Monday, December 23, 2013

Body Language

To me, being a teacher is about sharing my love for words, and so much more. It's how we share life. We charge words and release them and that gives us so much power. But the physical world plays a big part in how we communicate, no where more so than the Chinese language which takes the word 'literal' to a whole different arena. I used to wonder why a people would choose to take the hardest path and create a language that's more art than structure. But you know, there is an immense beauty in their choice... The Chinese word for wisdom has two symbols. The one above is a broom. Below it lies the heart. When the broom sweeps the heart clean, it makes it free of anger and negativity, then there is space for wisdom to enter. Isn't that so very special?

Animals have a language that can be very vocal. But there are times that they rely on their drool to do the talking for them. Then again, you can't say they aren't creative. Like when I returned home this time after a two month absence. I opened the door, saw a blur, a tongue, two eyes, and then suddenly it started raining inside the house. I thought it was a miracle. It wasn't. You've seen those rotating sprinklers in gardens? Pivot an upside down puppy on one of them, one that's apparently lost bladder control and you'll understand what chaos the next few minutes were. Afterwards, once we'd disinfected the house, and me, I looked around and noticed things like the new paint job on the walls, the flower arrangements and my family. This canine re-defined 'body language' for me.

Speaking of which, isn't it funny how we've brought physical distances into our vocabulary to describe relationships? It's like we use distances to measure what we feel-  some people you wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, you'd rather hit them with it. Or you want to keep someone at arm's length. For some, you'd go the extra mile or there are some you feel close to. And then there's the parable about a sage who explains that the reason we shout at someone when we're angry with them is because at that moment, our hearts are so distant that we shout to be heard across it.

It reminds me of a word I like- communion. It's what I was trying to express once when I said "friends, soulmates, kindred spirits- we all find each other in a place beyond words...." because to me, one of the best times of my life were moments of such connection. I was in the first year of college, sharing a house with my cousins- a brother and sister. He was an intern at a hospital nearby and he'd mostly come home in the middle of the night- 1 or 2 A.M. A few times a week, he's shake me awake and gesture silently. We'd slip out and take off for a ride on his bike. Most often, we'd take the roads that led out of the city to remote villages, changing from tar to dirt to tar again. On roads that he knew like the back of his hand, he'd switch off the headlights and there'd be nothing but the stars, and the fields, the night and us. And silence. We almost never talked. Just two bodies hurtling towards nowhere in particular. To this day, I can close my eyes and go back there easily and I always feel peace.

Of course, we had our share of stories from it. Like the time we got hopelessly lost and there wasn't a soul to be seen. We were driving along this narrow dirt trail in a deserted field and finally, we saw a man in the distance. An old man, squatting as he brushed his teeth with a neem stick. This was the savior who'd lead us back home. So my cousin stopped about 2 feet away from him and as he started to ask for directions, we realized that the old farmer was doing more than brushing his teeth. He was taking care of ALL his morning ablutions, if you know what I mean. Undeterred, as is the way of my people, he enthusiastically pointed this way and that and we thanked him, choking on our words, just waiting to go a respectable distance so that we could cry laughing. Another instance of 'body language' I'll never forget ;)

It's something we pick up even as children, maybe especially then; looking for clues and cues into the mysterious ways of adults. My father was never mysterious though. Any time he found anything funny, Boom! A large hand would descend to whack the back of my head. When I resurfaced, I'd crawl away, disoriented but determined to save myself.

When I moved to Chennai, there were roads that I named solely on their effect on my body. It started when an acquaintance called a bridge 'The Bridge of Love'. I didn't understand, until the day I drove on it. Small speed-bumps at regular 10 feet intervals.  Drive any vehicle on it and your mind and body start sending confused signals to each other. 'Wait a minute- what's happening? Should I start making noises now?' My advice- desist. You'll respect yourself more in the morning. Another excuse for a road that I had the privilege of naming- 'The Anti-Boob-Job road'. Gaping pits leading to hell followed by mountains that made you giddy- all within centimeters of each other. Driving on that road, I used to wish for reinforced steel bras as well as shock absorbers for the rest of my body.

There's a lot we learn by just looking at each other and the world around us. I like looking.... Ahem :P

No comments:

Post a Comment