Saturday, September 10, 2011

Of greed and fear

Well, the greed part was more of an attention grabbing gimmick :D. What I really want to write about today is fear. In all the "about me", know me better posts there is one integral aspect of my life which hasn't come forth. And that is my deep , irrational cynophobia (or more commonly known as the fear of dogs)...

My earliest memory is of a chubby, tiny (well I was never tiny) me, waddling through rose bushes, and running for dear life while being chased by "Lucy", my aunt's mean Alsatian. And not to mince words here..Most dogs are equally mean, but some are more mean than others. (Disclaimer- I am not targeting any species, group or cult here, views are personal, for every one mean dog you have many cute, cuddly, loving etc dogs and so forth..So peace?). And Lucy anyway nurtured this deep hatred for me cause she always had to be tied up when I visited. So when she saw the 5 year old me pottering about in the garden she gave a yelp of delight and made a dash towards me. I gave a subsequent shriek of horror and tried an unsuccessful exit while screaming my aunt's name at the top of my lungs. And she finally rescued a much scratched and bloody me (that was the bushes not Lucy). So the fear which till then was more budding in nature was deeply ingrained from that day on.

My second encounter of the third degree kind was with "Silky", a name possibly on account of her coat? Silky was a childhood friend's Pomeranian (aww so cute??). No shudder. This one actually bit me.I felt that silky coat against my skin and felt as though a million insects were crawling on it. And was the cause of many painful injections.

I don't know if this is the case with everyone who fears something. But the moment I spy a dog, the rational part of my brain seems to sputter out and die, only to be replaced by a deep overpowering fear, skin crawling and nausea. Its something I am trying to fight against. I have tried to trace the root of this fear. It could be a subconscious reaction to my mom tightening her grip on my wrist every time she crossed a dog, when I was very young, she is pretty scared herself or what I always maintain, the fact that maybe I was a slave/ convict in my previous reincarnation and was chased down by a pack when I tried to escape. I am reformed now(Disclaimer again)....

But enough of the philosophical speculation.
Now living with this handicap in a place like India presents its own set of problems and planning.Where at almost every nook and cranny you are bound to chance upon a member of the species, (yes yes again I know usually they mind their own business and the likes) a dog free existence is a utopian concept. And please don't ask me "even puppies???". I hate that. Puppies more. Cause at least dogs know the ways of the world and propriety. Puppies are finding out.....

So existence in Pilani was a series of minor heart attacks. There dogs would prowl the hostel corridors with gay abandon and I would gingerly skirt the corrdidors with the wariness of an army novice negotiating hidden mines.

Back in those days when I went to engineering college, we had dinosaurs in our backyard and no cell phones. Getting a phone call from home meant, your name being shrieked out by a multitude of women, till you scrambled out of your room. The telephone enjoyed a place of honor in the corridor along with the full length mirror and was seated on a brown rickety table. That day I was perched on the table, talking to mom. I usually have a third eye for dog presence nearby, but that day I must have been really engrossed, cause when I looked around there were about 5 dogs surrounding my table, gamboling playfully and trying to put their paws up.
My mom tells me later that she thought I was dying of asphyxiation when she heard my strangled voice. A gladiator couldn't have felt worse than I did at that time. Well my convict self would have I guess.

My life flashed before my eyes and I thought how ironical it was that instead of being surrounded by loved ones when I was dying, well that place was taken....
I could hear my mom's hysterical voice over phone urging me to be calm and chanting various "mantras" - yep she is very religious and equally scared (its so funny when I think about it ). But now I whole heartedly support all her religious fasts cause when i unclosed my eyes which were screwed shut the dogs were miraculously leaving. I sprinted back to my room as fast as I could while mom I think took some nerve soothing medicines.
Another incident which comes to mind is when I agreed to go on a picnic with Giddy and her friends when I was visiting Bangalore. (Giddy please remind me to pay you back for this). We went in a TATA Sumo some 5 of us and one dog. Giddy had "forgotten" about the dog she claims. Anyway there was no turning back then. The dog was called Twincy or Pincy or some such terror inducing name. Its owner also professed being scared of it. And the worst part was that it didn't have a tail.

Now in the absence of any other insight into the species I usually relied on the tail (as we had been taught in primary school) to determine danger levels. Now in the absence of a tail, I had no forewarning. So I sat in front, with Pincy behind. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, a role reversal of sorts and I sat with my hackles raised ready to pounce out at the slightest sign of Pincy's movement towards my general direction...

I have made a complete fool of myself on many occasions given this irrational fear, clutched random strangers, missed classes (yes)and generally made a laughing stock of myself. I have also been branded a sinner...

Well the last incident happened in school. I was in class 1 or something, and we were having moral science (this was a convent) taken by our principal Sister. Now the Sisters had a pet called Susie and it was white and docile and generally very nun like in appearance and behavior. It was similarly respected in school.
While the class was going on Susie ambled in and made straight for my desk and promptly sat below it. Now my fear for Susie then was matched by an equally strong awe for the said Sister at that time. So I sat petrified, fighting back tears, afraid to make the slightest movement lest Susie should become aware of my presence. I am sure I stopped breathing.
So the Sister was asking some random question like "Who all would like to go to heaven?", which a sensible 7 year old would pass off as rhetorical. Well they wouldn't and the entire class promptly put up their hand. The entire class except me. I was sitting on a live bomb remember ?

