Thursday, October 30, 2008

What a tangled web we weave...

It’s an established fact that I’m a terrible liar. Not the mean “I have to be honest you looked awful on TV” sort of not being able to lie, but a different sort. (In those cases, I acquit myself not badly at all, because I don’t like hurting those I hold nothing against. ‘You looked very in character! Hey look at the time!’)

I mean the sort of fictitious answer one must think on one’s feet to give. For one thing I don’t enjoy being on my feet for long, I tire easily and my brain works much better lying down. You should hear some of the fantastic dreams my sleeping brain produces…I would tell you if I ever remembered one after I woke up. (Wow, that was a strange dream! Oooer…I wonder why it was strange?)

Today, one of my colleagues has been admitted into hospital with a very bad case of ‘the curse’ (this is a family blog, people! My nephew reads it!). Along came a male colleague and asked me where she was and I gave it some thought. She’s been admitted into hospital with a gynaecological problem, I declared. Would it have killed me to say something else? Probably.

I remember when I was 15 or 16 I had gone to my cousin’s place in Durgapur with my Dad about 3 hours away from Calcutta by train. My father had to come back in a few days but my holidays stretched before me and neither my cousin nor I saw any reason why I should go home that soon. “Don’t worry,” she told Baba, “I’ll find someone going to Calcutta and send her back with that person in a week or two.”

Of course, the moment he left I told my cousin in no uncertain terms that I’d go home alone, and didn’t need a babysitter. She wasn’t opposed to the idea but we both decided that nobody should know because Baba had made us promise I wouldn’t go home alone. ‘Tell them you went home with a Mr. Chatterjee”, she instructed me. I started to worry…what if they wanted details? What he’s like..what he said to me on the train? “Tell them, he was a very quiet gentleman (chaapa goccher bhdorolok) and didn’t say anything to you at all”.

The sheer simplicity of the lie made it a brilliant one. In anybody else’s mouth it would’ve slid out effortlessly and no one would’ve been the wiser. A few hours after I’d got home safely and just starting to hope no questions would be asked, my mother idly asked me what my escort on the train was like. Again, I gave it some thought. It has to come out just right, I thought, or people would suspect. My cousin and I would be in trouble. “He’s an…er…chaapa goccher bhodrolok?” I volunteered. My mother fixed me with a look and burst into gales of laughter.

There are plenty of other instances where I’ve been caught out instantly and in a most humiliating manner. Sometimes I’ve told the truth but was so worried that people will think I’m lying that I came over all shifty eyed and guilty. “Er…I’m 29.” “Um…(looking down at my shoes)…really…I am…”

It’s really a pain in the butt. Speaking of which, I look forward to telling my colleague I’ve shared her dysmenorrheal troubles with everyone on this floor when she finally recovers from it and gets here.

“I…erm…told them you had a c-c-cold…” “You told them didn’t you? “ “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Two and Two Makes Four

Though I enjoy Sherlock Holmes enormously, and have read and re-read most of the mysteries several times; the part where good ol’ Sherlock starts making observations about a prospective client seemingly out of nothing; like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat; makes me pause every time and say ‘oh come now, it's not quite as elementary as that, my dear Sherlock!’

I say so because (a) it's time somebody made Holmes leave poor Watson alone, and (b) In real life, just because a man is wearing a shirt with a missing button doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a wife.

There’s a whole host of possibilities behind the missing button, for example (a) His wife doesn’t like sewing buttons on shirts, (b) she’d run out of buttons, but this was his favorite shirt and he wore it anyway, (c) it had popped out in his headlong rush to Sherlock’s house, because frankly, if your father in law is putting snakes through the air vents at night to kill you; you would be in a tearing hurry as well. And all this talk of missing buttons and a lack of wives would seem bally extraneous and rubbing salt in the wound, old fruit.

A friend of mine told me a story about a girl he knew in college who’d called him up one day and said “I’m in love with my best friend, should I tell him how I feel?’ He realized she was talking about him and told her in no uncertain terms that it was best for her not to say anything to her ‘best friend’ because her ‘best friend’ probably didn’t love her back, and in fact, didn’t consider her his best friend. (Ouch, I say.)

As I listened to this story a puzzling conversation from a long time ago in my own life; nearly a decade; fell into place with a rusty but almighty CLANG. I have these occasionally; something which didn’t make sense at the time would lie coiled up in my subconscious; until a decade or two later some other event pokes it in the eye -- and it leaps up with a prodigious “Sweet Mother of God, that’s what that was!?!”

This anecdote of my friend’s reminded me of a VERY similar conversation I had with another friend of mine (let’s call him B) when I was in my second year of college. We were talking on the phone and I said to him, “You know what, a very close friend of mine seems to be acting a little different nowadays, I wonder if he has a crush on me. Do you think I should talk to him about it?” Usually a very nice guy, B replied with unusual venom “Every guy isn’t in love with you, you know. This friend of yours probably isn’t either.”

I was stung to the quick, because whatever my faults, thinking everyone is in love with me was not one of them. Quite the opposite. I puzzled over B’s vehemence for quite a long time after that, but forgot about it eventually, because he has always been, apart from that one sharp comment, unstintingly sweet to me.

And then with this recent story 10 years later, the truth dawned on me awfully. (Awfully!). Oh the shame of it all! To be thought of as so presumptuous! I really was talking about another friend (C), and not B.

And all the while, as C made sheep eyes at me and wrote me poetry, I kept thinking, “Ushasi, this guy doesn’t have a crush on you! Remember what B said!” Stupid, stupid me didn’t realize that B had only made such a retort because he’d thought it was my roundabout way of asking him if HE liked me. Grooooaan. To even think I could say such a thing to him, and his thinking that I thought such a thing, made my toes curl in embarrassment, even 10 years on.

Moral of the story is: If you see me with a cane made of an exotic wood found only in the deepest jungles of Papua New Guinea, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m an intrepid adventurer. It might mean I walked down and got it from the store around the corner.

Think of this before jumping to conclusions next time: Two and two sometimes does make four.