‘Love, in some ways, is just like horror’ his father once told him in jest while jogging. It was the first day of his vacations just after his Class 12th board exams, and his father had made him promise that before he leaves for his college to some faraway place he must make it a point to jog with the old man every morning. This was also when his father’s legs still permitted them this glory. ‘Legs are one thing we all take for granted’, he often ruminates lately, ‘one begins to be paranoid at the slightest ache in the stomach or head but when it comes down to legs no one gives much thought.’ His father had been an athlete all his life. The attic was full of the accolades. And these awards were not just for the nation’s romantic game ‘Cricket’ but included trophies for all the games that the people in small towns could afford the courts or grounds for, three shields for Badminton, Two Man of the match awards for Hockey, and the district championship medal for Table Tennis. That the legs of such a man could ever leave him at the mercy of others even when he would need to ease himself off in the toilet was not only unfathomable in the past but also equally inexplicable now.
No two doctors’ prognosis ever coincided. Each told his own cause, and each of these causes was as unique and beyond comprehension as the others’.
It was the first time, during this appointed day for jogging, that he had seen his father getting old. The man who always ran faster than him, and more importantly ran for at least three kilometres without slowing down, had to slow his pace down to gasp for breath. A fit of a cough soon followed. He wondered if the rates at which he was growing up and his father was getting old were different. Was this what people meant when they said that ‘the time is colluding against them’. He then caressed his father’s back just like he had seen his mother doing it to the family members while they were down with a cold and a fit of a cough followed. It never made any sense to him how caressing someone’s back could possibly assuage one of their sufferings. But the habits, inculcated as tenderness, especially by mothers, are hard to let go off, their irrationality notwithstanding. He asked his father to sit on a nearby bench. It was then while talking about things that a boy talks about to his father like investments, banking, gadgets, and cars that the conversation digressed and took a course to the subject that normally neither dares bring out in front of the other – Love.
‘Both can only be made felt by some presence external to you, and if not paid due attention to, the intensity of both — Love and Horror — begins to fade’. ‘And, a faded love’, his father went on adding, ‘is the saddest thing. Perhaps even sadder than unrequited love. But it happens all the time. To almost everyone. And, a thing rarely acknowledged doesn’t equal an extinct thing. One eventually comes up to terms with both. You can’t explain either any better than the other. No one else can ever come close to understanding as to why you love someone or are scared of apparitions. Or when exactly was this love born within you and what caused all the nightmares?’
But that makes it all the more fun. It is something so inherent to you. You can tell people how much you love that person, but you can’t make them feel the love that you have for ‘that’ person. You might wet your bed out of fear of ghosts in the dark but notwithstanding your storytelling abilities you can’t make people equally terrified and spoil their beds for your ghosts.
It just happens. And while love and horror reigns. Nothing else matters. As if there is nothing else. The dimensions cease to exist. On some days you wake up filled with love, and on some nights you sleep refusing to sneak out of your comforter lest you encounter your ghosts.
And now, rare though it is that he ruminates, he often finds these words reverberating in him. He doesn’t always agree with what his father told him all these years before, but just like revisiting some arcane logic fills you up with a conviction of its probity, so is the case with words and ideas. If you hear the same idea time and over again you tend to begin believing in them. What else makes men go to work daily? Is it not the convention that what they do makes a difference somewhere? And what forges this conviction in them? The other men who are being paid just to do that. There is no end to this game, for this is a straight line, a never-ending, a never bending line, and a line that never bends never ends up being a circle. And there is no end to things that don’t return to where they started. Love has no end for you can’t revert to the state where you never loved the person in the first place; Hatred, which people often mistake for the absence of love, ends the moment a new love is born.
Anyway. Love and Horror might not be similar in the least, but they surely are dependent. All his grave horrors have their roots in the love he had for people around him. His father, his family, his friends. And his love towards anyone in the world filled him with an inexplicable horror of losing them someday.