Archive | June, 2008

Demons of the Past: Fight or Flight?

18 Jun

Most of us have, at some point in time, faced demons of the past – a terrible (or tragic) experience that has kept haunting us, refusing to go away, and keeping us terrified. Some of us are brave enough to immediately shrug shoulders and move on, while some are never really able to let go. A near-death experience or accidents are only some of the really bad experiences we’ve had in the past – one or may be two or more. Though we try to put up a brave face, the subconscious mind never really allows us to forget the incidents or fight it. The mere thought of having to face off with a similar experience would make most of us sweaty in a Midwest winter. The first action the mind wants us to do is to run away and not face the terrible situation, unlike the more analytical brain, which, when confronted by a stressful situation, might ask us to fight the situation.

In India, when a child is born, a horoscope is created by a family astrologer, which is referred to before any significant event, especially marriage, when the horoscopes of the boy and girl are compared for compatibility. However, the number of people believing in this scrap of paper is dwindling by the day. I’ve never believed in my horoscope, for the simple reason that I believe that nobody can predict the future, not even what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone years. By the way, my horoscope says I’d have two sons. I have only one son. And a daughter.

When I was growing up in a small township in India, there was only one swimming pool in a health center, and I was not allowed to go there. Our local club, where we were members, constructed a very large swimming pool, and unfortunately, a friend of my friend drowned in the pool, days before it was inaugurated. All the more reason for my family to prohibit me from going there.

One evening, when I was 16, we all went to the club, and my cousin and I entered the pool, in shallow waters, and were walking in chest-deep water, pretending to know how to swim. I was embarrassed to see little children swimming past me, while all I could manage was to walk on pool floor. After some time walking on the pool floor, my feet slipped and I went under water. That was the moment, I had to inhale air. And I did. Instead of air, what entered my lungs was only water. My breath stopped. Within seconds I took my face out of water, but the lack of oxygen in my lungs made my vocal cords blurt out a terrible sound. And then I was able to breathe again, by myself. But the feeling of drowning for those few seconds dissuaded me from entering the pool again. I have been to neck-deep water on sea beaches, but not the pool. Until last year when I took my toddler son for swimming classes. The first day I entered the pool, my heart kept skipping beats, I felt my blood pressure rise, and I had difficulty breathing. But that was it. I was able to comfortably walk in the pool, without any fear. A few months later, I enrolled in a club to learn swimming.

In March 2002, I had just got engaged to a wonderful girl, ready to get married two months later. I was driving on my friend’s motorcycle. I stopped at a traffic signal. When the light turned green, I started my motorcycle, and then I opened my eyes in the hospital, surrounded by a team of doctors. I suffered minor bruises and a broken tooth. The helmet had saved the left side of my face. I underwent CAT scan and I was fine, though the doctors kept me under observation for two days in the hospital. I had severe headache for two weeks because of the trauma.

After that day, I have not gathered the courage to drive a motorcycle again. Though I drove it once when I went to return the motorcycle to my friend. I started using public transport and then a car.

I still don’t remember how the accident happened.

After completing my master’s program at Stanford, I took up a job with a publishing company in Cincinnati. I came to Cincinnati with my wife and son in January 2007. I didn’t have a car so I bought a new Nissan Altima and drove a little for two days. The third day, while driving back from office in a snow storm, the car skidded on a curved road, hit the guardrail, swerved to the other side of the road, hit a tree, and stopped, facing the traffic in a two-lane road. I somehow maneuvered the car, brought it back in the correct direction, and drove home, this time slowly, watching other cars’ speed.

A year later, we had two continuous days of snow storm in Cincinnati. The second day of the snow storm, I had to drop my mother-in-law to the airport for a flight to India. At 5:30 am, it was dark, and there was already about 6-7 inches of snow everywhere. I drove slowly, between 25-30 miles an hour (on a highway). There were no lane markings visible, and I had a four- or five-lane-wide road all to myself. The car skidded numerous times, but it was not a problem. I hardly saw 15-20 vehicles on the road on a stretch of 35 miles. While returning at 9 am, it was no more dark. And it was my time to relive the moment when I had the accident in a snow storm. I increased my speed to 40-45 miles an hour, again skidded tens of times, but I was not scared anymore.

By the way, our family astrologer had predicted that two events could be a threat to my life – a closeness to water and a road accident. And these predictions were true.

I still don’t believe in astrology.