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Tiding over fear

When Arjun was 15, his whole world revolved around action, thriller, and suspense movies. One lazy Sunday afternoon, all his friends from school were at his place to watch the movie Jaws, a 1975 American classic. They were excited because they had heard so many good things about the movie–its storyline, heart-stopping scenes, and plot twists.

When the movie started, all were glued to the screen like bees to honey. For the next couple of hours, the room resounded with gasps, shouts and applause. In the end, Arjun was in awe, overwhelmed by the movie experience, and terrified of sharks. He was so impacted by the movie that Arjun’s imagination started running wild. The next few months, whenever he visited the shore-side, he feared that a shark might rip him to shreds, just like in Jaws.

In Arjun’s mind, the blood-thirsty ocean predators were monsters. So, a year later, when he learnt from a magazine that sharks are an endangered species, he was quite surprised. Curious, he read up more to understand what could possibly threaten their existence. That is when Arjun realised that his perception about sharks was actually a figment of his imagination.  

Arjun learnt that there are around 440 known species of sharks, and only a handful of them lethal. But what surprised him the most was that sharks kill only about 6 to 10 humans a year, and that too because they confuse humans with other marine animals like seals or sea lions. Humans, on the other hand, kill 100 million sharks every year, he found out.

After learning the truth, Arjun couldn’t help but think about that lazy Sunday afternoon. The fear that had sprung that day had blinded him to the reality. Had Arjun taken some time to separate fact from fiction, his fear needn’t have turned into phobia. And he wouldn’t have developed hatred for a species that was portrayed unfairly as vengeful creatures that attack with an intent to kill.

Arjun knew it was time to rise above his phobia of sharks. So, he called his friends and planned to go snorkelling in one of India’s coral islands, Lakshadweep. For long, Arjun had kept himself away from beaches. But he wasn’t afraid anymore. With fear in the back seat, the world was now Arjun’s oyster.

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