While we were exploring trails around the homestay, we were told that there was one path through the plantation that made for a good walk, except for the abundant leeches there. I had had only one experience with leeches before. One had latched onto me during our trip to Wayanad last year, and naturally, I discovered it only after the fat leech, full of my blood, slid down the inside of my jeans. I wasn't bothered. After all, it doesn't hurt. The only thing is that blood keeps flowing from the wound long after the leech drops off, until the anticoagulant it has injected wears off. After this instance, I observed with fascination the occasional leech we passed by, how they stand up on one end, and probe the air with the other end, push themselves forward, stand up and continue probing.
Once I got back, I looked up leeches and read about them, about how they inject anti-coagulant and analgesic into our blood before starting the sucking. And I marvelled at what an amazing creature it is. So when our host at Mugilu, when talking about the plantation walk, warned us, "In case you have a phobia of leeches..." I shrugged it off.
We went to the plantation, and started walking. Puttachi noticed a big beetle, and we stopped to watch it. I bent down to look at it closely, and then I saw next to it, a leech, standing on end, probing the air. Hey look, I said, and then I saw one more next to it. And then another, and another. All of them standing on end, probing, searching..... Then Puttachi said, hey, look at your shoes - and we all looked, leeches were already on our shoes, and crawling up our jeans. I looked down again, and suddenly it seemed to me that the ground was full of leeches, and I felt that the entire forest floor was rising up and reaching out to me through these filament-like fingers, wanting to suck my blood. It was like a nightmare. I couldn't breathe, I clutched my head, tears flowed down my cheeks, and I said something like, "I can't I can't I can't I can't...." I've never felt that way before! At first, S probably thought I was joking, and then he realized that something was really wrong, and we all immediately walked back up to safe-ground. We spent the next ten minutes pulling leeches off our clothes, and checking our shoes and socks to see if we were clear.
That was such a revelation - sometimes you cannot explain why you are petrified of some things, and why you are not..... in fact, the very next day, our host showed us a leech that was walking on his hand, looking for the right place to latch onto him, and I watched it again with the same fascination as before, from inches away, and felt no fear. It was only down there, with leeches all around me, that I felt that kind of panic.
Lessen learned. I'll never pooh-pooh phobias again.