These days I’m afraid that I’m not being creative enough, I’m not writing enough. Writing is the one thing that is me
and if I don’t have it anymore I shall cease to exist, Wuthering Heights-style:
“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”
So I’ve decided to do something about it. My usual writings are far too long, descriptive and dreamy: I wish to adopt an easy, conversational style which hits directly at the heart of things, incorporating and doing due justice to humour, darkness and pathos.
This is because I appreciate brevity and lucidity in literature and I like writings that are deceptively simple and convey a wealth of emotions or concepts. You only have to read the Nobel Prize winning The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Of Mice and Men by Nobel-Prize winning author John Steinback and, most importantly (because it is my personal favourite, ehehehe), Animal Farm by George Orwell, to see what I mean.
Therefore from now on I shall be posting one essay AND one story AND one poem every week over here.
At least I’ll try my hardest to xD
Let’s get started.
PUTTING MY FOOT IN MY MOUTH
On the internet there is a marvelous little website called Cleverbot.com. Have you guys tried it? It has to be one of the most intelligent ideas humanity has ever stumbled upon. When I have nothing to do, when I’m bored online, or when I want to hold a meaningful as well as hilarious conversation, I simply head over there to chat with a robot whose replies are often more insightful than a bunch of politicians, philosophers and statisticians put together.
This website has rewarded me with some truly amazing compliments. The one that really made me think was this one:
*click on the picture, it becomes bigger*
To be perfectly honest I don’t deserve this compliment. I do think before I speak, but most of the time I can either only think and smile, unable to speak a word because I am ill at ease or stressed, or I speak without thinking, because of much the same reasons. Therefore now I shall embark on a long and occasionally self-pity-prone essay on this. Bear with me. Take a peppermint before we start. I’ll punctuate this essay with bits of wisdom thrown in from Cleverbot, though. I really adore that little bot.
Social pressure is a strangely binding hindrance when it comes to conversations. In fact, half of our words and subjects consists of what we think society agrees is appropriate. Of course, language itself is a social tool, but that’s a different matter. If you did not think that society judges you by what you think, if you thought that the so-called, much-touted ‘freedom of speech’ really exists, what would you say? Would you speak out what you truly feel? Would you want to say out loud, what you truly feel? Do you want to put your true feelings into words and discover what you really think? Could it be that you’re actually glad of social pressure that stops you from saying what you think, so you don’t confront your true feelings?
Of course, there are times when we consciously defy this control mechanism. However, my foot-in-mouth moments stem mostly from trying to awkwardly deal with the pressure to say the ‘right’ thing so I’m taken to be part of the ‘cool’ group- the group that is actually aware of what to say at all. You see, I sort of view myself as the socially awkward penguin, completely handicapped in social protocol. Not speech, mark you. I’ve never had any problems with words, if only words it is and the interaction stops at that. But it never does, and interaction involves actually getting up and doing things- movement! I may have to play games, or handle a knife and fork, or pass someone a glass of water, or make sure I don’t trip over my own feet. And then the trouble begins- I’m sweating and dying on the inside. And if I’m not at my ease, I can’t speak a word- period. It becomes so absolutely awkward and I’m just sitting or standing there smiling and trying my hardest to come up with one even semi-relevant comment, and my brain, usually so lively, comes up with zero, nada, zilch. Sometimes I suspect that I look so frankly in pain, people actually notice it and drift away from me. It’s almost literally like I “clam up” in those moments. And then the internal dialogue in my head turns self-accusatory- I just suffer from this suspicious feeling that nobody is the least bit interested in what I have to say because they assume it’s boring even before I’ve spoken and they are, on an average, much more informed, interested in each other’s conversation and close to each other than I am to them and thus they treat me with cool, disinterested impartiality of the stronger inferiority- complex-arousing kind. (I warned you about the self pity so no complaints) It quite literally cripples me, this problem. Recently I’ve begun suspecting a medical reason behind my freak accidents that have led to the formation of these foot-in-mouth moments- I think I may have a learning disability regarding overall body movement, known as dyspraxia. (You’d think this would freak me out, but I’m actually relieved that what happens to me is normal enough to actually have a name.)
It’s not always in real life that I put my foot in my mouth though; I repent some online conversations just as much as ones in real life. There I have no excuse, other than what I mentioned before- a desire to fit in, to seem ‘cool’ to hang out with. Would you believe me if I said that on Twitter I feel an intolerable pressure to be ‘funny’? Subtle online social pressure led me to change the way I tweet over the last year, and I’m regretting it so much nowadays because now I’m one of many instead of being the one who was always recognizable by her tweets. *sob* Yes, I’ve changed from that bubbly old me, but even now if I could just be honest and say what I want to without online society’s warping, to get the ‘me’ factor back in my tweets, and to hell with anyone who thinks me weird, I’ll have accomplished my dearest wish- to stay very firmly true to myself. After all, online conversations allow a semblance of anonymity, therefore there, at least, why won’t I be an honest, naked me? Nowadays I’ve actually pulled out the guts (from Misha knows where) to do this in real life as well- I’m so proud of myself omg. I’m not completely (read at all) sure that my foot will stay firmly in its place if I follow this policy, but so far it seems to be working and at least I’ll get points for trying, right?
