Deccan Herald

Terrors of the dark
By Sheila Kumar 

At night the mind takes stock of all that one has 
or has not done all life, 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 o
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.


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