Saturday, December 24, 2016

Aahkshhooo! The Sneeze

My father was a rather loud sneezer.  And he has passed it on.  When he sneezed sometimes, my grandmother would get rattled and there was a comment from my mother or aunt. So he used to demonstrate [with an unreal sneeze] how his colleague Mr. Dastur's sneezed... just an almost unheard funny sound near his vocal chord!  That was another extreme.

In my workplace room we were three. My colleague Manju was my competitor which rattled the lady colleague who sometimes got angry but did not show it.  She would tell us "Why don't you tell me just before it was coming, cannot you control it?"  We always told her "I'd love to, but there was no time for that, Madam."  When my sneeze happened loudly most of the time, it would get the appreciation from Manju and when he performed better, I would praise him profusely and wait for the reaction of the lady.  At times she would not be there.  "She would have got really angry at that one!" we would look at each other and imagine. 

Yes, sometimes we know it is coming.  It develops slowly, but we are busy enjoying the beautiful work going inside the nostril - the moment cannot be missed.  Our eyes are half closed and the mouth half open - someone who is nearby can make out from the face that a sneeze is brewing up!  "A...aa.a.aaaa....."  But then, all of a sudden, it explodes ".... Kshooeee!  

I am on my scooter, when the 'Ahckshoo' happens.  People look in my direction with what-was-that-sound look.  There is that something that tickles that one tiny part in the nostrils.  There are mischievous youngsters who have troubled their room-mates in the hostel tickling with a piece of thinly rolled paper or thread in the nostrils while they are asleep! 

My other colleague Murthy used to present his sneeze whenever we wanted, free. We would ask for one esp. when we went out of the building into the sun on our way to the canteen, a furlong away.  Murthy used to say "Okay, wait, take this?" He would look towards the sun blinking in a funny way, his facial muscles contracting weirdly, then "Aksheeee", not loud, but a normal one.  Then a smile. He had this knack of getting the Sun to tickle that something in his nostril. I think we can do it too, it is somewhat psychosomatic! They say the sun can trigger a sneeze.  But nothing can beat Soapnut powder.  Just open a box of it and take the nose close!  

At home I also get comments on the loud sneeze. What to do, it is my nature, I argue!  "Can't you control yourself and let it out softly?"  There we go, same request!  I try to be musical dividing the sneeze into two sounds with different pitch and even end up with a long drag, but still they are not impressed!

The best and my most effective sneeze happened in 1995.  Our cricket team was traveling in a bus from Trichy to Kumbakonam. Most of us, including me were in the back seat where the door was.  All was well until there was a great explosion.  I still do not know myself from where it came and how it came, in such suddenness!  It was my sneeze!!  Our eyes always close the moment the sneeze happens and the moment my eyes opened, I saw people in front of me turning in the direction of explosion asking "Yenna, yenna adu?" in Tamil [What, what was that?]  My team mates who were near me were also aghast with a "What-happened-look."  The explosion had even shocked the driver who pushed the brake and almost stopped.  Everyone soon realized it was just a loud sneeze and not a bomb.  They told the driver "Vannu ille, vannu ille, po, po" [Nothing, nothing, go on, go on.].  My team mates started laughing but it was no laughing matter for me.  It was the first sneeze of tens that signaled the onset of a bad cold!!  Luckily, I played in all the matches [all six days of half day each] and even contributing well to the team's fine performance, despite the tiredness [being young] and the hot weather there. The cold ran its normal duration. My sneeze did not break the Guinness record for the loudest!  May be some other time!

At home when someone sneezed once, my grandmother immediately told "Shathayushi" [Live a hundred  years] and then waited for the second one to follow.  If it did, then she would tell "PoorNaayushi" [Full life].  Somewhat the equivalent of "Bless you."  One must bless the other with long life when the other sneezes!  `Dheergaayushmaan bhava' [Sanskrit].  The sneezer would say 'Excuse me.' as a show of 'good manners', a western tradition.  I do not know if the one who farts also asks for an excuse!

