Friday, January 04, 2013

The Unspeakable Word

Around this time last year, my brother's marriage talks were on. He had already decided upon the girl, his childhood sweetheart, and all that remained was for the parents to give the nod. Sounds quite simple, but ain't it the biggest hurdle every lover faces? Anyway, our parents gave their consent, putting the happiness of their son before their own misgivings. My now sister-in-law was busy convincing her parents. Needless to say, emotions were running high, in both households. And given the fact that my parents, brother and myself all live in different cities, most of the arguments, rants etc. were carried out over phone (the Airtel, BSNL and Vodafone wallahs would have made merry during that time!). During one such heated arguments with my brother was being particularly critical of our parents. I tried to reason things out with him, but suddenly lost my cool and shouted, "F***" and kept the phone down.

The minute I did that, my husband chided me for mouthing such profane words. I too realized, in retrospective, that I should not have said that. However, what was done was done. Needless to say my brother was infuriated and it took a while for both of us to come down from our perches and apologize and forgive. Still, the bitter aftertaste of the uttered word still lingers uncomfortably somewhere in the backside of our minds.

I have thought about the incident quite often since then, and what alarms me more than anything else is the ease with which the F word slipped out of my tongue. I had not used it deliberately, but I also did not have to give much thought to it before it was uttered. That was unnerving. All our life we are taught by the parents, teachers, and sundry adults and books that uttering such profanities is condemn-able. However, here I was pelting it out of my mouth as easily as saying my name!

A similar incident happened recently, when a member of a newly formed group of which I am a part, retorted with a "F*** YOU" to another member who had been pulling her legs. Maybe he did overdo it, but the ease and speed with which the retort came was a shocker to me. Here again, sorrys were asked and given, but the word remained uttered.

All this has made me think, how has the F word become such a commonplace thing in our lives? I remember while in school we were rebuked for even calling each other idiot, stupid etc. But this? The only answer to my question that came to my mind is our blind exposure to the so-called entertainment channels of the western world. Movies, music albums, TV, anything from the western world is filled to the brim with F's. I remember seeing the movie Phone booth and gaping in horror. Literally every sentence of the movie has the word used at least once. And to think I was watching it in a makeshift open air screen, in the company where I worked, along with hundreds of colleagues (it was a celebration event)!

I believe using the word has become more of a fashion. Its like the more profane the word you use, the more cool you look. Hence even words like hell, damn, shit and crap as passe. I remember during my college days, the girls used to call each other naaye, peye, pisasu and panni (kuttia, bhoot, chudail and suar). I used to cringe when my friends addressed me that way, and thankfully restrained by falling in line with their lingo. Now I feel even those words were lame compared to the unspeakable word I used on my brother.

My heart almost stops a beat when I look at my son now. He too will be undergoing exposure to these movies and music albums too when his time comes. His friends circle might include cool gals and dudes who are experts in such language. And I am sure, during his time, people will be more than ever liberal with the word. So just imagine, how easily will the little guy pick up the word, and other similar ones! I don't know if I can keep him completely insulated from the knowledge of these words. Something inside me tells me I should not too. What I should is, teach him the restraint that is required when handling these words. And for that, I should practice that restraint first.