Sunday, March 06, 2011

Raising the middle finger.

I have always thought that the meaning of raising the middle finger has had it's own growth around the same era as mine. I remember as a little girl being completely ignorant to the existence of such a gesture. It was not a sight to be seen anywhere around me, not because I was a little girl and did not really hang out with crowds that are more likely to be using it, but it was just not used with such great frequency as today. As I grew and moved to a different country, the verbal usage of the gesture visited my ears more often. I remember being a social misfit as a teenager in that school, hence I've heard the word among the 'cooler' crowd and always wondered what it was supposed to convey. It was sometimes used instead of "Oh my God!"; sometimes as "no way!"; most times in anger, disgust or frustration or as an insult; sometimes in appreciation of something exotic and mind blowing; I never understood it. I knew only one thing,that if I ever dared to use any alphabetical combination that ever came close to 'that word', I would not see the end of that day or the beginning of another one...ever! 

Over time, I realized that the word has just carved a niche of it's own, a very big one, among my generation and if I do not want to be a misfit, I need to learn to recognize the context in which it is used and hence get the meaning it is supposed to convey. I also knew, that my generation had not yet come to the point of cultural deterioration where you were a misfit if you did not use the word. You can always show the same emotions of elation, surprise, ecstasy, mind blown over, anger,disgust, frustration, appreciation and insult, if you really have to hurl one, that is, with a different set of alphabetical combination. You could choose not to use the word and not be looked down upon. So, I chose to be a contemporary of my generation by understanding the various usages of the word and ensured a guaranteed long life by not using it myself. 

This arrangement worked very well for the longest time I could remember, until one day, I on a random note, as an expression of disgust used 'the word'. I had suddenly crossed that line. Suddenly my arrangement went awry somewhere. I was not supposed to have incorporated the word into my vocabulary, but here I was! I had to come up with some new arrangement. I had one of two choices- unlearn what I just learnt or come up with a new way of ensuring my long life. So, I sat and planned of a new way of ensuring my long life. The idea was simple, pull up a collapsible wall through which the word cannot permeate in the presence of a certain crowd that considers it taboo and might cause bodily harm that will result in a very painful end to my existence. That was it. It was as simple as that. So, from that point on, I had mastered the art of pulling up my wall at life threatening places and collapsing it at not-so-life threatening places. 

That arrangement worked very well too, until, one rainy day, I accidentally slammed the iron frame of my window onto my right middle finger. A fat, blue, pulsating, excruciatingly painful finger with the nail threatening to fall off in whole, leaving behind a naked nail bed resulted. That has consistently held onto it's position as  being among the top three most physically painful numbing incidents, I've ever had in my life. I remember tears not rolling down coz I was confused as to what to feel- Should I feel the pain or Should I repent for having been so careless or Should I be larger than human by putting up a brave face, as I was now no more a child or Should I pity myself at having been hurt while I was only trying to do good for every one around me by closing that darned window and not getting them wet. I remember telling myself to just keep it simple and acknowledge the pain, which resulted then in a continuous stream of tears that lasted a minute. With a lot of doctors in the family, care was never the problem. Ice and painkillers took care of it. The turning point was when a simple suggestion was given to increase the weight of comfort in the balance of comfort and discomfort I was feeling. " Keep the finger raised!" 

I looked around at all the elders at home whose center of attention I had become. I raised my entire arm along with the raised finger as suggested-  the logic being the blood flow would reduce taking away the pulsations. It was a very good suggestion and I did feel a lot less pain. For the first few hours I sat there in that position, with a smile inside my head. My thoughts drifted to how life can be funny at the most painful times. I tried to think if there ever was a time when I had imagined that I would be asked to raise the middle finger by the people I had classified as the life threatening crowd. A smile broke onto my face. It came as a surprise to mom. She had all along felt a sense of pride in the way I had handled myself through out the episode and especially now, that I was smiling in the face of it all. She asked me why- and I told her why. 

I saw pride take a step back, behind the curtain of her eyes and anger take a step forward and show itself out. I said the word in my mind and wondered about my after life. Then I magically saw anger step behind the curtains and a smile appear. She looked at me and chuckled like a child who had just done something she was told not to do and realized how much fun it had been! I chuckled with her. Mom had done what she was best at. She had easily slipped in and out of the roles she has always played to me all her life- one of a mother, teaching right from wrong and one of a friend- the best there can be. 

This once, she had somehow found her way into the not-so-life threatening crowd. From then on, she has been the only entity that has had a free passage between the life threatening and not-so life threatening crowd and has always found more comfort among the former.

It was also the only time, raising the middle finger was found to be the right thing to do at home. 

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