Ambiga between Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama
US first lady Michelle Obama (right) and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hand Ambiga the Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage, on 11 March 2009
Ambiga Sreenevasan is a colossus of intellect and integrity in the Malaysian legal fraternity. Ask any lawyer and they will tell you. Here is what Wikipedia has to say:
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan (born 1956) is a Malaysian lawyer who served as the Malaysian Bar chairlady from 2007 to 2009.
In March 2009, she became one of the eight recipients for the 2009 Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage Awards. In the ceremony, the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented, “… Ambiga Sreenevasan, has a remarkable record of accomplishment in Malaysia. She has pursued judicial reform and good governance, she has stood up for religious tolerance, and she has been a resolute advocate of women’s equality and their full political participation. She is someone who is not only working in her own country, but whose influence is felt beyond the borders of Malaysia. And it is a great honor to recognize her and invite her to the podium.”
References: “Remarks by Clinton on International Women of Courage Awards”. United States. 11 March. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
Courage has nothing to do with the absence of fear. Lexicons that describe courage as being fearless have actually got it wrong. Courage is about audacity, valour, daring, holding your own in difficult circumstances. I know people who are brave, very brave when it comes to facing real challenges but scared silly at the thought of little things. You may see a fat arthritic woman valiantly fighting diabetes do a record beating high jump to the top of the dining table to escape a tiny mouse. Or a huge man with rippling pectorals run out of the gym on seeing a roach emerge from under the weight rack. Fear is irrational and makes us the charmingly vulnerable people we all are. It also defines each one of us.
What scares me? Several things. Let me start with what is probably the worst of my fears. The fear of closed spaces, known as claustrophobia. When I see a coffin, it’s not the fear of dying which scares me, it’s the fear of being encased in it. One look at an MRI machine and I am out of the room like a shot. I have often contemplated on this fear and found that it stems from my childhood when I watched The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas’ amazing story about this guy who escaped from prison in a coffin thrown into the sea, and then managed to break free. He went back and destroyed all those who had conspired to put him away, knowing he was innocent. It’s possibly one of the most exciting revenge tales ever, one that the Mahatma would not have approved of, but for young, impressionistic me it was an iconic story of retribution. I loved it. No emotion is more sweeping in its impact as vendetta. It rushes the adrenaline in your blood watching a good man avenge himself against the wicked. 

What else scares me? Fear of meeting other people’s expectations. I remember dropping out of college for that reason. I do what I do in my life in search of that amazing but ephemeral O moment: A moment of extreme joy or incredible bliss. That’s my Holy Grail. Relationships that work best for me are those where neither person needs to climb Mount Everest to impress the other. For that’s exactly when fakery steps in, people begin to live out a lie. Any relationship withers under stress. I am happiest being me. In fact, I find solitude a charming companion even if I may not have enough time for her. So are women. They are smart, clever, beautiful, charming and can hunt down any man with the ease of a panther chasing a limping elk. Our horns are too big, our ego gets in the way. We are hapless when trapped in the headlights by a beautiful woman who has perfected the art of looking distraught. I know I am a fool but then, I never pretend otherwise. I loved Elvis sing A Fool Such as I.

What else is scary? The fear of extinction, I guess. The kind of men I liked and admired are about to disappear forever. The normal, easy, fun loving guy with a glint in his eyes when he sees a lovely woman is now quietly walking into the sunset. You won’t get a Marlon Brando again. Or a Richard Burton. Or even a Dylan Thomas. Last week New York became the sixth US State to allow gay marriages. The male bra is Japan’s hottest selling new male accessory. Nearer home, a racket in Indore was busted last week where little girls are being surgically corrected at birth by giving them male genitals. Every young tourist to Thailand boasts of their sexual encounters with lady boys. Every male movie star today aspires to be a gay icon since John wore his yellow swimming trunks low and won so many male hearts in Dostana. Unfortunately, I grew up in a different era when one was seriously offended by another man’s attention. Now it’s the in thing. There are guys, popular youth icons who swing every which way like Tarzan, king of the apes. I feel like a fashion discard. This is not a world I comprehend. As a heterosexual male with no metrosexual inclinations, I feel banished by the new sexual revolution. But no, there’s no way I am going to wear foundation and lip gloss and drink pink gin with mascara wearing men with waxed armpits. I would rather sleep with a Boa constrictor.

Apart from these, I have the usual phobias. Like arachibutyrophobia, bromidrophobia, cyprianophobia, didaskaleinophobia, eisoptrophobia, febriphobia, gamophobia (even though I have married more than once), hellenologophobia, ithyphallophobia, Jaipalophobia (it comes from expecting Jaipal Reddy to keep increasing fuel prices every few weeks), kyphophobia, ligyrophobia, molysmophobia, nyctohlophobia, ouranophobia, pocrescophobia, rhytiphobia, stenophobia, trypanophobia, uranophobia, verminophobia, wiccaphobia, xerophobia, yamophobia, zelophobia. In short, I have them all from A to Z. Worried? Not me. I love them all. My fears define me.READMORE


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