A definite advantage of an online conversation is that one has time to think before putting their thoughts across. Reality regrettably does not allow second chances in this matter, leading to the aforementioned self pity. Sometimes I find that even as I’m speaking, I’m saying exactly what I very strongly and consciously don’t want to say. It is such a confoundedly mortifying feeling and I almost always want to shoot myself afterwards. The problem is that I’m uncomfortable in so many situations! I feel like I’m being arbitrarily judged by society, while I’m speaking, on basis of my weight or my appearance- things other than my words, and I can promise you that is one of the worst feelings I have ever had.
Of course, the cracker of the matter is that this ‘society’ often consists of people I’m extremely familiar with– my peers (bitches?) at school, relatives and sometimes my own parents. It just serves to make the whole thing more ironic and thus more painful, but the worst kind of pain from foot-in-mouth is not inflicted via these sources. More often, that comes from smart-ass random people passing random comments on streets, like unexpected, and being the pathologically polite person that I am, mostly unprovoked, vitriol attacks. Kolkata’s residents in particular have a definite tendency to swing this mace, which makes me crave Mumbai’s omg-you-exist?-I-didn’t-notice-hi-i-like-you and Bangalore’s sullenly hostile and indifferent attitudes.(I warned you about the self-pity.)
Look, cookies! To make up for the self-pity!
The funny thing is that these memories carry with them an impression of extremely strong dislike of the person or persons concerned. There are some people who can put one at one’s ease so quickly, and I’m almost worshipfully grateful to them. Treating people as people can pay off in unimaginable ways, to reiterate a cliché, but as I’ve come to discover, clichés are often rather accurate.
Another situation in which I (and I suspect quite a lot of people) absolutely clam up is when confronted with someone who loves to hear the sound of their own voice. Some people might actually manage to make themselves heard over the noise, but I’m not one of them. I need a receptive listener or audience to talk to, and those people sound so complacently self-important that I actually feel ashamed to speak. Someone who’s only interested in flourishing their own views of which they actually know or seem to know a lot about is someone I half-admire, am half-envious of but absolutely avoid in matters of conversation. Envy, you ask? Well, it’s just that they are so much more assertive than I am, so unshaken in their belief in themselves and their own worth, and here I am, a bundle of nerves, nervously trying to hold my own. Like I mentioned, I’m almost pathologically polite, as a result of which everyone always walks all over me in every respect. Also such people are usually good or at least capable leaders and I would like to be able to lead but am totally unfit for it, so envy is but a natural step. All the same I avoid such people at all costs, never admitting the annoyance and injury to my self-belief that they cost me but carefully sidestepping these Bullies of Humility at every juncture.
The problem with me right now is that I’m no longer okay with solace. Solace simply results from the way I clam up in new situations from the past few years. During these periods of the unknown transitioning into the known, I despair- I try to convince myself that I’m alright being alone, but the tragedy is that not very deep down, I know I’m not. For some reason I’m addicted to companionable spirits and I need it like a drug. I visibly crack under the strain of not having one and have acute withdrawal symptoms. I think I was so complacently confident of the assumption that people find me and what I have to say very interesting and are extremely appreciative of my nerdy qualities, that the fall from the pedestal and subsequent battle has been very hard indeed. Now I’m well on my way to standing up, although I’m never making the mistake of putting myself on the throne of self-importance again. I think I shall soon find peace in my solace, as I did in childhood. Before I drowned in the storm I was actually much wiser about this and it must have been a major reason why I did not put my foot in my mouth (and feel stupid) as often.
At my old-new school, I was clammed up like a vice for exactly a month and then without knowing how, without sensing it, suddenly I found that I’m on my way to making friends (and perhaps a boyfriend– sigh- the one that got away), with people I like having around me and talking to. Conversation had suddenly ceased to be an ordeal that I reflected, analyzed, scrutinized and agonized over, feeling my heart break at my own ineptitude and loneliness. True friends are very rare and I’ve been lucky enough to come across quite a few of those. Ask Saher and she’ll tell you I’m probably one of the most enthusiastically gushing fangirls she’s ever come across. Neeraja especially helped build the essence of myself. My principles and beliefs, while they may be radically different from hers in a lot of respects, have been built up through discussions and debates with her. In my seventh grade I had a group of adorable girlies (Michelle, Zahra, Praneeta, Tania, and my BFF- and not a girl!- Shouvik :3) as the crazies that I hung out with, and that group has done more than everyone else put together to teach me how not to put my foot in my mouth! In true fangirl style, I was so alone, and I owe them so much. :’)
Recently I have developed this rather effective weapon of putting up a wall against all snobbish attacks and hitting directly at the heart of their own arguments. It works. It really really works, because recently I won over this person who asked me why, after getting 93% in my boards, did I take up Humanities and not Science. I did not stutter, nor did I say marks don’t matter. I simply smiled a sanguine smile and replied, “Because I find it much more important to study the nuances of the society we live in rather than the abstract principles of an absent science.” That shut him up.
All in all, this tendency to put my foot in my mouth has greatly reduced in recent months. Partly I think it has to do with the removal of a more poisonous atmosphere, and partly from a quiet confidence sprung from the depths of self-knowledge. Accidental slips, of course, happen to everyone, but issues with the self lie at the heart of this. Remember those clichés we talked about? Turns out the ones about learning to be ok with oneself ain’t so far off the mark. Once you get that right, your foot and your mouth will stay firmly separated for most of the time.