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The importance of being yourself

The last few days before he left town he slipped into It-lish or Eng-alian, basically English spoken with puddly syllables “like Italian”. Save for that nothing changed. Upala Sen elaborates.

books Updated: Mar 02, 2008 02:20 IST
Upala Sen

The last few days before he left town he slipped into It-lish or Eng-alian, basically English spoken with puddly syllables “like Italian”. Save for that nothing changed.

He continued to rile me and twinkled in pleasure. And if I withdrew he raised his voice and said, “Punch me madaaame, punch me with your kruelle words.” And cocked his face left and right, tackling imaginary blows. The three spoonesses (chamchis) cackled, and threw in a disclaimer, “That was not rude.”

So I turned to the web to learn some mean tricks. At kintish.co.uk (a business networking site) there is a section that tells you how ‘not to be’. It urges you to cultivate ‘an impervious personality’. The instruction came with an accompanying video of a man and a woman, (presumably colleagues). Every time the woman tried to get a word in, the man interrupted, spat in her face, made faces and bared his teeth, thus intimidating his colleague in every possible way.

Since it was not quite my, er, style I decided to edit the bits I didn’t like. I didn’t talk unless I had to, didn’t react when I died to, and when they planned their outing I said I would be away. And when I made my surprise appearance I imagined I had shamed my adversary into politeness. But no, he only said, “I feared as much.”

That night I resumed my rude surfing. The homepage of meanmug.org seemed to hold out some hope. It read, “If you are tired of all the mean people being mean to you and want to fight fire with fire, then you’ve come to the right place! This guide will help you to become the meanest, nastiest person you could dream of.” I must say most of the guidelines were much too, er, nasty for my taste but I quite liked this one. It said, ‘Make it so they don’t have a chance to get involved in the conversation.’

So as he discussed Milton in hushed tones with one or two one hot chocolate-evening I found myself in an animated discussion with a larger group about noses. Someone's brother had scarred her nose when she was three which reminded me that when I was around that age my grandmother, whenever she came visiting, would put a clothes clip on my nose for a couple of seconds. It was her attempt to make a nose out of the apology of a thing that the maker had imposed on me.

From the other end of the table, the seasoned actor (I thought he was in love with Milton) said with a sigh, “Ah if only the cleep had done eets job, and cut thy breath.” It was sheer reflex when I reached for the salt shaker. He only said “Your freedom ends at the tip of my nose.” Then waved his hands and said “Not me maam the Constitution says so.”

Clearly none of the tips were working to my advantage. I have up looking for how-to-be-rude sites and started my search for how-to forgive-the-rude instead. Now ehow.com said, ‘Do one exceptionally nice thing every time you experience rudeness… That way you’ll be counteracting the negative energy caused by the rudeness…”

The next time we bumped into each other I noticed that he had a limp. “Does it hurt? How did you get it?” I asked with some genuine and some cultivated concern. In reply he grunted and refused to look up from his paper.

Now, there is a limit to taking nonsense. So, I said in a honeydew tone, “Please convey my gratitude to whoever gave it to you. And could you forward me the contact number just in case I have more requests.”

And what do you think the villain said. He looked up from his work, twinkled brighter than Kareena's engagement bauble and said, “That’s more like you madaame. I thought eet was someone else. Someone else no fun madame.” Grrrrrr.