If you are a spouse, inferior half, life partner, dependent visa holder, civil partner, living-in (Shiva! Shiva!) type or similarly Facebook-relationship-status-ed, you are well aware of the many ways in which your partner is capable of communicating to you without audibly saying a single word. Not even a full glance, just a tiny sliver of a glance. A glancelet, if you will. But it contains multitudes.
In fact if you are a resident of Mumbai you are already aware of one jolly good way of doing this. Of conveying messages across long distances without noise or electronics. Surely you've noticed that air-kiss-noise thing that, at least in my case, makes my skin crawl. (Also I can't do it properly. It makes my face itchy.) I think I first noticed this air-kiss-messaging-service early on in my tenure in Mumbai. I was at Dadar station having a nimbu pani, waiting for my train. I had just paid the fellow in some large-ish denomination note when my train came.
Absentmindedly I ran towards the train. Which is when I heard this horrible, piercing, squeaky noise from behind me.
I turned around to look and you wouldn't believe it. Exactly. Whining athletes from New Zealand! And Wales!
Oh ha ha. CWG comedy. For contemporary relevance. Just like that.
No. In fact it was the man minding the juice stand. I had forgotten to pick up my change.
I don't know if you've ever been to Dadar Station. It is a busy establishment. Yet somehow I knew that the juice man was kiss-whistling exactly at me. The hideous noise drilled through the thronging masses, as if with turn-by-turn navigation, and drilled into my head. Somehow I knew he was calling me.
Only one head turned around. Mine.
I ran back, picked up my change, thanked the man profusely, before jogging back to my train. Just as it seemed that I was going to find nothing more than a tiny, perilous little foothold on the very edge of the doorway, a resilient, hardy Mumbai hand reached out of the crowd and--tears come to my eyes when I think of the city's unbelievable warmth and sense of community--reached into my nostril and ejected me from the train.
Tip: To make a kiss-whistle pout vigorously with your lips. Make a tight almost-shut 'O' shape. And then suck air in through the tiny gap between your lips. If done correctly it should make a noise like old banians being ripped for kitchen use. And the kiss-whistler should be left feeling like one is about to commit a sex crime.
But the point I making is that there are numerous ways of communicating without words. For instance take the case of the missus. I will now list just a few of the numerous wordless transmissions she achieves using merely a combination of look, grimace, weighed pause and small kitchen utensil. Ha. No no I am kidding. No kitchen utensils on weekdays.
A brief, selected list:
1. The 'I don't care if blind Trappist monks made it by distilling their own sweat, and it costs hajaar. It is still beer. Terms of engagement shall be the same as Tuborg or Haywards 2000. Have two. Or less. Or whatever. You are a grown man. Have one.' look.
2. The 'Jaunty beach shirts are so fun and jolly and really make fat people look cool. I completely this look for other fat people.' look.
3. The 'This tremendous excitement you see on my face about this potential Twenty20+MatrixTrilogy+KFC party being planned by these friends at our place next weekend is utterly fake. Be a man and back out now. Or at least get it moved to someone else's place.' look.
4. The 'No. Use your PS2 properly and exhaustively first. At least finish God Of War II at some sort of respectable difficulty level. Instead you may chat with the saleswoman for a bit.' look.
And finally 5. The 'What? She is thinner? Is that it? Should I straighten my hair too? STOP TALKING TO THE SALESWOMAN YOU OBJECTIFYING LETCH!' look.
There are a plethora of other looks of course, meant for use in every situation from family office parties, overlong blogger meets, to new BlackBerry launches, and even a series of distinct and impactful pregnant pauses meant for mobile phone use. (Can't wait for 3G and video calls when we can go back to looking and pausing instead of just pausing.)
One of the cool things about this is that wives and girl friends think that nobody else in the room notices these looks. In my experience EVERYONE, including the expat using the wifi on the table next, notices the look. Subsequently everyone else there lets loose a flurry of rapid inter-personal silent despatches. Perhaps an illustration will help.
Let us assume there are three couples in a room. Let us call them A, B and F. For ease we assume all three are men-woman couples, and individuals shall be referred to as Husband-A, Wife-A, Husband-B and so on. Let us assume that Husband-A has made an observation that his wife does not approve of. Such as:
"I'd totally apply Zandu Balm on her if you know what I mean!!?"
The following subsequent exchanges are all unspoken:
Wife-A to Husband-A: What the... How cheap... I am disgusted. But I have to laugh now with everyone else... Chi chi chi.
Husband-B to Husband-F: Did you see that look? BURN!!!
Husband-F to Husband-B: I swear.
Wife -B to Wife-F: Thank god we're not married to the type no?
Wife-F to Wife-B: I swear.
Wife-B to Husband-B: It is not that funny.
Wife-F to Husband-F: It is not that funny.
Husband-F to Wife-F: Sorry babe. Only because Husband-B laughed.
Husband-B to Wife-B: Sorry babe. But Husband-F laughed first.
Husband-A to himself: How quickly that moment has passed...
Husband-B and Husband-F to themselves: Zandu balm. Malaika. Mmm...
Uff. The politics I tell you.
And now, I have realized suddenly today, the missus has developed a brand new, high-impact, high-velocity look.
It happened like this. I was sitting this morning reading the papers and flipping through the news channels enjoying all the excitement around the Commonwealth Games and Talking Newspaper Advertisement developments. (Note to Volkswagen people: Next time your recording could start with the kiss-whistle. Super customer connect.)
Suddenly something most most jovial occurred to me.
"Darling!," I said to Kaaliya, "what if there was a special Commonwealth Games campaign in the Times of India?"
"Have you brushed your teeth yet?" she responded shrewdly.
"So you open the paper and suddenly the AR Rahman theme begins to play out of the newspaper... and then as you are astonished by this development, a mosquito flies out of the paper, bites you and then you get Dengue. Ayyo classic no?"
A furrow appeared on her forehead. Her brows approached each other tentatively. One corner of her mouth smiled. The other frowned. And then she nodded. No. Don't.
It was a new look. It was her shiny new: 'Oh god. You really, really want to tweet that wisecrack so badly right now don't you? And then madly check for retweets no?' look.
And she was right.
So I didn't.
I wanted to inform all of you of this significant development in my marriage. These new looks don't happen often. Therefore I wanted to save this development for posterity.
Or should I say pause-terity. Classic!
Ok. It appears I am not allowed to tweet that either.