Face Off !

It was early morning around 7 AM.

I looked at the mind blowing guy looking back at me. Tall, plump and jovial.. I think that I have seen him before. He is usually a super energetic, ever smiling and a fun loving guy. But he seemed tensed at that moment, getting ready to perform an activity that required intense concentration. It seemed to be a task that he wanted to get out of his way, quickly.

I stood before the mirror, looking at myself, dreading the task that I was about to perform.

Wifey came over and stood beside me, looking concerned – .”Its ok dear, take it easy..” I looked at her, and smiled – “Don’t worry, today, there will be no bloodshed !” I looked at the weapon I held in my right hand. This time, I would make sure I control it right, I told myself. “Take care, honey..” – she said, gently massaging my back.

This is not the realization of an adolescent fantasy.

This is an almost everyday occurrence at my home when I am trying to shave. While comforting me is one part, the real intention of my wife is to be around so that I don’t lose consciousness through excessive blood loss and hit my head on the ceramic floor. Needless to say, after every shave, my bathroom looks like the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” scene.

I remember, as a child, I fantasized about being an adult. For most of my friends, this amazing far off paradise like land of adulthood seemed to be a place where one could lead one’s life at his own terms – No studying in the evening, No milk every day morning, stay up all night to have fun with friends, sneak in and watch ‘interesting” movies.

For me, it was being able to shave.

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Holding on to my horse !

Phrase 3I think back on events from my childhood, and they seem to be wavy and shrouded in fog. A lot of my memories are in black and white, and the sound is garbled, as though I’m listening to them through the wrong end of a gramophone. I remember my father was very insistent that I learn English from a very early age. I cannot quite remember why, but there must have been a good reason. He would want me to speak in English with him, and not in our colloquial language (Bengali or Hindi). Most of the instructions that my parents would give in English would be unambiguous – like “Come here Ari!” and “Please be quiet!”. Such clear interaction allowed me to understand what was expected of me, and perform the task obediently.

Sometimes, my parents would use a phrase, that made no logical sense. Not that logic and reasoning were my strengths ever, but even to my under-developed brain, it seemed to make NO sense. I continued to work hard and try to find my way out of this “Phrase Maze”. 

Phrase 2I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect my parents had learned that these phrases and comments were guaranteed to stop me dead in my tracks from asking any more of my usually irritating questions. My mom had a classic – “Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?” – that question almost paralyzed me. My parents had never explained which was the wrong side. Adding to that was the confusion that the bed was set against the wall. So, there was only one side I could have gotten up. There seemed to be add up to the “Never ending” list of things that I just DID not get. I think I spent years wondering which step of my morning routine was causing the problem. Or, was it something I did before I went to sleep. The confusion lingered on.. I never REALLY found a convincing answer.

Even today, I hear my wife telling this to me sometimes.. And I feel compelled to answer, and not with complete certainty – “NO, I don’t think so”

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Damn the Wisdom!

“Damn the wisdom…” – I told to myself

It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon in the Golden Week of 2012, when everything seems to come to a standstill. Life seemed to be moving at a pace that I always wanted to, slow and steady. An innocuous looking toothache had caused us to visit the doctor as a precautionary measure. Few medicines and pain killers and we would be fine, I thought.

Wifey and me were seated in the oral surgeon’s cabin. He was a diminutive man in his mid forties I presume, with a lyrical South Indian accent, a grim face, and a penchant for looks of sheer perplexity. It was as though, with me seated in front of him, he realized for the first time that he really did have to rely on that dime-sized mirror to see what he was doing.

Dr. Subbu (lets call him that)was studying the X-ray report carefully. He then, turned to us, and started grimly –

DOC: Well, looks like, we need to extract your wisdom teeth..

ME: Its just a little tooth ache, is it that bad? Does it need a surgery? Can we not do with some medicines or something?

DOC: (Feeling my apparent discomfort at surgery) You must get it removed ! You see wisdom teeth is one the vestigial organs.. No use, and only creating trouble for you.. Come let me show you!

Wisdom1The Doc explained that the problem was with the lower right wisdom tooth that had grown horizontally and butted its stupid head against the back molar. Apparently, the wisdom tooth was healthy. The problem was a cavity that had formed between the two teeth – a dark space that bacteria and food particles found their cozy home in. Eventually, this would decay the innocent molar teeth, and cause more trouble for us.

Dr. Subbu pointed to the Xray that revealed the real culprit – the wisdom tooth that was lying on its side and trying to grow laterally. I couldn’t fathom why something with the word wisdom in its name seemed to have less intelligence than a mushroom, which is a fungus that grows from dead trees, yet manages to find its way out without troubling anyone else.

My inquisitive mind, of course, wanted me to demand some rational explanation for the impasse.  I wanted to make a point, but looking at his grim face, I decided against it. It didn’t seem like a good day for such a high-risk activity.

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Dumb and Dumber !

I was a dumb kid. Correction – I am STILL a dumb.. Err.. Kid !!Image

I was always intrigued with life. Well, the feeling would go through states of bafflement, bewilderment and in some days, utter confusion! My brain seemed to continuously process information and look to find answers. This nearly-total lack of a mental filter can cause increased stress. Things find their way to my brain, things that don’t belong there, just as things don’t belong in my lungs, like dust.  Being inquisitive, I would ask lot of questions.. And would often be tagged as being dumb..

“Why do you ask so many dumb questions?” – my friends would say

“Stop it Ari.. Sometimes, you ask really dumb questions.. GO NOW!” – my teachers would say.

Every time I asked a question, my self belief took a beating. During those turbulent days, my pillar of strength was my mother. She always supported me. She said everyone goes through this PTT syndrome (no it’s not Push-To-Talk, it is Pre-Teen Trouble). As you grow older, you gain more KNOWLEDGE, and you will find the answers yourself.

I imagined that in the distant future, the fog around my brain would dissipate, the smoke would clear, and I will be able to begin the satisfying task of gathering pieces of understanding and storing them in my mind.  I was convinced that just like every item in the food store came with an expiry date, my dumb-ness also will have an expiry date? The day will arrive when I will finally have the power of “insight”, the gift of “knowledge”.

I patiently waited for the moment to come…Through my teens, my twenties, thirties..

I am still waiting.

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