Monday, October 26, 2009

Sweet are the uses of adversity

Sometimes I will be listening to conversations that P.G.Wodehouse would not have described as 'calculated to interest, elevate or amuse'. For example, there will be some banal conversation of the he-said-she-said variety where I will only have a vague idea of who the 'he' or 'she' was. (I have not stayed much in my home state of Kerala and I have only a fuzzy idea of many people and places that form the subject of these discussions.) Or there will be some talks about a temple festival or a puja that is to be held somewhere. I am not a religious person and my interest in these matters can be described as rather lukewarm. Or there may be some polite chit-chat with people who I have never met.

On such occasions my mind disengages itself from the happenings around me and floats away into another world. I will ponder over something that puzzled me in some book that I had been reading. Or I will think about how to explain some topics better to Sujit than what is given in his textbook. Or I will be at the centre court at Wimbledon executing some magical forehands to stun Federer. Sometimes I will remember a funny incident or a quote by P.G.Wodehouse like 'He was so fat that his wife was in danger of being sued for committing bigamy' which will make me laugh loudly.

The problem with this is that everyone thinks that I had laughed because of something that they said and will want to know what it was that I had found funny. Startled out of my reverie, I will look around with the dazed expression that Watson often had when Sherlock Holmes, after a minute inspection of the crime scene with his magnifying glass, tells him something like the murderer was six feet tall, had a cut on his right cheek, was left handed, wore a grey coat, has a pet dachshund and had recently visited Brazil.

It is said that to a man who has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. My hammer is silence and it is a useful tool to have in many circumstances. I just have to keep quiet and smile and eventually everyone will get bored. After all how long do you talk to a wall? Even a smiling wall? Before my stroke, my reticence may have been mistaken for arrogance but now it does not invite any adverse comment. Soon everyone will resume their interrupted conversation leaving me free to drift back to my Walter Mitty mode.

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