My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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18 December 2012

Fear of flyover-ing

Yesterday, Good Thing asked me if I could drop him to the airport. Totally normal boyfriend-to-girlfriend request, but it sent me into a panic spiral. Couldn't we take a taxi together, I asked, hopefully. Totally worth the cost! Couldn't we just say goodbye in the flat? He looked a bit puzzled and said sweetly that it meant more time together, which is true, and finally, I girded my loins, bit the bullet and began to drive.

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.


  1. I have phobia for stairs...I see then as one :(
    Imagine using metro and having such phobia!!!

  2. I can understand your phobia since it's one of my many phobias! I get irrationally claustrophobic the moment the pilot announces that the flight is in queue and will be delayed by x hours in landing. I hope you are feeling less absurd now..

  3. The Girl has the same phobia. When we go on road trips, I have to take over the driving as soon as we are on hilly roads that have a drop on either side or if we have to drive across bridges or narrow flyovers. If such a thing comes up while she's driving she sings LOUDLY "I'm on a flat highway in a desert" to help her cope.

    1. At least now I know who to blame for the traffic jams caused by people slowing down on a road which is encouraging you to speed up...

  4. Escalators - THE ONLY TIME I hop on one is when I literally have no other option (like where the dare-devil architect has forgotten to build stairs at all and the only way to get someplace is a damned escalator) - I don't mind climbing fifty flights of stairs with tons of luggage but I am petrified of escalators - had a terrible fall at Khajuraho airport - when I was a kid,, since then oh no no no!

  5. birds..yup all of them flapping wings and all. eating them perfectly fine though :)

  6. Blood & hospitals. After dramatic denials of "What pale face? I am fine! P-shaw!", I keel over and faint. :)

  7. And I thought this post was going to be about rape and about how one can't cross that flyover without thinking of the case and being scared and angry at the same time! Hopes shattered.

  8. Have the same phobia - just not as bad as you have it :) i usually stick to the middle lane and let cars be on either side. And then I tell myself I cant fall off cause i'm not on the edge. Try it - might work for you. :)

  9. Escalators! It's weird because it started one fine day. I am fine on the slower ones that we see in malls or pretty much anywhere in India but I can only go up on them, never down. I live in Singapore which has fast escalators in metro stations. I can't take them at all, up or down. Very inconvenient when I am with people :(

  10. Slopes! Any kind. Stairs, slides, escalators, ramps. My centre of gravity goes askew. This is why I hate the hills. I have to keep stopping to steady myself. I've actually almost fallen backwards while climbing up stairs! Downward slopes are way worse than upward.

  11. Acrophobia (from the Greek: ἄκρον, ákron , meaning "peak, summit, edge" and φόβος, phóbos, "fear") is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. It belongs to a category of specific phobias, called space and motion discomfort that share both similar etiology and options for treatment.

    Most people experience a degree of natural fear when exposed to heights, especially if there is little or no protection. Those who are confident in such situations may be said to have a head for heights.

    Acrophobia sufferers can experience a panic attack in a high place and become too agitated to get themselves down safely. Between 2 and 5 percent of the general population suffer from acrophobia, with twice as many women affected as men. [1]

    "Vertigo" is often used (incorrectly) to describe a fear of heights, but it is more accurately a spinning sensation that occurs when one is not actually spinning. It can be triggered by looking down from a high place, or by looking straight up at a high place or tall object, but this alone does not describe vertigo. True vertigo can be triggered by almost any type of movement (e.g. standing up, sitting down, walking) or change in visual perspective (e.g. squatting down, walking up or down stairs, looking out of the window of a moving car or train). Vertigo is qualified as height vertigo when referring to dizziness triggered by heights.

    Vertigo /ˈvɜː(ɹ)tɨɡoʊ/ (from the Latin vertō "a whirling or spinning movement"[1]) is a subtype of dizziness, where there is a feeling of motion when one is stationary.[2] The symptoms are due to an asymmetric dysfunction of the vestibular system in the inner ear.[2] It is often associated with nausea and vomiting as well as a balance disorder, causing difficulties standing or walking. There are three types of vertigo: (1) Objective[3]− the patient has the sensation that objects in the environment are moving; (2) Subjective[3]− patient feels as if he or she is moving; (3)Pseudovertigo[4]− intensive sensation of rotation inside the patient's head. While appearing in textbooks, this classification has little to do with pathophysiology or treatment.

    Dizziness and vertigo rank among the most common complaints in medicine, affecting approximately 20%-30% of the general population.[5] Vertigo may be present in patients of all ages. However, it is rarely a primary concern amongst children, and becomes more prevalent with increasing age.[5] The most common causes are benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, concussion and vestibular migraine while less common causes include Ménière's disease and vestibular neuritis.[2] Excessive consumption of ethanol (alcoholic beverages) can also cause notorious symptoms of vertigo. (For more information see Short term effects of alcohol). Repetitive spinning, as in familiar childhood games, can induce short-lived vertigo by disrupting the inertia of the fluid in the vestibular system.

  12. I'm terribly claustrophobic, my biggest fear is to die of suffocation. There was a time when I was little I would throw up each time we travelled by air, because I had this silly fear that I would stop breathing when the plane would take off. Even today, I'd rather take the stairs than the elevator, unless I'm with someone. I can't wear turtle neck sweaters, even in the middle of winter because I feel suffocated all the time. Another winter nightmare is the heavy quilt, which I am convinced I shall suffocate and die under. My fear of being buried alive and eventually suffocating to death is so bloody intense that I've told my husband I'd like to be cremated after I die!

  13. Sloths (the giant 3 toed ones) make me uneasy. Something about their smile freaks me out! I guess that's the most irrational one I can think of.... and oh human babies.

  14. Being asked a question by the teacher when you actually know thw answer.


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