The problem began on the flyover. You know that fancy new airport flyover, the one that's designed to save time, the one that takes you from Chanakyapuri to the airport in a flash, and you're ready to check in, even if you left off leaving for the airport till half an hour before the stipulated time. Once I was on the flyover, my palms began to sweat, my heart started beating really fast, and I was in such a stranglehold of panic, all I wanted to do was pull over and die quietly. Cars whizzed past me, honking, probably shaking their head at the female driver, I had to change lanes, and even though it was a really cold night, I could feel the damp of fear-sweat under my sweater.
I've always had a mild case of vertigo--looking down from a building, I'd get a bit giddy, standing on the edge of things makes me feel like I'm losing balance, and even the suggestion of a bungee jump or a para glide makes me really, really nervous. But it's not like you have to go on a bungee jump or a para glide in your day-to-day life. What you DO have to do, especially in Delhi, is drive over flyovers. And, ever since I returned from Bombay, I have a new fear: being elevated on a road.
This fear is crippling and specific. Small wide flyovers like the Def Col or Jungpura one are easy to do, they end fast, and have a gentle incline. The ring road is terrifying. A brief list of thoughts that go through my head when I have to go to Vasant Kunj: can I go under? how much time do I have? oh my god, is that car trying to pass me? I have no space! I'm going to fall off the edge! I'm going to die! Imagine feeling like you're going to die every fifteen minutes. Imagine taking u-turns instead of the sharp curved turn of the AIIMS to Dhaula Kuan road, because by the time you reach it, you're so petrified, you freeze up, and freezing up is not the best thing for a driver. I can't even bring myself to look in my side view mirrors, so fixed am I on not falling off the edge, not dying, and forcing myself to keep going forward instead of stopping on the side.
So, instead of going straight through to T 3, I added several minutes to my trip by taking the first exit off the Flyover Of Fear. I took a long route home, going under the smooth ring road, bonnet to bumpet with trucks (another fear, but less giant than the flyovers) and finally an hour and forty minutes later, I was in flyover free land, back in South Central Delhi, and I could breathe a sigh of relief.
I'm trying to face my fears, to conquer them by simple mind tricks. ("Picture yourself on railroad tracks," says Good Thing) and I chant mantras to myself "you're doing okay, not gonna die, railroadtracksrailroadtracksrailroadtracks." I'm puzzled by this new phobia, can you get a new one so late in life? I used to drive fine before. It only happens when I'm behind the wheel, no fear in someone else's car or taxi or auto. It's weird, the human mind.
What are your irrational phobias? Tell me so I feel less absurd.