Just as sun won’t stop rising from the east, some people won’t stop staring at others.
Real scientific study: So you are in the public transport, or driving down a street when you notice someone staring hard at you. You go and ask the person what they are looking at.
Depending on which country you are in, this is what’s likely to be the response:
America: Well, sorry. Guess I was just looking through you.
Britain: I beg your pardon? Are you suggesting I have a vision defect?
Italy: Maybe because you are so good-looking, I couldn’t help it. Sorry.
India: Hamari aankhein hain, hum toh dekhenge. Kar lo jo karna hai.
Welcome to the land of stare-o-maniacs.
Hamein toh shauk hai bhai... We don't really need any specific reason to stare. Arrey, we have to cover such long distances while going to college or office. Ab bore hote rahein? The only available entertainment is looking at people. Haan, it’s another thing that we are born lazy. Who will take the trouble of shifting the gaze from one person to other? So normally, we let it fix on someone and keep staring the hell out of him or her. Mostly her, but what the heck. Bandi nahi toh banda sahi. We will just stare, it’s our national preoccupation, and our democratic birthright.
I have written about them earlier also in this column, but stare-o-maniacs is a breed that never ceases to fascinate me. Some of them do not even need the usual setting of a public place to exercise this unique talent. Once I used to live in an apartment where the balcony directly faced the balcony of the opposite house. I would get up in the morning and go out to pick up the newspaper, only to find the nice woman in the opposite house staring straight and hard at me. I would instinctively nod and say good morning to her in the hope that it would end the staring session, but she would keep at it. After re-looking and revamping my nightclothes wardrobe thrice in the fear that something in my appearance made her do it, I realised I was just getting paranoid. It was about her, not me.
Geetika Mishra, a reader of this column, wrote to me asking me to suggest calmness tips to deal with people who constantly stare. “Newton’s first law should have been: An eye that is staring will continue to stare with a uniform intensity in a straight line unless it is expelled by an external thrashing force to change its state of stare,” she wrote. Well, Geetika, that’s well put, though that proposed thrashing force or the chaanta has more potential to complicate the matters rather than bring about calmness. Here’s what I feel are the options if you find a pair of strangers’ eyes affixed on you for no apparent reason.
1. Look the other way: Seems like the easiest solution, though you’d mostly find the creepy gaze still on you if you look back. But then why look back? If the situation permits, change your position in such a way that you can totally avoid looking at the stare. And please, for once, apply the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ adage here and stop wondering whether the person is still looking at you. This whole thing of ‘I could still feel his eyes on me even when I turned way’ is pretty bullshit. You feel nothing till you want to feel it. Truth of life.
2. Don’t be hypersensitive: Just as those who stare at others perhaps have a hobby of doing so, a lot of people also have the hobby of thinking that the world revolves around them. To them it seems like everyone is concerned just with how they look or behave, so they always find others staring at them. It won’t help in life to become so hypersensitive about self. All you’ll end up doing is picking fights with strangers or getting stressed within yourself. Learn to ignore, not just others but sometimes your own vanity. Hiding his online status just to maintain peace in the relationship is actually making him lie to you, something that he wouldn’t want to do if you were not this hyper about instant responses.
3. Assume you are awesome: When my Grandfather’s second cousin Mr Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, he generalised human beings as a species and showed us how we evolved from the apes. What he forgot to mention is that we may all decide to stop at different stages of evolution. So, you see, we as a breed are available in different shapes and sizes. Normally, people who get most stared at belong to the either extremes — either they are too blessed in the looks department or they stand out for some physical attribute or style of dressing that’s out of the ordinary. Rather than fret and worry what’s wrong with you, always try to assume that you belong to the first category.
Take it as a compliment that people can’t take their eyes off you because you are so awesome. In any case, there’s precious little you can do in most situations, why not at least feed your own mind with positive self-esteem. Haan, let these thoughts remain in your head only, don’t suddenly start acknowledging it to all those around you. A firang friend of mine once said that if someone in her country stares at her, she smiles back and it works. I told her that we would have liked to execute the same noble deed here, except that in our country if you start to smile at someone who’s staring at you, there’s more likelihood of him following you home than just reciprocating the gesture. To each his own. Sigh.
4. Get all funny: I have tried this and it works, but please do this at your own risk after evaluating the conditions. It’s fun to embarrass the one staring by making funny faces, or staring back at him or her full blast, as if challenging them to a ‘who-blinks-first’ game. I’ve even covered my face with my hands and slowly removed them to play peek-a-boo with someone who wouldn’t stop staring. He looked away when everyone around started laughing. Sometimes people have no malicious intentions and they don’t even realise that they are staring. They can join the laughter too. It’s fun.
5. Confront: Well, the last resort. If you are certain none of the above is working and the stare is bothering the hell out of you, go upto the person and ask them what they are looking at. You could even shout your question out, as drawing attention mostly wards off a stare. No, wait, why not start pointing to your nose and picking it vigorously? That’s bound to put the creep off. I know it’s not nice or mature, but when did I claim to be nice...or mature?
Sonal Kalra has decided to join classes to learn the art of prolonged staring without blinking. With the second largest population, anywhere she sees there’ll be people. Might as well do it the right way. Kar lo jo karna hai.