As a child, I was very scared of tombstones. The very knowledge of the existence of a graveyard in the vicinity would daunt me and give me a feeling of insufferable unpleasantness. I would strive to the best of my abilities to steer myself, and when possible, the others too away from the
place. And keeping the fear a secret was of utmost importance to me for I thought that being afraid of dead people was silly. Even as I write, I wonder
how I write so easily about these morbid things which tortured me so much once.
One cold evening, while out on a walk near a friend’s we had to pass along the grey walls of a cemetery and the shivers wouldn’t let me proceed. At the gate a strange odour of an assortment of flowers on the stones drifted towards us and I haven’t forgotten the fright it gave me. I can even feel the same smell sometimes. I believed staunchly that I would never go close to another one in my entire life.
And now at twenty-something I realize that my aversion has almost completely disappeared. One may call it the effect of growing and maturing but I know that my fear had not just been a silly childhood fear. My mind, as a child, drilled much deeper into the stones than anyone can possible imagine. It was a psychological taboo for me to think or see anything related to the departed. Every time life forced on me such an instance as having to experience my fear I felt like I was being literally torn apart. The little joys that I saved within me would vanish instantly leaving me forlorn and shaken. I realize now that I felt that such encounters with the unpleasant were the end of everything. My little timid self could not hope for happiness after that. It would take several days for me to forget and recoup.
Life has always been very benevolent with me in terms of irony and humour. Every place I have lived so far has had atleast a tiny graveyard close to it. And I can’t imagine going through the juvenile pangs of sorrow over again. As years progressed, I adapted to the vicissitudes of growing up and feel distinctly the changes in my likes and dislikes. A natural phenomenon I agree. It astonishes me that I have completely lost my fear of graves, the dead and the like. I grappled with the mystery behind the cause for the change for a while and I now believe that time has been teacher. There is a universe of difference between the working of the mind of a seven year old pampered child to a mature, weather-beaten woman.
The primal reason for my boldness is that now I can look beyond the graveness of life. There is an implicit sense of hope that is instilled in my mind now as a result of sustaining the vagaries of growing years. Pain, I have learnt is a good thing. It is a great tool, an indicator sign to the subtly ubiquitous peace and happiness. It has been my instructor rather. But it has also been very unassuming and quiet for it has taken me almost a decade to understand its importance. I now look at graves with ever so calm a mind. I have even taken to liking them in a small, curious way. By curious I don’t look at them with the eye of a philosopher or seeker. I am a worshipper of the Almighty and believe that the answers to all my questions lie with him. But when I do look upon a grave, these days, I strangely perceive peace and stillness. I even want to visit the grave of my favourite writer and role model, Jane Austen. Now, that also gives me a hunch on another plausible reason for the change. Perhaps even the Victorian writers like Emily Bronte and Charlotte Bronte have had their
share in phasing out my fear through their marvellous, timeless works.