When To Give an Arse

I think I detect a subtle shift in my inherent body mechanism. We come to grips with life armed with some practiced responses. Conditioned reactions. Throughout we are taught to control. As a kid, we are told, “now, stop crying.” And we learn. We try not to cry. We are told to be polite and courteous and keep our emotions in check. Which is fine. But we learn to keep kindness and compassion, love and happiness in check too. Emotions are like a jar of honey, I feel. You can’t keep the bottle shut – you don’t get the honey then. But once you open the jar, then the liquid sweetness flows, and sometimes that means a lot of things – the honey can get slurped, licked or wasted. It can attract ants and other small things of this earth whose job it is to seek out that which is sweet. An ant may bite you in its hurry to get the honey. If you really allow your life to be extraordinary, you might find a bear staring down at you, waiting to get the honey.

Hence I was surprised to find myself open one bottle of emotions last week. It was Sunday. Having dropped my mother and cousin at a shopping exhibition in one of Bangalore’s oldest districts, I was riding pillion with a friend on my way to lunch. We stopped at a red light. How many times I must have walked down this road! The theater opposite where we used to go for Kannada movies. Usually with my grandmother who was a huge Rajkumar fan. I would get bitten by bugs. The seats were just old leather stinking with human sweat of years gone by. But we endured. And laughed. And cried. And moved through the movie. I would usually leave behind something or the other- an umbrella, a handkerchief – leaving my Mom irritated. Afterward, the walk back in the cool air. I wasn’t thinking of this when I was at the signal. I was only trying to tell my friend to go straight – the signal changed to green, a car in front decided to turn right, my friend stopped, I waved trying to tell her it’s the wrong way, and my hands which were clutching a thin plastic bag along with my mobile, well, my silly hands dropped the phone. My friend moved ahead. The phone lay behind on the road. I shouted “my phone, my phone.” I turned back, and I could see it. My dear little phone of the past 5 years. There on the road. Vehicles swerving around it, miraculously. And then. This autorickshaw. A hand moves out, the rickshaw doesn’t stop, in one motion, the phone is scooped. By now, my friend has stopped in the middle of the road, unsure what is happening. But I wasn’t unsure. I saw the autorickshaw go by. And I ran. Ran behind it, shouting “hey!” Faster I ran, the faster the rickshaw seemed to be moving. But I didn’t think. I ran. Towards the next signal, he slowed down, and pulled over to the left as his passengers got out. I caught up. “Give the phone,” I said, panting. The driver didn’t bat an eyelid. He handed it over. I think I told him exactly what I think of people who snatch phones in an instant – he asked me, rather reasonably, what the phone was doing on the road. I didn’t argue. I didn’t want to fight. Because you see, I had already won my fight. I could not stand there and see my phone snatched away from my own eyes. I was going to run behind that autorickshaw as far as it took. I wasn’t going to bottle it. No. Not this time.

And then…maybe it was that run, that fight that pushed me – on Tuesday or Wednesday, I opened the bottle again. And told a person who has caused much grief what I had been longing to tell, but hadn’t because it is nice to be polite and sweet, but hey…sometimes the most you can do with firewood is to light it. It felt good. It felt delirious. Just like the mad run to get my mobile back. And somehow I realize that you have to learn to give an arse to those who give you shit.

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