Inked out in a bold slant on thick white paper pinned to his shirt, this is the message Barlozzo wears one morning up at the bar.
“Oggi sono belligerante. Lasciatemi in pace.”
“Today I am belligerent. Leave me in peace.”
- A Thousand Days in Tuscany, Marlena De Blasi
After a long time..
For the first time, I stopped reading a book midway – not because it would be sheer torture to continue, but because I wanted the moment in the book’s arc to linger. To let the character to live through the phase in slow motion.. and to live it with him.
That someone, even a character in a book, has gone ahead and done what I have dreamed of doing a zillion times and not done it because ‘society’ would feel ‘insulted’, is such a source of wicked pleasure!
Frankly, just how long can one keep smiling politely, nodding, making appropriate noises of approval or disapproval without really listening to chatter? And of course, mind-voice running in a loop “Please go. Please go. Please go. Pleaaaaaase gooooo!”.
Sometimes in life, one simply wants to be left alone – free of that incessant chatter that passes for conversation. Depression, an anti-social state of mind, stirrings of misanthropy, introverted asociality, call it what you may… it just seems like too much of an energy drain to indulge people in pointless verbal routines – ‘society’ choreographed routines in which not a speck of useful information, not a twinge of emotion, not a single smile is passed along.
Technology is a great aid for such a state of mind – it is so damn easy to cut off – switch the phone off, don’t log in to chat, ignore emails for as long as you can without feeling too guilty, forget your wordpress account (yeah, yeah.. I am yet to see the comments of my last post)… you get the trend.
Friends are easy to cut off – you say “shut up”, they shut up. They are darlings that way [Darlings, are you reading? ].
Family too – you simply add “Whether you shut up or not, I am not listening. So, it only makes sense that you shut up.” If not the first time, surely the second, fourth, fourteenth or forty-eighth time.
But, just how does one cut off those ‘friendly’ people, who are not actually friends?
People just don’t take a hint! Even if you put on huge headphones & pretend (well, half the time) to not have heard them, they insist on tapping on your shoulder and asking you brilliant questions..
“How are you?” [sticky, slimy and green in an alien goo way - don't you want to run away before I dirty you?]
“What’s up?” [ceiling fan; ceiling; another floor; the sky beyond that; and if I hear right, an aircraft whizzing past; and if you wish, some God-folk.]
“How’s life?” [unfair - it keeps throwing pointlessness at me]
“What else?” [I am tossing whether to stare at you long and hard enough to make you squirm and flee in terror?]
“Then.. Tell me..” [loose-a nee? (translation: are you a nutcase?)]
“So?” [inga nee loose-a naan loose-a? (translation: are you the nutcase, or am I the nutcase here?)]
Of these, this “How are you?” is the super-villain of questions. You are supposed to say fine, irrespective of whether you are fine, and throw the question back. And you hope that they follow protocol and say “Fine. Thank you.”
But some people love to break rules in the name of following rules. They insist on telling you allllll about their current life. They had fever, and severe cold, and vomited 5 times (throw in action replay of the vomiting – 5 times of course). Did you know that they had to take paracetamol?? And, dear god, aciloc too!
And if you are lucky, you are told who made them angry, who irritated them, who they want to whack etc. Note : most people wouldn’t tell you who made them happy – even if a smile from that information is the only thing that can possibly justify the chatter. Apparently, if you say that, “kannu pattudum”/”nazar lag jaayegi”.
The most awkward part of the whole (boring) drama is the end – the silent 10-second stretch when you think this is going to end & get ready to bestow your “See you” smile and they think whether it is too soon to say “Ok then.. Me go work. See you later”. Alas! If only! The loop has to run 5-6 times! Sigh!
Okay.. I am getting bored with this rant myself.. So, four questions..
a) Why is “Leaving people alone” such an alien concept in our society? Quite obviously, no one gains anything from this chatter. A simple ‘Hi’ waved from afar and finished neatly with a smile would be so much better. Why do we behave like robots programmed to follow a certain exchange protocol each time we come across another robot?
b) Why can’t people ‘get’ it when I try to be rude & insulting by not participating in the conversation as they expect me to? Come on.. it is supposed to be the easiest of things to insult people & hurt sentiments in our country. I have even tried staring intently in passionate concentration at the illegible C++ code on my monitor, making faces (at the code), and suddenly saying “oh.. sorry.. what did you say?” and smiling as falsely as possible. Na.. no effect.
c) Is there a chatter-repellent? Something I can slather on along with my mosquito-repellent? Something as effective as Odomos please.
d) Where can I get a t-shirt or vest saying what Barlozzo wore – “Leave me in peace”?
I just don’t get it!
P.S. Shout out to TGND for pointing out the beautiful book! Thanks – quite a few of my “spontaneous pick-up-and-read” books seem to be those reviewed by you. I think I blame that on they yummy way you gush about such books