Fear

People, closed spaces, crowds, helplessness, losing people, losing jobs, loving too much or too little, reptiles, insects and worms – these are some of the things I’m afraid of. I’m around thirty years old, give or take a couple of years, an editor by profession and out-and-out modern in my approach to life. I’m outdoorsy, love shopping, eating out, travelling, cooking, music, books, perfumes, watches, dresses, shoes and so much more. I’m a woman, normal in every respect, who takes life, work and relationships seriously; I’m a woman who cries when hurt and bleeds when cut. I’m a theist, a believer in good and therefore, I also believe in the presence of evil and in ghosts and demons and the rest as manifestations of that evil. I realize, every moment, that I’m human and that I, therefore, have human failings – fear is one of those failings. I face as much of it as the next person and I have my own ways of dealing with it, so that I can keep moving forward, past my fears, fighting them instead of giving in to them and coming to a standstill.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, fear used to rule my every action, every thought even, until I was so deep in my own darkness that I used to contemplate about killing myself and putting an end to the suffering. This lasted until I realized that nobody could help me unless I picked myself up and out of the darkness I was in. I also realized that the more you try to shun fear, to avoid it or deny its existence, the greater is its hold over you. So I learnt to acknowledge my fears to myself and others, in spite of the fact that people have laughed at my fears, loudly and often. I realized that bravery lies, not in being unafraid and therefore, foolish, but in acknowledging fear as being real and in being wary of the object of your fear. Once I realized this, the rest wasn’t easy; but I knew that I could scale this mountain, slowly but steadily. Overcoming fear is like climbing a never-ending staircase – one step at a time, placing one foot in front of the other and climbing upwards. And fear doesn’t hamper my day-to-day life anymore.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that my greatest fear is of people – not reptiles or worms or insects or darkness, ghosts, height and so on, but people. I’ve been bullied, abused, ignored, duped, cheated, ill-treated, threatened – by people. Yet I still go out every day and socialize with people for three reasons – I need to face my fear instead of running away from it; I’ve realized that experience is a better weapon than ignorance, and that not all people are bad – if I’m alive and thriving today, it’s because I’ve been helped by a lot of good people. The scars from the past, however, are a constant reminder that not everybody can be trusted and therefore, I need to be wary at all times and never let my guard down. The most painful experiences have nearly always come from the closest quarters – people who I thought of as family or friends. And these experiences have led to  the realization that fear is closer home than we realize.

It is sometimes hard to get back to normal even after the trigger or object that causes fear is removed. The effect of fear might extend from a couple of hours to a couple of years, maybe even longer depending on how potent the fear is. Fear is often related to past incidents – the past, here, might refer to the recent past or a more distant past. Many of us find that we tend to forget various incidents with time. However, the memories of such incidents, especially the bad, fear-inducing ones are never entirely erased; they are hidden from sight by the gathering dust of time, but they are often awake in our sub-conscious. Therefore, we often find ourselves unreasonable fearful of certain things or even certain people. This is where the saying ‘A burnt child dreads the fire’ inevitably comes to mind.

So, the question is, how does one free oneself of the paralyzing effects of one’s fears and continue with one’s day to day life? I’ve realized from my personal experiences that we can only be truly and completely free of fear when we realize that we are trapped by our fears in a spot from where there is no going back and the only act left is to move forward, face our fears and keep moving past them. The image that can be associated with overcoming our fears would be that of a ship in a gale, the sailors trying their utmost to save the ship from being wrecked because there’s nothing else to do. Life is the ship that we try to steer in the stormy seas of time, and no matter how dark the sky, how high the waves or how strong the gale, all that we can do is to hang on and try to survive. This is fearlessness or bravery, in my opinion – the act of not giving up, no matter what; the act of realizing that if we don’t master our fears, they will master us and destroy us; and that the act of facing our fears and moving forward past them, putting one foot in front of the other and climbing from the darkness into the light is a monumental one. Once we realize these things, the rest is definitely not easy; but, the realization and acknowledgement of our fears is the first step that we need to take in order to conquer our fears and live life as it should be lived; besides, it also shows us the path out of a miserable existence. Some day we might even come to know that our constant battle against fear has helped somebody else face his or her demons. That would certainly be something to look forward to, wouldn’t it?

