Of Childhood Fears

Of the hundreds of dreams that I have seen over the years, and the dozens that I remember in varying degrees of vividness, there's one whose imprint hasn't faded even a decade and a half later.

I saw this dream when I was around 10 years old. We used to stay in Vikas Puri in a 2 BHK house then.

I was standing in the second bedroom when the vacant parking lot besides my house caught my attention. There was a cylinder that had just burst, and my brother was lying next to it.

Split in half.

I couldn't make out whether he was alive or not. I immediately went to my dad who was in the bathroom, shaving. He ignored me when I told him about it. My mother was equally nonchalant and busy cooking when I informed her. My parents ignorance shocked me.

I woke up.

For a long time, I couldn't go to that room of my house, especially at night.
Between the bedroom in which all four of us used to sleep, and that other bedroom, there were the bathroom and the toilet. The toilet was near the other room. I used to resist peeing at night, but when I could no longer control, the fear I faced was enough to make me pee. That the bulb in the hallway was blue didn't help matters. I would pee anyway and then quickly proceed to our bedroom.

Though this dream troubled me a lot, I didn't inform anyone. In fact, I've never mentioned it to anyone until on this blog.

The memory of that dream didn't trouble me day to day but it got internalised, and the fear of gas cylinders made home in me. Even time could not reduce this fear, as it got reinforced a couple of times when once, there was a cylinder blast in Dwarka below my school friend's house in the neighbouring society, and one other time when the pressure cooker burst in my kitchen. My mum was in the balcony to collect the dried clothes when this happened.

After getting down at Dwarka Mor, while walking towards the metro station, there's a shop I pass which keeps its cylinders outside. I try to pass it as quickly as possible, ignoring the thought that the moment could be my last. There are not many smells that I remember, but I remember the distinct smell of that shop because all my senses are alert when I am passing in front of that shop.

My mum came to visit me for two weeks a couple of months back. She got a stove and other utensils so that she could cook food for us and then hire a cook. I somehow made sure that we didn't get a gas connection. She ultimately had to buy an induction cooker and induction utensils.

Just imagine my plight when I see a mini truck carrying multiple cylinders. Whenever I do pass one, the first thought that crosses my mind is that somebody will shoot a bullet at the cylinders, causing all of them to explode at once, killing me.

I know what I am going to say next is going to sound unbelievable.

While taking bath, I grew aware of the presence of the geyser in the bathroom. It was cylindrical in shape, and it could burst, which I only got to know after reading about an accident in the newspaper. Owing to its similarities to the gas cylinder, I grew fearful of it too. This came later, after we shifted to our new house in Dwarka, since we used to warm water in Vikas Puri using a heating rod.
Rarely a day has passed in all these years, when the thought of it exploding hasn't crossed my mind. I try to ignore the thought but it has the same effect as someone asking you not to imagine an elephant with a pink underwear. Till date, whether I'm in Delhi, or this flat in Bangalore, I find it hard to take a bath without the geyser hanging above me threateningly and I sometimes even postpone or cancel taking bath. When I do take bath, I don't latch the bathroom door completely but only so much that it doesn't open by itself, and if somebody needs to open it should something happen to me, they could open it easily.

Have you have ever seen a dream which has affected you in such a way?


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