Young Neelakantan, one of the current crop of JUDE ughhs (undergrads, for the uninitiated), has recently done one of those godawful Facebook survey things on fears. “Which of the 62 commonest fears do you have?”, it asks intrusively, and then proceeds to list a set of fears that I am VERY hard pressed to believe are common at all (fear of silk; fear of “being myself” in company; fear of flowers). But this reminded me of a conversation I had with an acquaintance–who, frankly, is a bit of a fluttering obnoxious twit–while walking back to our dorm from the local Mexican and Indian/Pakistani hub, Moody Street, after doing our weekly ‘ethnic’ shopping.
Priyanka: oi, let’s walk through this cemetery. It chops off a good twenty minutes.
P (raising voice slightly over evening traffic): Let us walk. Through. This cemetery.
F: are you mad! It is 11 at night! Cemetery!
P: But…what? Waitaminute, you’d rather walk uphill, downhill, then uphill again for twenty extra minutes because you’re scared of walking through a cemetery?
F (emphatically): YES!
F: I mean, I am not scared or anything. It’s just not sensible.
P: common zombie precaution, you mean? On the same level as looking right, left, then right again before you cross the street?
F: (walks firmly past cemetery gate in steely silence)
After a few minutes of sulky silence, walking along the cemetery wall.
F: so you are not afraid of anything, eh?
P: plenty many things.
F: but they’re all cool fears, I bet. Like being afraid of being kidnapped by aliens, because you’re so special aliens would totally want to kidnap you.
P: (raises a silent eyebrow in the barely-lit darkness)
F: (not noticing eyebrow) or, or, maybe you’re afraid of not getting an A in an exam. (Flaps his hands) “Oh my god, I have got a B plus. Oh my god! What will I do!”
P (mildly): I’d probably go sit on a grave under the blood moon to feel better. Or jump from a fifty-feet cliff into a shark-infested lagoon. You never know with my kind.
F (moving away from a little): what do you mean, “my kind”? Are you… special… in any way?
P: (allows a moment’s silence in fond remembrance of company that actually understands such basic irony)
P: I mean cool, fearless folks like me.
F: I bet you’re afraid of cemeteries and darkness too.
P: I’m not.
F: so you would go into that house (points to empty ill-kept dark house overlooking the cemetery) all alone right now?
P: because that would be trespassing.
F: would you at least do that jumping into shark-infested sea from a high cliff thing?
P: because I am sensible, and I do not use that word as a euphemism for cowardice.
F: that’s just…
P (calmly): but most importantly, because I have absolutely no need or desire to prove my assumed fearlessness to judgemental fools who measure bravery by idiocy. Goodnight.
I notice I am losing my temper oftener these days. Old age will out.
[First published: May 11, 2009]