Who says brave men do not know fear? At the core, a brave man is also a human being, and there’s bound to be Something that inspires fear in him... Something that sends a shiver down his spine; something that reminds him of his weakness, and strike him down, knocking him off his bearings.
And when that terrible Something happens, his celebrated bravery gets thwarted. Speaking of brave men, Achilles seemed to have had a rather notorious problem with his heel. Closer home, the author of this post, also widely considered to be brave, has a rather nasty problem with swallowing pills.
The very idea of having to swallow a pill causes me to writhe uneasily like an old table fan, fidgeting where to turn next. And I know exactly why. It does not take a psychiatrist to uncover the scars of my childhood experiences with pills and tablets to track down the cause of this fear. It all started when i was in the 4th grade.
One day, without prior notice, a giant lollipop decided to get ensconced in my throat. Just like that. Now, I used to think of myself as a curious kid open to new experiences, which included sampling candies & lollipops among other things. But this time, it looked like the giant lollipop had plans to overstay its welcome and intended to settle there forever. So I refused to be humoured anymore. I simply couldn't bring myself to pander to lousy lollipops and their unreasonable whims.
So, with all the lung power I could muster, I volleyed to evict the rascal out of his cosy new-found home. I coughed and splattered about all over the place, to no avail. Hell, I even tried new-age yoga techniques for rapid air-expulsion. Several attempts later, I gave up, defeated and subdued, my famed bravery and confidence shattered.
After this ghastly accident, every time I had to see a doctor, the cruel memory came knocking on my door, trying to haunt me with a lollipop the size of a fully blown balloon. I developed a particular dislike for doctors who prescribed pills.
For good old traditional wisdom says, "Eat fruits, drink water and do exercises. By all means, shun pills!", for a healthy lifestyle.
But in order to remain in the pink of health, I was forced to take pills from time to time, no matter what. So I came up with an ingenious solution to end my pill-swallowing woes.
Step 1) take a glass of water.
Step 2) place the pill on a flat surface, such as a dining table. Pick up a heavy object. Mercilessly crush the tablet to powder.
Step 3) Gloat over the crushed pill and let out an evil laugh for added effect.
Step 4) Dissolve the powder in the water and sip in style
The easiest, entirely hassle-free road to the radiant glow of health had just been discovered.
One day in summer, a rather nosy neighbour of mine (for I regret to say such people exist, who have their noses buried in the lives of others), found out about my Operation Kill Pill. Within hours, the whole colony was talking about The Boy Who Couldn't Swallow Pills. The neighbour-in-question was a formidable lady with big, round eyes and a towering stature, unofficially known as the Gossip Queen (G.Q.) of the neighbourhood. Whenever she spotted something interesting, her eyes popped out like tadpoles jumping out of a well, before her excitement spread in all directions. Needless to say, the mimicry of amphibian life on her inquisitive face terrified children in the neighbourhood.
But they say, "Always stand up to your fears"...and I was a brave boy for my age. That summer, I took it up as a challenge to learn how to swallow pills, and choke my fears instead of myself. I picked up a carton of Cadbury's Gems, took out a Gem, sat out on the open terrace, relaxed my throat and summoned up my courage. Taking a deep breath, I placed the Gem far back on my tongue, took a sip of water and tried to swallow the Gem...and it worked! I was elated, overjoyed! What a gem this Gem truly was! There was a surge of confidence in me. The feeling of triumph in overcoming an irrational fear! Not really daunted by the summer heat of the afternoon, I wanted to try it again, to practise, to overcome the fear once and for all!
I picked up another Gem and readied myself...and then, events started unfolding in quick succession.
As I sipped some water, there was a sudden commotion behind me. Halfway through the process, with face turned skywards and not in the most elegant of positions, I turned around to the source of the noise.
G.Q. and her clique of girls stood on the terrace next door, glowing in their element, transfixed by the promise of new inflammatory material for gossip, watching The Boy Who Couldn't Swallow Pills make headlines.
Gossipmate#1 pointed and gasped, "Look, Vasumati! he's swallowing a pill!"
G.Q.'s eyes popped out as was customary in such occasions.
My throat suddenly gagged up and I started choking on the Gem stuck in my throat. The nasty memory of the lollipop flashed before my eyes again.
Gossipmate#2 pointed and gasped, "Look, Vasumati! he's choking!" Even as a young boy gasping for air to survive on that summer afternoon, I thought the quality of live commentary was banal and sub-standard.
As a paralysed fear began to consume me, my vocal chords loosened up by reflex and I coughed decisively, launching the Gem in the general direction of the spectators. It was expelled, though not quite in style.
More pointing and gasping followed with dull commentary as the Gem ricocheted off the parapet wall of the terrace and escaped into the alleys of the neighbourhood. Sensing that the show was over and there remained nothing else to do, G.Q. and her brigade broke away disappointed. No new developments to report, the boy still couldn't swallow that summer.
As for me, I was back where I started, giving up after just one successful attempt, and psyched about the social interest that followed the failure of the next.
Perhaps that's why they say - "One swallow does not make a summer"