Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For the lack of a better word

I remember an incident from childhood when I was 9 or 10 years old. The big boss was supposed to visit us home. He was THE man in father’s office, some sort of the regional manager. I don’t see it these days, but inviting colleagues, especially the ones from the higher hierarchy was something people including my father practiced. While the home was spruced up and the best food was cooked, I was supposed to look neat, smile, and speak when asked to. Not that I particularly cared or looked forward to these meetings, but these “big bosses” were usually from one of the IIMs or XLRI, and it intrigued me to find out what did it take to become like one of these luminaries. On a different note, years later, I find that brand names like IIM, IIT, or MIT has kinda lost its charm for me.

I was always the one in my family known for my better English. The big boss turned out to be a big, obese man in a suit who sweated a lot. While father went in the kitchen to help mother with the food, I was asked to sit and chitchat with the big boss. Soon father summoned me inside and told me in Bengali to ask the big boss if he was feeling hot and wanted more breeze.

Now this has happened to be over the years. A thought goes in my head but when I am supposed to vocalize it, I just blank out. I seriously don’t know how to put the words together to make a coherent sentence. I looked at the big boss, clueless how to ask him in English if he need more breeze. I helplessly looked at the ceiling fan above me, hoping that he would get the clue. Words like “Fan, more or less, on or off, you want more air?” formed in my head, but I knew it was wrong English. Fan, more or less? You want air? I would have laughed (without malice) if someone had asked me that. The seconds seemed like hours and I wished someone would come to my rescue. The big boss got confused with my confused look. Helplessly, I pointed my finger towards the ceiling fan and arched my eyebrows twice. Sign language for the big boss? It was the funniest thing I have done.

Right at this moment, father entered the room and asked if the big boss was feeling hot and if the ceiling fan was helping. Inside, I wanted to shrink into a molecule and vanish. I wondered what the big boss made of a tiny girl pointing to the fan and arching her eyebrows.

And this has happened to be so many times. Just when I am expected to talk, I grope for the right word, desperately trying to come up with an alternative phrase that is still correct English. Last week I wanted to ask my friend when his girlfriend is graduating. Can you imagine I could not think of a simple word like “graduating”. After babbling for seconds, I ended up asking when she is passing out. The moment I said it, I realized how wrong it sounded. To which my friends replied grimly, “Passing out is fainting. Do you mean when she is graduating?”

My embarrassment knew no bounds.



sundeep machado said...

Believe me this happens to most people. It happened to me so many times. People are also known to forget what they were doing some time ago. It happens when the mind is under severe stress. It just cannot take the load, so it flushes out everything......

Rajarshi said...

What a coincidence. Just a while back I was analyzing my inability to express myself effectively and coherently.
Had a day long session with a client today where I was not able to express myself the way I wanted to, more than once. This led to the inevitable confusions and irritations on both the sides. Was feeling annoyed with myself, just when I saw your post.Somehow, it lightened my mood just by knowing that there are others as well.:)

Iddy Albatross said...

Things like this always seem to happen at the most embarassing moments... me, it's names - always. I'd see the face of the person clearly in my head, but I won't be able to recall their names!

I hope you came out of the "pass-out" situation unscathed :P hehe

First time on your blog, will be coming back. Cheers...