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     Volume 10 |Issue 39 | October 14, 2011 |


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Signs of Paranoia

Aasha Mehreen Amin

In a world that is constantly bombarded with violence, conflict and unnatural, natural calamity it is hard for the average human being not to be a little paranoid. Paranoia is like a defence mechanism against disappointment which is part and parcel of human life. If you think of the worst and something less than that happens, it's such a relief that you actually feel happy. Paranoia is also a sign of great talent since it is proof of the richness of one's imagination.

Say it is 11:30pm Saturday, October 8, you are just about to get into bed for that long-awaited snuggle with the pillow and comforter when, out of the blue, you hear loud explosions that you feel are happening right next to your window. Even the sleeping birds on the tree are rattled enough to screech their protest and fly away. When the explosions are followed by a series of what sounds like gunshots what are you supposed to think? If you are living in or near the cantonment area there is only one plausible explanation: a coup de'tat. If you are a resident of say, Mirpur or Kafrul the obvious conclusion is: hijackers blasting bombs to rob people then shooting at the police, then getting shot in 'crossfire'. It could also be something even more sinister, like a terrorist attack, a suicide bomber blowing himself up while his friends run around randomly shooting at everything, in sight. The most logical thing to do at this time is to switch off all the lights and huddle together, (please not near the window) and pray to the Almighty for deliverance. Some of you may be smart enough to take advantage of technology and just call up relevant sources of information - newspaper offices, neighbours, police stations or 'friends with influence'. After a few petrifying moments during which you will imagine yourself running through the streets, hiding yourself in garbage dumps or ditches amongst the rage of bombs and bullets, someone will give you the real story. Apparently a wedding is taking place at some community centre and blasting hundreds of firecrackers to create a deafening blast is someone's idea of celebrating the joyful union. Why you may wonder, didn't you think of that? Well it's because you are paranoid. Or maybe it's because you live in Dhaka.

There are other ways that indicate you have the makings of a paranoid person. When the glass doors and window panes rattle ominously and the floor sways precariously and the first thing that comes to you is that it is paranormal activity, that some evil spirit is trying to scare the living daylights out of you, there is good reason to believe you may be suffering from a good dose of paranoia. You will realise this soon enough when your six year-old shouts 'earthquake' and drags you under the table. 'Now why didn't I think of that?' Let's not answer that one.

It goes without saying that many times paranoia stems from misunderstanding a situation. You are in the office canteen and a colleague you have never been formally introduced to comes in for lunch. You look at her a few times and mumble a weak 'How are you', thinking it's the polite thing to do. She looks at you a little suspiciously and then not hearing your query just turns her head away back to her lunch. You feel a little insulted and look at her again, she looks at you and then slowly gets up and leaves thinking you are a stalker. In this case she's the paranoid one and you're the fool who should have known better than to have tried to make small talk with an unfriendly colleague of the opposite sex.

When your friend does not answer your call it must be because she hates you, has been abducted by aliens or is possessed by an evil spirit. It cannot be because she left her cell phone in the other room or is taking a shower or is sleeping and her phone is on 'silent mode'. And now that she is calling back after a full fifteen minutes, who knows if this is really her. It could be an impostor pretending to be her, it could be the evil spirit that has possessed her; it could be some foreign government's intelligence unit trying to get your personal information. Alternatively, it could just be aliens.



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