I have this weird pastime of trying to confound people with my ways. Nothing gives me as much thrill as when I succeed in that, especially so if those people are ones who ‘assume’ and ‘presume’ and think ‘they know all’. Oh really, goes my internal response when I come across such as them. Let’s see you second guess how I am going to act. Sometimes I go the expected route leading people on just so I can have my fun and see how far they’d follow me on that oh-so-predictable route. Did I hear someone use the word ‘wicked’? Sigh, perhaps I am. I do admit, it is an odd way to behave, but I assure you it is so much of fun as well.
Once years back, when I was still young (mother of a 3-year old), I had to have an abscess on my right thumb seen to by the surgeon. I was alone, had been waiting since morning for the doctor to be done with the rest of his patients and attend to me, so was famished too. Soon the surgeon was free and the duty nurse got my hand ready for him to work on. She very patronisingly (well to be fair to her, I looked like a malnourished waif with only the ‘married’ status on the paper to prove that I was indeed an adult memsahib) told me to look the other way and covered my eyes with gauze to ‘protect’ me from the ‘gory sight’ of an ‘abscess being cut open’. She probably expected me to faint if that happened. Luckily, the surgeon spoke up just then. Leave her alone. Can’t you see, she is perfectly fine, he chided the nurse. The gauze was removed, albeit reluctantly, by the duty nurse, and I was left free to move my head as wished.
The ‘operation’ began and the abscess faced the axe. It hurt like hell, naturally so. My thumb seemed as if it had been dipped in petrol and set on fire. Next started the cleaning of the open wound and it felt like they were going about it with sandpaper. Or maybe they were using hot coals after first sprinkling some freshly powdered chilli powder. At least that is how it seemed to me. So searing and unbearable was the pain.
All this time, steadfastly, I kept a neutral face. I was damned if I was going to let any of them know what I was going through. Not a single muscle in my face moved to reveal what I was going through. The doctor, poor man, was actually puzzled. No anaesthesia had been administered and here was his patient looking at the whole jingbang of them nonchalantly, as if she was out on a picnic and lay on the green grass (not the operating table) enjoying the scenery and the cool breeze.
Crazy behaviour, I know. And no, I don’t have a reason to give as to why I did that then (or am liable to do so now). But, guys and gals let me tell you, proving a bunch of people (who expected the ‘waif’ to be whimpering in pain and shedding tears of misery) wrong, had been worth all the effort I needed to putting on an expressionless face. Naah, I can’t exactly call that an expressionless face, it was more like a beatific one.
They talked among themselves about it, the doc and his team. I don’t think she is feeling any pain, said the surgeon, to his staff, she can’t be so relaxed if it was paining her. I could have laughed out loud (or cried) just then, but I didn’t. It was my private joke (and hell), if you can call it that. Ha! If only he knew, was the thought that ran through my mind, never actually wanting either him or his team to know it at all.
I don’t really see what happened as my strength or anything of the nature. It is just something I did back then since it amused me. But strangely enough, people do see not showing emotion in times of pain and misery or just generally, as being strong. Not me. Oh no siree. Anyone can be a sphinx is what methinks, especially those who don’t ‘feel’ a thing. To have feelings and show what you feel is not all bad and does take a lot of strength. To let your emotions play out, to tell someone what is in your heart, to cry when you are miserable and let others see your vulnerability, THAT takes strength. To let someone enter your heart THAT takes REAL strength. To laugh at oneself and at the quirks of this world we live in requires MUCH GREATER strength than one imagines,. Compared to it, looking constipated is a lot easier.
They looked at my impassive face
And got it all wrong
I didn’t feel a thing
It was easy being silent and strong.
(Shail Mohan, June 2012)
People who hide emotions are overrated and mistakenly romanticized as the much desired strong and silent types. Silent they may be, for obvious reasons, but strong? Naaah. They are nothing but the scaredy cats of the world. afraid to let the world know who they really are, or that they are people who don’t have feelings at all. So here’s to all the really strong ones out there, those who dare wear their heart on their sleeves. I admire you all for your strength in being who you are.