Fear of the unknown

Fear of the unknown

Fear of the unknown

I am scared of watching cricket matches, especially when India plays. Going by India’s unpredictable track record, you may ask what is new about it. But you miss the point: I am talking about my fear of watching it, not my fear of them losing.

I fidget, go to my bedroom and try to drown the noises coming from the drawing room. But not for long. Unable to contain myself, I peep out of the room, make sure that no further damage is done (if India is batting) or damage is done (if they are bowling), then shout at my family for frightening my poor heart with their shouting, and withdraw into my haven.

My husband continuously sends me bulletins while coaxing me in vain to watch the game in progress.

I do that after India has won the match. I watch the award ceremony, the expert analysis and the umpteen repeats ad nauseam. “You wouldn’t watch the match when it went on. When it ends, you gloat over it!” my exasperated family bemoans.

Yes, exactly. When you are not sure, when you don’t know or understand what happens in the end, fear persists.
For the same reason, I can’t help but read the last few pages of any book first, whether it is romance, mystery or murder. Once I know who is going to wed whom, or who has killed whom, I am at peace with myself and continue with my reading. I don’t know what they call it, but I have named it ‘endophobia’.

I am not alone in these fear rides. There have been great, strong souls who were afraid of rather insignificant things. Steven Spielberg, the maker of films like Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List, is afraid of insects! Why, Alfred Hitchcock, the master of intrigue, had ovophobia, the fear of eggs. George Washington feared being buried alive, he had taphephobia. Hans Christian Andersen, the fairy tale spinner, had a similar fear. It is believed when Andersen slept, he kept a sign around to proclaim his state of sleep, to assure people, and perhaps himself, that he was alive.
Do you know what Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Mussolini had in common? They had ailurophobia. In simple terms, it is the fear of cats! Moving on to the irony of being Walt Disney: the creator of Mickey Mouse was afraid of mice.

Technology has its share of phobias. In this millennium of mobile phones, most of us could have the nomophobia, the fear of being without a phone or unreachable for contact. It has been found that more than half of UK’s people suffer from it. I think most Indians fear losing signal or running out of charge on their phones. I fear losing sight of my phone — it rings at the most inopportune moment and I fear that the ringing will stop before I can fish it out from among the deluge of things in my handbag.

These fears may seem absurd though some have a rational explanation. Like Oprah Winfrey’s chewing-gum phobia, chiclephobia, which is traced to her traumatic childhood featuring a less-than-fastidious grandmother. But, the real reason for any fear lies elsewhere: it stems from our lack of understanding. The moment I realise that I can’t be responsible for everything in this world (because that’s God’s job), I also realise that imaginary fear, the fear of the unknown, is the worst that can happen to me. Understanding things in the correct perspective kills the irrational fear. M S Subbulakshmi’s rendering of Vishnusahasranamam may either soothe you or her pronunciation may sound like a punishing lecture directed at you.

The fear of suffering is worse than suffering itself. Fear weakens with experience. I have seen much-protected women, who would even dread flies, rise above personal tragedies to lead their young families; I have witnessed girls who feared darkness brave the storm when orphaned. These instances prove that fear is in the mind. That one can have a laugh looking back at fear experienced and overcome. Like my father does.

My father thought that old age would make him fall surely. He fell, broke his leg and now uses a walker. When visitors wonder how he fell outside a renovated bathroom with anti-skid tiles, my father quips: “What a lucky escape! Now no one can blame us or the anti-skid tiles for the fall!” My brother was relieved because what he had feared all along had happened, but it was not that scary.
As for me and the cricket matches, the tamasha continues. My theory of fear and understanding don’t work, in this case — Indians playing cricket is still beyond my poor brain’s comprehension.

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