If Looks Could Kill

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It will be corroborated by friends and relatives I have had the pleasure of knowing, that I have never been concerned with how I look. People might confirm that beyond the tender age up to which my parents tended to my social appearances, I have seldom obtained the concurrence of the word “presentable”. It had never bothered me much, but what happened today in college should perhaps have me re-evaluate my doctrine. I’ll get to the experience shortly.

There is an old folktale in circulation for quite a while, wherein a king, desirous of protecting his nimble feet from the dust on the street, issued an order that the streets were to be covered with leather. He was, the story goes, enlightened by a bright entrepreneur who propounded that the more efficient solution would be to isolate the problem within his person; i.e., to simply wrap his feet in leather. And so shoes were born. Inspired by this fictitious tale, I became reluctant to engage in grooming activities of any kind, instead preferring to isolate the problem beyond myself; i.e., I simply disengaged myself from looking in the mirror. I hardly ever do that, so I am saved from the scary thought of seeing my own face, a feat my friends regrettably are subjected to. I don’t even keep a mirror in my room. I only engage in the ghastly act of looking at a borrowed mirror when I try my hand at shaving. Perhaps I should avoid that too. It doesn’t seem to do me any good anyhow. By empirical evidence, even while I am ‘guided’ by the mirror, my chin usually turns out bloody enough to be a prospective shooting location for the small-screen remake of the Battle of Panipat. I am of course, assuming powerful zoom lenses.

But I am drifting away from the point, am I not? The point is that I am scarcely concerned how I look. As long as some kid walking down the street, seeing me, does not cling on to his/her mommy and scream “Mommy, Mommy, what is THAT??”, I’d feel fine. Beyond hygiene, my only other criterion regarding appearances would generally be NOT to embarrass my friends and relatives when they are seen with me. I admit these are poor criteria to base such things, but you’ll have to remember that old Latin saying “Quid Quid Latine Dictum, Profundum Viditur”, which by the way, is probably my most favourite Latin saying. Not that I know many.

Beyond the health aspect of it, neither am I concerned too much about my weight, which is increasing, interestingly along the same lines as the tsunami casualty estimates did at the early hours. One would imagine that my goal would include, to use one of Wodehouse’s colorful lines, ceasing to resemble a captive balloon poised for its flight into the clouds. But considering the alternatives, which ultimately end in exercise or diet, I end up choosing the efficient path. In other words, I ignore the situation.

Today, I was presumably looking worse than usual, as I am considerably sick. At the insistence of my concerned neighbor, Avinash, I approached the college physician, Dr. TC Jaiprakash. Besides being a capable doctor, he is apparently a wizened veteran in the neglected medical art of poking people in the stomach and ribcages and asking in a concerned undertone “Did that hurt?”. It was during the fifth poke in the stomach that I began to wonder why I didn’t try to be a doctor. Poking patients could have been my specialty. I guess I’m stuck with MBA. Maybe I’ll get to poke a few subordinates once in a while. Anyway, in the middle of the post-poking diagnosis, he turned to me and said, “Your eyes look swollen, you look tired, and you look generally in such a mess. Is this because you’re sick, or is this your usual appearance?” I swear he asked me that. I didn’t know what to say. Totally at a loss of words, I fumbled around as if my economics tutor had just asked me to explain how the suppressed inflation and open market operation would affect the production possibility curve in post war Afghanistan. Anyway, my point is that it is possible that I WAS indeed looking worse. I had been sick since yesterday, and I wasn’t planning to attend classes today. I had gone to college just for two things; to visit the doc, and to give one of my friends a computer magazine I had promised her. Not the ideal schedule for an MBA student.

Evening. Peace. Quiet. I was just starting the walk back to my hostel. I was crossing the main block of ICFAI, about halfway to the Library building, and I saw a cheery lady coming out of the building, apparently not a worry in the world. Hers was not a familiar face, but I imagine it belonged to a member of the batch of 2005. A senior. As she reached somewhat within visual range of my face, she slapped her head and gave out a cry that was originally devised by African elephants, I presume, to warn comrades about an approaching predator. And then she turned around and started running off in the general direction of the new building. Startled a bit, I turned around to look behind me; to see what danger made her so apprehensive as to seek shelter within our venerated computer lab. And I was startled to see what I saw… which was nothing.

There was absolutely nothing and nobody on the streets other than me. My looks can’t kill, but it seems enough to make strange seniors flee for their lives. My, my… this required thinking about, or so I thought. I resolved to buy a mirror and see what the fuss was about. Then I thought, “Chuck it… I don’t have the time to shop around for those gadgets. I’ll borrow one from my neighbor when I reached my hostel, and then see what the fuss is about.” When I reached my hostel, I thought “Hell, I’ll have to look in a mirror the next time I shave anyway, so I’ll check then.”

Procrastination is such a blessing.

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