you any day. :D

10:21 pm  
Anonymous Non Sequitur Man said...

Bravery always involves putting someone else before self, even if it is just an incident of a lizard and your fear. Your son has a wonderful Mummy who can say shoo.

10:46 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- Thanks for the offer, but *glowers* what was that about a human post again? We are not amused.

NSM,I am repeating myself, but thank you kindly sir.

11:14 pm  

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