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An Essay On Achievement – II

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Until recently, many people used to see me as an under-achiever. I am a slow-learner when it comes to learning about life and its battles. As a result, I was late in realizing my dreams. In fact, I have only just started. As I realize each dream, I set new standards for myself, because I have finally realized that no matter how high the standards that I set for myself, I will be able to reach them and keep reaching beyond. It is my goal in life to keep moving forward because moving forward means being alive and useful, while staying behind means the death of one’s dreams. Being alive is not an easy task; one has to fight every inch of one’s way to get where one wants to be. I am no different. I have had my fair share of problems, the chief among them being my own naivety. Four years ago, I was a young girl brimming with ideas and dreams but lacking in the resolution to put them into effect. I wanted to do so much and I couldn’t find ways to do so. I had nobody to share my hopes and fears with and nobody to turn to for advice. The lack of mentors and of advice are things that have cost me much valuable time and caused me much trouble. It was only when I started working as a teacher that I started to find ways to help myself while figuring out how to help my students. I started reading more of self-help books and books on meditation and these helped me to be optimistic, to channelize my energy in the right direction and to pursue my dreams with renewed vigour. I also started reaching out to people to give as well as to receive help because I realized that by giving away help, I was, in fact, gaining much more in the form of friends and acquaintances. While I continued to try and figure out ways to work more actively towards the realisation of my goals, I also started to try and improve my talents as a writer and a musician. Music and writing helped me come to terms with myself, my fears, my failures, in addition to helping me to express myself with clarity and honesty. Music and writing has helped me bear disillusionment and to forgive myself for all my wrong decisions. All the challenges that I had to face, I later realized, had been partly my own creation. However, they had also helped me emerge from my comfort-zone as a warrior and eventually, as a winner. Had it not been for the challenges that I had to face and the steps I had to take in order to get out of my comfort-zone, which had, in fact, become a burden that I had to carry around everywhere, I might never have connected with the amazing people who have believed in me and helped me with their insights and advice. Now, I am much more aware of my strengths and weaknesses and making a steady progress in my life. I believe that I have been able to make quite a few people, including my parents, proud.

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ON HYPOCRISY

HYPOCRISY DESTROYS
HYPOCRISY DESTROYS

In a very recent issue of a popular magazine, I came across an article describing a rare but hilarious incident. A bride-to-be had refused to marry the would-be groom after he failed a basic maths test. It’s apparently a funny incident, but it couldn’t very well have felt like fun to the bride herself. She absolutely refused to have to do anything at all with somebody who couldn’t solve a sum that was easy enough for a child studying in Standard I.

This is not an uncommon problem in the country. While a majority of the women are well-qualified, a large portion of the male population has already started falling short of an equal level of qualification. As a result, a prospective bride’s dream of getting a perfect match for herself, has already suffered a huge set-back. In fact, a recent survey has stated that the present scenario is expected to worsen by 2025, resulting in at least a third of the women population having to compromise on the very important aspect of marriage – equality. As far as I can see, the situation is already bleak enough.

Why is the educational qualification of a prospective groom so important to women? Is it not enough that he has a job, can provide for the needs of his family and provide shelter? These are questions that need answering. The answer is no. It is not enough that a man has a job and can provide for his family. Just as every man dreams of certain qualities like beauty, good cooking skills, a well-paid job and so on in his wife, so does a woman. A woman’s dreams are no less important than those of a man. Dreams and the hope of realizing them are what keep us going; therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we strive to provide an environment that’s conducive to chasing dreams. The least a woman can expect from her husband is understanding and a stimulating conversation; how can her expectations be fulfilled if a man is only just qualified enough to retain a job? Education is the only thing that can improve a person’s ability to understand and relate to other people and keep jealousy, depression, inferiority complex as well as a sense of unfulfillment out of a life-long relationship. A marriage needs much more than just financial security; why else do so many of them end in divorce? The sense of being equals is what makes a bond strong, not the compromising on essentials. When a relationship starts with a compromise, it doesn’t promise much stability in any case. One compromise leads to another and before long, one partner starts feeling cheated. No wonder that person would want out of such an unfair situation.

Coming back to the incident of the groom who flunked in Maths, isn’t it surprising that the bride and her family had been kept in the dark regarding the educational qualification, rather the lack of it, of the groom? And this is just one of the many incidents of this kind. How can these people have such a mentality and how can they hope to get away with such fraudulent practices? Isn’t this proof enough of the hypocrisy that is practised by our society? That, while the groom and his family gets to choose a bride from the creme de la creme in any given situation, rejecting and indeed insulting, prospective brides and their families on such flimsy grounds as beauty, figure, colour of skin, size of dowry, superstition and so on, when in fact these women are well-qualified and often hold positions of responsibility, the same choice of being choosy while selecting a partner is not available to most women?