There are several superstitions the sneeze is tagged with.  One sneeze is 'bad omen', two is good and so on.  They say that a sneeze must not be prevented, but it can be controlled... if there is time! The funny feeling is when we know a sneeze is brewing slowly and is about to come but just wanes away! Then we give the nose a good rub! 

Wikipedia says: A sneeze, or sternutation, is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth, usually caused by foreign particles irritating the nasal mucosa. The function of sneezing is to expel mucus containing foreign particles or irritants and cleanse the nasal cavity.

The air from a human sneeze can travel at speeds of 100 miles per hour or more -- another good reason to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze -- or duck when you hear one coming your way.  

  Cartoons show dentures flying away on the sneeze!  Seriously, those who wear should be careful.

Enjoy this short video clip of my favourite comedians: 

AAAAH.........CCHHOOOOOO!!!
Bless you!

A tribute to Pillai, the Boss.

Hot-tempered, hard working, workaholic bosses are always a pain in the neck esp. for his subordinates in workplaces.  More so when the boss himself is a 'Yes Master' and a favourite to his superior!  One such, Pillai, headed our department for 15 years till he retired in 2001 much to the relief of many in our department.  But then the tiger in him had meowed, nay, mellowed a lot in his last three years in service, thanking and showing 'crocodile appreciation' even for simple tasks completed, gestures never seen from him before!  I was one of his targets to show off his official power, but this target was created by the cunning tale-carriers that lurked around!  We knew he was good at heart but was disliked for his 'tale-listening ears', tempers and showing 'seat powers'.   His ego was high that had prompted one colleague to nickname him as 'Stiffneck', which also went with his 'chin drawn back' postures. 


A pencil cartoon I had made of Pillai. My work is good if the 'stiffneck' is noticed!

"You take retirement and go." said Pillai to one senior colleague Srinivasa Rao during a tiff.   This aroused Rao who replied shouting "I will retire you from this world!"  This happened in front of the many of us.  Pillai then had 20 years of service, Rao had a few left and I was just a few years new.  Rao was very happy that he 'gave back' to him something, he being a 'blue eyed boy' in the dept.!  Many things like this used to go on.   In some years, he was to occupy the 'boss chair'.



But work went on as usual and these kind of incidents was fun gossip for coffee breaks.  He was a jovial person at times, when he was not at work.

There was a period of tense years where he had made me a target for trivial allegations - the background and something that followed when I felt being at a 'dead end' finds a separate story - in another post:  Click  here.  Freedom and some peace resulted, that changed my ways at the workplace.


Pillai settled in his Kerala home town immediately after he retired in 2001.

I had prepared a poem and had presented to him as a 'scroll' for that occasion.  The poem lists many of his qualities and was read out by my colleague.  Here it is:

THE PILLAI WE KNEW

Our Sri Pillai lays down office at the end of March,
To Sri Prabhu he will pass on the torch.

As spearhead of TT and B Development,
He brought laurels for the Institute's betterment.

His great virtue has been the art of conversation,
Which fully deserves our appreciation.

When there was no question of an agreement,
He outwitted the other in the argument.

His forte was his courage and wisdom in decision making,
The speed with which he did so was truly amazing.

Working with him had been mostly a pleasure,
The rest of the time it was pure pressure.

With the pen he was ever ready to sign,
Many a time, he had to 'draw a line'.

The bell switch will no longer feel his fretful finger,
But those typical "ting-ting ting-tings" will always linger.

The engaged telephone at the other end drew him nuts,
And his own, suffered from bruises and cuts.

When situations made us feel his presence,
We wished for his temporary absence.

Up until the time he crossed well over fifty,
He was the Chairman of Doorvas Committee.

Saviour faire had become one of his top attributes,
Also to all his other good ones, we pay tributes.

What we all usually saw was Pillai the taskmonger,
But the real Pillai happens to be a humdinger.

Le'im settle at Cochin, Calicut or wherever,
Let health and happiness be with him and family forever.

"Colleagues", 29th March, 2001
* * * * * * 

In May 2016 or dept. got the information that Pillai had passed away. He was 75.
May his soul rest in peace.
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