Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 09/15/05 8:27 AM

Feature: Terrors of the Dark

At night the mind takes stock of all that one has or has not done, and fears and worries creep in.

It’s obviously a throwback to the days of our ancestors.When it became dark, they built robust fires to warm themselves, as also to keep wild animals at bay. These  fires, I am certain, kept their Neanderthal fears at bay, too.

I’m convinced that man/woman is a day animal. The golden sunlight floods our being with joyousness, optimism and shoos  away the last bogey trying to hide its loathsome self deep
inside us. When day dawns, we are the conquerors, the species  that put man on the moon, discovered the joys of PCs and perfumes.

Speaking for myself, I’m cheerful all day long. When the gloaming gloams, I stop to appreciate the russet and golden streaks that flare overhead. I try not to think of the midnight blue mantle that will soon wrap itself across the sky.

Because that’s when my resident fears, come out, filling me with suffocating anxiety. It doesn’t happen all the time. It doesn’t happen when I’m with friends or engrossed in a good book or movie. But when I’m alone and it’s bedtime, the moment the  lights are switched off, the air fills with a thick fog that not even my determined pep talks to myself can dispel.

I start to think of all I haven’t done in my life. All the opportunities that came knocking at my door when I wasn’t home. All the disappointments, all the humiliations. All the insults to which I had
no ready retort. All the slings and arrows of fortune I have suffered. Of course, I try and fight it. I tell myself funny stories, I count my blessings. Nothing works and I feel the dark closing in on me.

When I try to laugh off these nightly visitations as the workings of a wonky mind, my body starts to play up. My chest starts to hurt. An old wound throbs to life. So do some new ones. Why is my hipbone hurting? I remember Marian, an old classmate who neglected just such a complaint and
was eventually diagnosed with a rare disease.

On a recent trip abroad, I got these shooting pains from my shoulder, down my left arm. At night, but naturally. The pains would disappear without trace in the mornings.

The pains peaked on my (late night) flight back to Bangalore, where I was rushed to my doctor who diagnosed  a bad attack of spondylosis. Here was one bogey successfully deconstructed, treated and hopefully exorcised.

If only I could exorcise myself of the night-time terrors  some way, other than becoming a total insomniac. Or  relocating to some place where the sun doesn’t set.

This ran in the DECCAN HERALD of 15 Sept 2005.

 

darkFeatureFeaturesnight-time fearsterror

Sheila Kumar • September 15, 2005


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