And this brought Sister's wrath down on me. "You dont want to go to heaven?", she asked incredulously little realizing that heaven at that time seemed closer to me than she could have ever imagined. I sat as though turned to stone and she came towards me. At which Susie gave a yelp and disappeared and I could hear again.

The trick to conquer your fears they say is to laugh at it. Over time I have tried to do the same. Now I affect a nonchalant attitude whenever I see a dog nearby (like it cares)and it has helped a bit. I must learn to whistle....

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Christmas Story

This is a Christmas story. And if you tell me that Christmas was a long time back, I would tell you that writing a Christmas story at Christmas would be tacky to say the least. And when did I pretend that these stories had a point anyway?

He had many names- Father Christmas, Saint Niklaus or Santa Claus in its corrupted version. And he was essentially a collector, a collector of stories. There were millions of stories floating around and what he did was to cut and slice and transfer them around. In that way he was some sort of a creator.

And there was Blinky, the elf whose job it was to keep track of good stories and give Santa the heads up. Cause obviously Santa was the public figure, the relationship man, or so Blinky believed. The real work was done by her.

So Santa was strategizing with January over a strong cup of sweet tea and buns. "Good buns Blinky", said Santa while January sniffed. She was a cold hard woman with a permanent hangover post the festive season. “So anyway", she went on. There is war going on everywhere. The world is in a state of strife. Figure you could get your dose of raw emotions.”

Santa looked troubled. But it was his job. To absorb excessive emotion, to absorb stories of war and strife and heartbreak, so that at Christmas some part could be transferred to those who deserved, or were destined. Christmas… when he would try to restore some sense of balance to the world...

...Blinky brought little heart shaped cookies for February who took her assigned role so seriously that she was almost a cliche. There she sat pink and trinketed, with her tinkling laugh, this last was a new development Blinky privately observed. "Oh darling I have the sweetest love story ever !"…..

It was a dull sultry night and Blink was working late sifting through the bottles. And there he was. She saw the bottle marked April and it came back to her. April was almost as dry as the arrowroot biscuits he ate and had told the story of a deserving young guy and his love for this girl. But she had not shown any signs of reciprocating and on the contrary took pleasure in giving him pain.

Blink had rolled her eyes at that story and stifled a yawn. She thought the guy was a loser in his own right for letting himself be treated that way. But Santa, the incurable romantic had gone to take a look ostensibly claiming that his stock of longing and heartbreak had run out.

And as she sat looking at the story, a strange mix of emotions surged through her, heady almost euphoric. She had never felt anything like that before. At first she thought she had accidently split some essence and spent a while checking for leaks. But there was no denying. Blinky had irrationally, irrevocably fallen for him.

And there was nothing she could do about it. The ancient treaty and all that jazz. She was surprised at herself. For she was an elf who prided herself on being level headed and mature. She was not like the other female elves whose dearest ambition was to serve the Elf Queen and dance around toadstools with prospects. She went out and got an “education”. And here she was. Drawn towards a human of all things.

She tried to divert herself. May came and paid a visit. Blinky loved May. They sat by the sea on the rocks and just listened to the sound of the waves. Not a soul for miles. She had enough contentment to last for a life time. She stole the essence and drowned herself in it. But to no avail.

Wisdom came with July. Wisdom and erudition. Listening to great men speak. Bringing back essences of motivation and action and focus.
She knew it was of no use. She knew she had to do it. She would mix him a story for Christmas. But this time she would play a part.

She thought of the day she had first gone out with Santa. She loved seeing him in action. "How do you know what to give them?” she had asked wonder struck, the first time.
“I just give them the essence, the thought, the idea. It takes the shape of whatever they want. That's true of most things in life", he had said.
“The emotions are there to influence the thinking”, he said and winked. “But there are some who do not feel the power of emotions”, he said suddenly sober “and they really get what they want..but such men are very few ”.

She tried to get a grip on herself and sprinked a few drops of patience to help her. “I must be as immune as those few men”, she thought wryly.

October came with her knack of firsts. The first ten seconds when you realize you are in love, the strength of that emotion had taken everyone by surprise last year, this year, she made them experience the dawn of a new day, when reality hasn’t fully sunk in and the air was full of promise and hope.

And the hope was her undoing. She sprinkled the scent of a ballerina’s dance, a heady mix of seduction, exhilaration and ecstasy and went before him….

Santa was furious. “You know what you have breached”, he said, strangely quiet. “Well so you must go”.

She walked up to him that Christmas eve..and he was there waiting for her..with a smile on his face..but she was there too and the instant she looked at him looking at her, she knew that he would never love her. And she surprised herself by wishing for his happiness and giving him the essence, the essence which would take the shape of what he most loved and desired….

But the magic would not work however much she tried…and eventually she gave up and walked away..

December was watching the scene with Santa. “You should have let her have this last wish”, he said quietly. “ It was not in my power”, said Santa. “ What she felt there was love, and love made her human. Elf magic would not work for her”

“So love actually pushed her to a lower level of existence? Pity I liked her biscuits..”drawled December sarcastically.

And Santa looked at all the emotions he had collected over the years, willing himself to feel a part of what the men in the stories felt, willing himself to feel love..”

“Actually, it is higher”, he said softly..