It is time that we started questioning whether some of these age-old superstitions and practices shouldn’t be changed. They do not belong in a modern society afterall. We are so proud of all the progress we have made over the years; is it not wrong then that our mindset hasn’t undergone much progress, so much so that we never think twice before acting like the hypocrites that we are? We expect others to be honest when we ourselves are still not ready for the truth. Are colour of skin, caste, physical beauty or the lack of it, size of dowry offered or whether it is offered at all and superstitious beliefs so much more important than a woman’s education or her inner beauty, that she has to face rejection time and again just because she falls short of the former? We harp on and on about self- respect and treating others with respect; what, then, happens to that sense of respect when we hanker after somebody else’s money? Where goes this respect when we treat perfectly capable women and their families with such disrespect? And do we still dare to wonder why our society and its values are deteriorating when the answer is just an introspection away?

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OF FEAR

What is fear? What causes fear? How does it affect a person? How are nightmares related to fear? M y personal feelings about a topic that is common to all. Read on to find out more.

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Fear is, probably, the most real of all human emotions and has the most long-lasting effects on the human mind. The myriad emotions that we feel everyday, for the most part, might be interpreted in terms of the element of fear. Happiness and  peace, for example, is a state of ‘no fear’. Courage and thrill, if we come to think of it, is a state of ‘little fear’. Tension, stress, suspicion are all variations of a state of more than usual fear, while unhappiness is the fallout of fear. And then there is FEAR in its purest form.

The thing about fear is that it’s very difficult to understand. More often than not, a fear is real only to the person who experiences it. Other people, even those who are nearest to him or her, find it difficult to understand a fear that seems quite baseless or even, harmless. It is, perhaps, this lack of understanding that drives people to the edge and forces them to hurt themselves in unimaginable and often, irrevocable ways. Yet, considering the fact that all of us suffer from some kind of fear or the other, is it not strange that we still find it so difficult to understand the realness of another person’s fear?

Nightmares are a semi-visual rendition of the fears that lurk inside us; semi-visual, because we see them, with our mind’s eye, while we sleep, when the mind is at its most vulnerable, the consciously-erected mental guards being down. Nightmares, like dreams, are very vivid in their details – they make us feel as if we are in our very own horror movie, one half of ourselves acting our part, while the other half unwittingly watches. This is, perhaps, the most fearful aspect of fear – it paralyses us from within, so that we end up gagging on our own dry tongues, have trouble breathing and finally wake up, after breaking out in a cold sweat, in the most painfully torturous positions imaginable, with a general feeling of being very dead.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been very prone to having nightmares. They, literally, plague me. The earliest ones, if I remember correctly, were the ones that dealt with loss; more particularly, the loss of a parent. I remember whimpering in my sleep, followed by a frantic search for my mother, upon waking up from the nightmare. They came in black and white, mostly black, like in the movies of old. Next came the most violent ones, around puberty, in the hues of the darkest black and red, and quite action-packed. I just hope that nobody else ever has the misfortune of having such nightmares. Next in line, were the ‘snaky’ ones – where a huge serpent, with the head of a human that I most loathed, used to sneak up on me, in a variety of situations, but always with the same insidious intent of crushing me to death. The serpent, in most cases, was either green or red. I’m not sure whether my general fear of serpents was the only thing that was responsible for these ‘snaky’ nightmares.

After I had left the university for good, I started having a very different sort of nightmare. I started waking up at night after dreaming that I was appearing for an exam, absolutely without any preparation, so that I knew none of the answers. As a result, I started losing my sleep over a preposterous fear, which, nevertheless, felt very real. I still have this nightmare sometimes and, in my sleep, experience the agony of uncertainty and doom that I’ve never had to experience as a student.

The other nightmares that I encounter these days are the falling-through-the air and the elevator ones. In fact, I might never have realised my fear of elevators had it not been for these recurring nightmares. Wherever I go, I’ve always preferred taking the stairs, to using the elevator. The number of times I’ve used an elevator is certainly less than half-a-dozen; that, too, when I was accompanied by somebody I trusted. Ever since I started having them, I’ve become even more wary of elevators, anywhere and everywhere.

The nightmares I experience, have changed over time; they’ll possibly undergo further changes. What hasn’t changed, though, is my reaction to nightmares. When I wake up in the morning, after a nightmare-ridden night, looking like a ghost of myself, I never forget to thank nature for this gift of light that drives away fears.

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