Suresh Menon

What­ever you do, don’t of­fer our colum­nist a seat…

Friday - - Contents - Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is

Psy­cho­an­a­lysts are big on child­hood trau­mas that af­fect our adult life. But they are strangely silent on adult trau­mas that af­fect our later life. Sure, they’ve given us a list of syn­dromes that af­fect soldiers af­ter wars, as well as the well-known Im­per­fect Ma­cho Syn­drome, which makes us so per­fect in so many ways yet un­able to ask strangers for di­rec­tions.

But what they haven’t stud­ied hard enough is the one that af­fects us in mid­dle age when it sud­denly strikes us with the force of a gale force wind that we are not the rov­ing or rav­ing rakes we thought we were.

It be­gins in­no­cently enough – a young girl you would once con­tem­plate ask­ing out to the movies smiles sweetly and calls us “un­cle”. A smile from an at­trac­tive lady on the bus, which you re­alise is meant for the tall, broad­shoul­dered youth stand­ing be­hind you.

And then one day, with­out warn­ing, a young lady stands up on the Lon­don Un­der­ground and of­fers you her seat.

Now, there are many ways to re­act. You could, of course, gra­ciously take the seat. Or you could take of­fence and lec­ture the poor woman on eti­quette and the fact that you can still run the 100 me­tres in… well, you can still run the 100 me­tres. Or you could look around, find some­one else, and of­fer him (or her) the newly va­cated seat.

But in all this, one thing can­not be es­caped – here, gift-wrapped for you, is an in­ti­ma­tion of mor­tal­ity. You can shout and scream (in­ter­nally) or get rid of the ‘hot’ seat like it was stolen prop­erty. But you can­not dodge the mes­sage – you are what you are.

Es­pe­cially if you are hon­est enough to tell your­self that you are grate­ful for the seat in a crowded train.

In this in­stance, my ex­cuse is that Lon­don is hot, very hu­mid, and I had been walk­ing around a fair bit and there was noth­ing to do but thank the lady and sit down. My wife was one seat

What next? A preg­nant woman of­fer­ing-me her seat? Or a one-legged woman do­ing so?

away, and to add in­sult to in­jury, the person in-be­tween asked me sweetly, “Would you like to switch seats?”.

Not just mid­dle-aged, then, but ad­dle-brained and per­haps drool­ing too.

Is that how the world sees me? The poet Robert Burns had some­thing to say about that – but I can’t re­mem­ber the lines we learnt in school, and in any case, I don’t do the ac­cent well.

What next? A preg­nant woman of­fer­ing me her seat? A one-legged woman do­ing so? A one-legged, preg­nant woman hold­ing a child get­ting up so I can sit?

The fu­ture looks bleak. Per­haps I should have dyed my mous­tache af­ter all.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.