Saturday, April 21, 2012

Phobia (Part II)- A short story

Read Part I before going any further.

Fear with a reason makes it powerful and stronger like an alligator in the water.  May be that is why, no other reason can fight the fear head on. Vijay was watching him from a distance. With white shiny hair and receding hairline, the old man had undoubtedly celebrated more birthdays than most of the people at the hall. He was being well received by everyone and his eyes looked at every one with kind demeanor. Everyone around him was comfortable with his presence and he looked at ease talking to everyone. While the old man took his time meeting everyone and slowly settled down at a chair beside his wife, Vijay felt himself feeling the heat. He could not digest the fact that a seemingly harmless looking old man could have an effect on him. He felt his tongue go dry and he looked around for a glass of water. He saw a waiter walking around with a jug of water and beckoned at him. The waiter was dressed in long white suit with red straps on his shoulders and wore a round red cap on his burly head for absolutely no reason. The person who had designed this uniform must have been color blind. He walked towards Vijay with a gait of a drunkard who was forced to sit in a temple.  Vijay took a glass of water and gulped it down without second thought. The water felt cold as it flowed into his throat and found its way into the deeper valleys of the body, giving some respite to his parched tongue on the way.

He was having trouble with his thoughts. Shaking his head sideways, he refused to see any reason behind his fear and yet he knew he was shaking all over. Running his left thumb and fore finger on his nonexistent mustache, he started breathing in and out consciously. He walked without going anywhere and was looking around without seeing anything, bumping into couple of chairs as he dragged his feet round the hall. He smiled absentmindedly to people he passed by when he heard someone shout ‘Hey’ behind him.
'You need something, mate? 'the stout man said. He had followed him from the chair where they were sitting. Vijay looked at him incredulously and said 'Nothing, really. '
'I heard the museum is just nearby. Walking distance eh? '-he asked out of the blue. Idle conversation seems to be the bane of the moment. In all probability, Vijay thought, this man was a maniac and a loner who had nothing to do in life except striking idle conversations with random people on earth.
'Well, yes. But it might take you few days to cover the distance by walk. ' he replied sarcastically. The stout man's laugh which followed his remark sounded like just like a scooter which needed few repairs.
' Really? Do you go there regularly? ' the man asked with unnerving excitement.
Vijay didn’t really reply but just blinked at him with a straight face. The stout man looked ready to continue his game of conversation when Vijay’s mother came screaming to him. 'Here you are! Where the hell were you till now? Everyone is looking for you. Come! ' and without waiting for his reply, caught him by his arm and dragged him along towards the north end of the hall. Towards the old man!

Walking behind his mother, he felt his heart’s pace quickening and a fresh stream of sweat broke out from his right ear. His mind was racing-This was the man, who had never harmed me or even raised his voice on me, he thought. His brain issued new orders to his body and the thinking part of his brain took command slowly. He felt foolish. He had a sudden urge to run fast and instead he kept walking silent. The fear felt foolish too and yet it was there deep inside him. He had developed it like a delicate photograph in a dark room, all his life. The fear had its roots in his childhood. The memories swarmed into his brain, as if the brain decided to gather proof of the foolishness of the phobia. When he was young, not having celebrated more than two birthdays, he was like any other kid-reluctant to eat or sleep on time. He had never eaten or slept, without getting coaxed by his mother or other member of the family. His mother had tried everything to make her little son eat, right from playing absolutely nonsense songs on radio to frightening him to death about crazy people out in the world, ready to pounce on him, if he didn't eat. The old man was one of her stories she invented to make her little kid eat in silence. He was a doctor and doctor's injection was a fine weapon to be used on kids and their mental psychology. Needles and injections make a fearsome picture on the young boy’s mind and the one who wielded them like a weapon was a dangerous man. The old man became a dangerous man. The picture of the old man, who had lived across his street, wielding a needle and sticking into his bum, stuck in his memory for ever. For the next twenty five years, all Vijay did was, ignore him. He neither acknowledged his existence, nor did he try to fight his fear.

He walked towards the old man, right behind his mother. His face had a perplexing look, though his brain was thinking more clearly than before. He gathered every ounce of courage he could from his reserves inside him, and walked straight. He felt all eyes piercing into him and restrained to look around. People might read into his eyes and find out, what exactly is going on in his mind. He knew his mind was playing games with him and was sure no one was looking at him, but the feeling started getting stronger as he neared the old man. His confidence was tottering but his resolve has always been an example of unswerving pursuance. He reached near the old man and stood facing him with a blank face. He finally faced his nemesis with a straight face and sweaty neck. The old doctor scrutinized his face , blinking constantly. 'Hello uncle! 'he said, uttering the first words spoken to the man, in twenty five years.
'You…is that you Vijay? ' the doctor said incredulously. 'Oh my god! Ha ha.. '
'I can’t believe this…' he said with a happy laugh and turned towards Vijay’s mother and began, 'You remember, how he used to run away at the sight of me? ' His mother nodded with a huge smile and the doctor continued- ' Oh my boy! I am glad to see you.' looking at Vijay. Vijay returned the smile, which broke all shackles of fear which had bounded him. Clasping the doctor's hands for a firm handshake, he held on to the man and let the fear melt into the air. Vijay felt his insides relaxing slowly and his brain claimed victory over his body. He sat beside the doctor and conversed with him with no further inhibitions. The phobia was no longer inside him.

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