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Years and years back the malarial parasite fell in love with me and made me its own. By the time I had a second attack, people around me ‘helpfully’ passed on the information that a third attack would mean an untimely death. People can be such asses (though I don’t know why that good animal is dragged into it each time one wants to call humans, fools. Anyways…), at times disseminating information, rather misinformation, freely and without any thought on how it would adversely affect the recipient’s morale.

Fortunately, it didn’t affect mine. I listened and tucked it away in a corner of my mind as interesting trivia. Who had time to dwell on death and dying while too busy taking care of two small children and a home (with a husband forever in the service of the nation and hence absent) in between being severely ill?

I went on to have six malarial attacks in a couple of years. Ahh, the love of parasites who make you their own! I was in such a bad shape by then that I was told by the doctors at the Military Hospital that I’d now need ‘radical’ treatment to rid me of the parasites once and for all. By the time the ‘radical’ treatment was done, there was even less of me than before. In addition, my hair was down to half its original thickness, food tasted like sawdust and was mostly pushed aside, energy levels had hit nadir, headaches and nausea took over, but what alarmed me most was that I couldn’t keep my balance.

Back home, I slipped (or tried) into my regular pattern of life. I still felt extremely weak and hence spent all my time indoors, not bothering to visit friends or attend functions because they all seemed so much effort. One day I decided this was not good, I should get out and move around. I was not yet ready for walks in the real sense, but I could make a start by strolling along and gradually pick up in the coming days.

So that’s what I did, strolled along the road between the army quarters, enjoying the greenery (I love trees and we stayed close to a reserve forest), watching the children at their games or cycling furiously along on their little bicycles, sighing at the ladies walking briskly (‘When will I be able to do that?‘). I hadn’t yet got into bird-watching those days (more’s the pity) so didn’t look for birds. Suffice to say that though I was a little out of breath, I enjoyed my stroll and thought I had made a good start.

Imagine my surprise when a couple of days later one of the ladies ‘informed’ me that a certain other lady we both knew had exclaimed disdainfully in her hearing, “Good Lord! Does she call that walking? A snail could have beaten her.”

I laughed, yes I did, on hearing that. I found it extremely funny.

She knew nothing about me, the illness, or the medicines I had to take, the aftereffects or my lack of stamina or how I was trying to make a beginning by taking baby steps in walking. And yet there she was being her catty best denouncing me for walking too slow. Which is why I laughed.

There was another thing that struck me. I thought: What if being weak had not been my reason for slow walking. May be I simply wanted to enjoy the evening air, be in communion with nature, soak in the atmosphere of kids playing? What if my walk had been totally about slowing down and enjoying life at a slower pace. Is it a must that whoever dons a pair of shoes and steps out of her house in the evening is doing so for the purpose of exercise?

Today someone ‘told’ me about conquering fear, how it is not an easy thing to do, that many people spend their entire life paralyzed by fear, after reading something I wrote in a rather tongue in cheek manner. I laughed, just like I did twenty odd years ago. I wondered why anyone would tell me that. How could anyone know what I have faced and conquered in life, if I have had it difficult or easy so far, whether I am one among those who spend their entire life paralyzed by fear or not? You cannot really know anything for sure about anyone by reading Facebook updates, right?

None can divine the reason why someone else walks too slow. Similarly they cannot also ‘read’ people by merely ‘reading’ their words. When you read my words from inside your prison, don’t assume I inhabit the same prison and hence follow the same rules. I could be living in a different prison and writing from a totally different perspective. Or I could even be out in the wilderness and have no rules at all.  

©Shail Mohan 2016