My mutism is more prominent around my own folks, in fact, some of my vivid childhood memories come to me as my quiet five-year-old puny ass sitting in a random relative’s house; bored or upset, desiring a cookie or a cold-blooded murder. I often heard anticipatory whispers from the other rooms, recognizing my quietness as a false promise of my futuristic persona and confusing my boredom with gentleness.
“Ah, he is such a quiet little well-mannered boy. He will grow up to be a gentleman.”
And I used to think, “Or a misfit?”
I think we all were right; I grew up to be a gentleman – or so I am told – who is also a misfit.
The other times when I found myself verbally bumpy was when my friends, cousins, and other kids of my age couldn’t really tell what I meant. And I couldn’t tell why they couldn’t tell what I meant. Maybe, I spoke in Japanese and sounded possessed. Because doesn’t everyone in Japanese movies sound possessed? So, every now and then, I took my ball and my pride and went home. Although, sometimes, they took my ball and my pride and sent me home.
All this made me believe, I was incompetent, and that my words barely meant much to anyone. But after two and a half decades of self-doubts, puzzling thoughts, internal monologues and external impoliteness, I began to realize I am not what everyone wanted – with right intentions – out of me. That there is a ridiculous storm of indifference I carry in my head; it’s often subliminal, often subpar, and often superior. But what it’s not, is boring or unexciting.
So, when faced with the choice between an ordeal of aimless regurgitation in a festive gathering and an offensive mutism, I mostly opt for the later. In my head, this kind of mutism is benign. But to everyone else, it’s disappointing and disrespectful. I am absolutely okay with that, because the first choice isn’t really a choice for me.
So, every time in a festive gathering, say a marriage, if I am stuck around people who talk about the types of chicken, followed by more discussions about chickens, I lose it.
“What is this that you are eating?”
“This one? It’s Kadhai chicken.”
“What is this one?”
“Oh, this? This is Mughlai Chicken.”
“And this one?”
“It’s … I don’t know … it’s Theeka Murg.”
“Oh sweet. What does it have?”
“I think it has chicken in fiery masalas.”
“Really? Does it taste nice? Can I have a bite?”
“It is really a fine chicken.”
“Nice! And how about this one?”
“It has chicken plus chicken.”
“Nice. I am also having chicken plus chicken plus some more chicken plus some chicken soup.”
I wonder, how can people talk for so long about nothing at all? I can answer your questions about two types of chickens at most. The third type of chicken better answer about himself. And if he’s dead, his relatives better answer my relatives about him. Because they really want to know! Not that answering the chicken police will bring justice or peace to the dead chicken, it’s the principle of investigation; the other chickens must identify the butcher who murdered the chicken and the chef who spiced him up (and how exactly he did it). Everyone must co-operate. The failure to do so is a legal offence of third degree. At least that’s what the chicken law states:
In the case of a certain chicken’s unfortunate and untimely demise for the sake of serving a gathering of dreary conversationalists, the other chickens must stand in solidarity for the deceased and co-operate with the chicken police to reveal the various recipes the deceased was sautéed in. If not, the chicken police have the right to eat them too.
Halfway through these conversations, my head gets heavy, and my mouth forgets the ability to form words. It makes me take my plate and stand far-off alone and fiddle with my phone and accomplish absolutely nothing. But they don’t leave me alone or let me accomplish anything. By the way, nothing comes under anything. That’s how it works. Right?
“Hey! Why are you standing all by yourself? Did you eat? The food at this hotel is great. Did you have chicken this evening?”
“No. I had my check-in this morning, but, thanks to you I am gonna check-out this evening. Bye!”
And I wish I was wrong and all of this was just a reach to garner some corny one-liners to meet the theme of this blog, but it’s unfortunately not. The fight for good conversations and the fight against boredom is real. So then, the butchering of a chicken joke is just a food for thought.