Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Body Of Knowledge

I experience what I think as, for lack of a better word, an obsession about knowing my body inside out. And I am not talking about the basic details like the number of bones that help me walk or keeping track of the number of milk teeth that went missing due to dental carries. I am referring to the very minuscule and the not so important details, like the individual functioning of my cranial nerves, my tactile skills, the percentage by which my lungs decrease in capacity every time I exert myself, or the angle that my tibia bone makes with the tarsal bones.

I think this obsession has taken wings ever since I got into the habit of roaming aimlessly around the corridors of my department. For I keep running into flyers describing weird studies where they need volunteers. And instead of bullshitting that I participate in these studies because they give me free goodies or pocket money, or because I have the cause of furthering science and research as a noble interest, let me tell you the truth. I volunteer for these studies because I am very keen to know about those silly and unnecessary details of my body.

Like yesterday I found out that I belong to the 20% category of humans whose middle finger will not twitch even if you passed electricity through it. Now what was that supposed to mean? I read about a study where people tie you up to a chair (okay, not really) put electrodes around your hand, and pass electricity through your hands to see your fingers twitch and thereby measure muscle fatigue. Now any sane, rational human being would have stayed miles away from this study. But like the usual me, I had to express keen interest in the noble cause of furthering science and research, and had to volunteer. The very next moment, I see a heavyset, dark man sticking electrodes around my hands. And instead of screaming murder and running away, I find myself staring with fascination into my fingers to see them twitch. Ironically, they kept increasing the current till every finger in my hand was twitching. But this heavy middle finger totally refused to move even a nanometer. Ultimately, I was discarded from the study. But at least I know now that I belong to those 1 in 5 people who cannot make a career out of being a middle finger twitching volunteer.

This is not an isolated incident of craziness. While people tell me that they love their bodies and thus keep themselves away from all these weird studies, I have participated in things like this before. There was a study where all I had to do was blow air out of my lungs as fast and as deep as I could. They were measuring the forced expiratory volume of the lungs or something. So for one whole hour, I kept taking deep breaths and blowing myself out like a balloon every 3 minutes while they plotted how much my lung efficiency decreased over time. Don’t ask me what’s the big deal in that. Now I can add this useful piece of information in my resume, that my lungs had an average of a 10% reduction in blowing capacity after blowing out air for an hour or so. If nothing, I can even make a living out of selling balloons.

Then, I have let dentists pour water on my tooth to see how sensitive they are to change in temperature. I have participated in studies to find out what angle my feet bones make with the tibia. I have found out that one of my cranial nerves, called the vagus nerve is weak in nature, hence I might faint if I ever push too hard. I have learnt that there is something a little weird in my parasympathetic nervous system. And I have answered all kinds of weird interview questions for studies. I once remember how the lady asked me on the phone if I have been sexually active for the last 3 months for a study on caffeine intake and migraine that she was conducting. I proudly tell her that no, I am an Indian woman with oddles of cultural values and all that, and no, no alcohol, beef, or sex for me, thank you. The next moment, she tells me that I am not eligible for the study and hangs up. So much for celibacy !

I am sure you have your own little obsession stories, of things you like to do that would otherwise be considered inappropriate or unnecessary by most standards. And that is why even though we all have 206 bones and 12 cranial nerves and 33 vertebrae, we are all so different.



Inim Aduos said...

You are not only very articulate, ’vocabulerate’ (someone with a great vocabulary – I made up that word!), knowledgeable and funny. It is sad that with all these qualifications, you are still vacuolated because we Indian women are so looked down upon and sometimes ridiculed for keeping our celibacy.

cliche said...

truly miss all these studies....r u a millionaire by now?

Sree said...

That's an interesting post. This reminds me of my school days when my friends used to flock around me to see my thumb, which bends so much than that of any one in the group. Even now I feel it as an achievement, asking my friends to bend the thumb the same way as I do. May be I am missing one bone in my thumb :)

illusionaire said...

You're crazy, but I like that coz that is the same crazy as me :)

hehehe... for a second there my thoughts just went wild and came up with the perfect career for somebody whose middle finger will not twitch :)

Keep discovering...