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Wednesday 29 September 2021



Image source: Pixabay

I have the strangest of triggers to self-demolition. Imagine a police station with a row of crime suspects and you and I are a part of the audience. If the inspector in-charge were to menacingly question, "I give you one minute to tell me, which one of you did it. I'll find out one way or other, come on now, own up, who did it? You, or is it you...or you, yes you?" You'll be very surprised to see none of the suspects respond but there'll be one hand meekly raised in the audience - that would be me! Some habits don't die so easily! 

What can I say? It's years of conditioning. Surviving the Guilty-As-Charged complex (well, I just made that one up but who knows, it may be an established one!)

Flashback to school times. I vividly remember sitting attentively in the biology lectures of John sir. John sir was a fantastic teacher, hugely famous for his effective, result-oriented teaching techniques. His favourite quirk was to spend a considerable amount of time sketching complicated detailed diagrams on the board. While the students attempted to copy and transfer the same onto their notebooks, he would suddenly swivel, gaze across the melee, take quick aim and fling the chalk in his hand with missile accuracy at the unfortunate inattentive or talkative student. Such regular missiles, ensured pin-drop silence even when he had his back turned to us. During lectures, he followed another practice. He would explain a topic from botany or zoology, all the time his eyes boring right through the back of all our heads and we dared not look elsewhere. But that wasn't enough for him. He would stop mid-sentence and freeze his gaze on the victim-of-the-day and slowly drawl, "You, yes you...I mean YOU only!" Time moved in slow-motion as the victim fumbled and stood bewilderedly. The professor then proceeded to pop quiz and grill the student on what he'd just been teaching and more often than not the student either had no answers or the wrong answers. Once you'd been caught blanking, the action that followed was mild but the technique was so effective that no further action was needed! Somehow, unerringly John sir knew, who understood what was being taught and who didn't! 

Yours truly, was one of his favourite victims who never failed to amuse the class. It was a standing joke and bets were placed on whether or not I'd be targeted that day. I diligently studied for his lectures and tried to stay as prepared as I could. I even managed to respond correctly to his trajectories but those occasions were few. He somehow seemed to know what I didn't know and focused on choosing those topics. I did try putting on my most innocent, sincere face but guess it wasn't very convincing.

Fast forward to college, the exact same scenario continued with more than one professor, I always managed to attract their attention despite sitting absolutely still and attentive, at least appearance wise. I went to the extent of hiding behind backs and keeping my head down, still no luck! Friends recommended I try something new - look them in the eye and glare, no backing down. That earned me a good, "Get out of the class and stay out for the rest of the term," sentence! So much for not taking it lying down!

With time, my talent has aged gracefully. I no longer blush, flush or fumble, neither quake nor crumble when I am singled out, I am just resigned to the fact that this particular talent of mine could be what saves the skins of so many who might quail, quiver and or have a meltdown at the prospect. To all those miscreants who think they've been successfully getting away, just remember the silent sacrifice of scapegoats like me! I haven't taken a jaded view of life or been beaten by the fact that I am singled out or subject to perusals. I've accepted it as my share of the weird things in life (you do know that every human is allotted some weird stuff during the course of his life on earth) and I am just thankful my lot is being in the err...spotlight...for whatever reasons or outcome, self-preservation and indignation be damned! All the same, it would be whole lot more satisfying to have actually done something worth the indictment!

With years of practice, this talent has blossomed to a new level. No longer restricted to the confines of packed classrooms or offices, it has spread its wings...I now regularly catch the attention of traffic police. They appear on never before seen junctures and turnings, popping out of the blue to hand me the challan for flouting the lamest of rules, while I sit primly seat-belted with eyes riveted on the road. All around me cars whizz about at 120 kmph, trucks leave behind thick tufts of black smoke, bikers on rampage like they are on the MotoGP, but who cares about all that when you have your regular solid customer?! I am almost certain they have my mug-shot on some kind of facial recognition scanner that they've fixed God knows where or probably there is a tracking device of some sort that alerts them, "DAILY QUOTA ON THE ROAD"!! So attuned am I to these crackdowns that as soon as I see a traffic cop, my steering wheel gravitates towards him, ready to cough up my mandatory obeisance! He greets me with a friendly welcoming smile, makes polite conversation and transactions proceed smoothly and we wave goodbye, till the next time.

For years, I have pondered this. It is extremely fascinating, don't you think? How does this work? What are the odds of the same person in a crowd being picked out at various instances over several years? Is it plain simple bad luck? Do I have a suspicious, guilty face with shifty eyes or do I have an extremely vacant, inattentive mind-is-wandering look? Maybe I look pretty annoying or just that I look permanently doubtful? Or it could just be Charisma, you know! Whatever it is, I've given into it and always assume when somebody calls out, "You, yes you...I mean YOU only", it obviously means ME only!


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