One of the most enduring memories from a mostly forgettable book ‘The Kite Runner’ is of Amir with his father escaping from Afghanistan to Pakistan in an oil tanker. The very imagination of someone sitting in absolute darkness with hordes of others with only a small hole on top to let them out filled me with Claustrophobia and I found myself short of breath.
Ideally you would expect Claustrophobia to happen in something more of a crowded or really constricted space, but total darkness, even in infinite space is a sure-fire recipe for it. Problem is that, in darkness, in an infinite space, you can either imagine an infinite space with you at the center of it, or you can imagine a confined space with light outside which you can’t get to. Darkness is after all lack of light.
Your mind refuses to believe in total darkness as at any point in time, when awake, there is always some light or the other. Even when going to sleep, some light always filters in from outside and on waking up after sometime you can make out stuff in the room. Total darkness feels like you have a thick cloak covering you up, which you want to fight, and break free, and when you can’t do that, you feel fear, panic and shortness of breath – in short, Claustrophobia!
Nope, have not started reading weird stuff, just jotting down stuff I go through in different scenarios like not being able to sleep in a tent at night in the middle of a forest with no light whatsoever, with two people lying between me and the entrance, one of them snoring which I can’t escape from while am confined to a narrow corner, constricted by the sleeping bag out of which only my head emerges. Soon the body starts sweating and I want to rip out the sleeping bag even though its just 4 degrees outside, and emerge and take in the cool air.
Simpler situations like the very back of an SUV without a door or a window, the window seat in a flight with the guy in front of me reclining his seat to the maximum extent possible while I cannot move my legs or body to any position I want, while the mind refuses to accept that it can’t get to move the legs around to any position it wants, even though it does not need to. Eventually it is the lack of freedom to break free from all forms of constrictions, even though it is not needed. I sleep the same way in an aisle seat or a window seat, just that with the aisle seat am more at peace about having a side where I can walk out whenever I want. A backup plan for freedom you could say. The bigger picture of being constricted in the aircraft has not happened yet. That would be an interesting situation to be in.
All this has however, restricted quite a lot of what I do. Aisle seats always in flights, even for short durations, no window seats in buses either for night journeys. No sitting in the back of a vehicle with no windows/doors to open out. No camping with people who have snoring problems, which usually means no camping at all. I wonder how it happened, when it happened, but its the mind, it plays weird tricks which we can’t figure out I guess.