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|Volume 11 |Issue 45| November 16, 2012 ||
The Stranger that lives Within
Aasha Mehreen Amin
Most of us believe that we know ourselves like the back of our hands, which is a bit of an irony since very few of us actually stare at our hands long enough to memorise every vein, crease or bump that shape them. The truth is that like our hands we have an idea of ourselves, the basic contours but not the exact details.
A good way of discovering this is when you see yourself on video, a photograph or hear your own voice. It is inconceivable until that moment that you realised that your lip tilts on the left every time you have said the word 'exactly' or 'akdom', that your head is disproportionately bigger than your body or that the droning, monotonous hum, is actually your own voice. Yes it is embarrassing and deeply humiliating. Except for people with natural radio voices or those who work for radio or television – although they too do not realise that often they talk to people in FM frequency long after office hours.
You realise how little you know yourself when at an official gathering you blurt out the one thing that you had been telling yourself not to blurt out: 'Sir, your wife is really beautiful and I get very distracted in her presence.' It could be called self-sabotage or some kind of devilish possession but the end result will always be disastrous – most likely a broken nose.
Then there are times when your brain tells your body to do the strangest things without you having any clue of. Say when you go grocery shopping in your rags (it's a holiday and you are entitled to just let go for a change) and you spot your boss and his wife happily loading their trolleys. The sensible thing to do would be to just go up to them, say hello and carry on with a confident smile. But your alter ego has other plans. Suddenly there is a crashing sound in your head and breathing becomes laboured – you panic and hide behind the stack of potatoes praying for them to leave. They do and you sigh in relief thinking of an easy exit strategy. But then someone taps you on the back, you half scream and turn – of course it's your boss who is grinning with perfect knowledge of your silly behaviour. With your heart almost jumping out of your body into the boss's trolley, you stammer and mumble and curse yourself for wearing those faded track pants and that ugly yellow T-shirt you were going to turn into a floor wipe. The fumbling does not end and sometimes the anxiety may cause you to stumble, knocking off a few potatoes from the potato section, trying to pick them up then hitting your head into the onion section and diving into the boss's trolley like an Olympic swimmer. The boss, rather concerned about your sanity and doubtful about your next promotion, quickly exits the scene after a perfunctory goodbye. You, meanwhile, are standing there in a stupor, potato in hand, trying to figure out why these things happen to you.
At times the demon in you takes total control. You are known to be a calm, rational person who hardly ever loses their temper. But there comes a day when everything goes wrong, you forget your wallet at home, the CNG breaks down in the middle of Farm Gate's horrendous gridlock, your shoe gives up on you and decides to discard its sole while you are walking to work, your cell phone splits into irretrievable pieces on the footbridge and the lift at the office is being repaired. It's not the endless flight of stairs to the eighth floor that breaks the camel's back though. It is after you have stopped hyperventilating and your heart beat is semi-normal that something quite trivial may cross the line of sanity. You can't find your favourite pen the one that has a skull head and red eyes that light up (rather telling one may add) - and everything explodes. All likely suspects – the office assistant, the cleaner, security guards are subjected to a verbal brush fire with threats of heads rolling if the precious item is not found. Even accusatory glances are directed at indignant colleagues. It is a fiasco and the ranting that comes out of you just cannot be contained. Finally you are out of breath, hyperventilating again, foaming at the mouth, feeling utterly deflated. You reach for some tissue to wipe off the angry perspiration from your face – and there it is, the skull head with the bloodshot eyes, peaking from the tissue box.