The habit that bites

  • Neha V, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jan 19, 2015 11:20 IST

With the New Year's dawn emerges a brimming list of New Year resolutions that time and again remain either pinned to our walls or written in our diaries, never to be taken a second look at. For me, jotting them down is effortless, since my list is unchanged for the past few years. Thanks to my habit of procrastinating, the first two default resolutions are "lose weight" and "quit biting the nails".

Nail-biting is a dying art, as common these days as the senior citizens' using smart phones or girls' breaking into a catfight within 15 minutes of gossip; yet anyone with fingers and enough hunger can pick it up. How modern gadgets have turned people into catatonic desk-bounders! As pure obsession, the gizmos may be fascinating but nothing still beats the charm of chewing your nails.

With the computer, gaming console, or smart phone keeping our hands busy all the time, the fingers are never free these days to put into the mouth along with nails. The parents, relieved now that children have dropped one annoying habit, will bite their nails off in frustration that they have picked up another.

Since my babyhood, my parents have told me about the nasty consequences of biting nails. My teachers also exposed me to a variety of tragic tales of the students who whom doctors put on bitter tablets, colleagues later tagged "unhygienic", and manicurists refuse to serve because they wouldn't be reformed. When fear didn't work, the parents turned to practical ideas. From varnish to chilli powder, they applied everything to the nails but couldn't put me off my "not so polished" routine.

I earned the title of "an avid, enthusiastic, and ambitious nail biter". Call me incorrigible but it's just that I will quit only when I wish to and not when I am told to. I believe in using influence, emotional blackmail, melodrama, tears, all those girly tactics to get hecklers off my back. I can imagine the kind of pressure on students blessed with extra-ordinary, creative, and inventive talents, whose parents consider it all unfruitful, hard to digest.

Still, when I do try occasionally to reason with myself to get me to give up this habit, I return to those therapeutic words by American poet, singer and children's books author Shel Silverstein, who styled himself as Uncle Shelby in some works: "Some people manicure their nails, some trim them neatly, and some people keep them filled down. I chose to bite 'em off completely. Yes, it's a nasty habit, but, before you start to scold, remember, I have never scratched a single soul."

(The writer is a soft skills trainer in Chandigarh)

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