September 14, 2015
The term 'embarrassment' in the Oxford English Dictionary is defined as 'a feeling of self-consciousness, shame or awkwardness.' It's an emotional state of intense discomfort with oneself, experienced upon having a socially unacceptable act or condition witnessed by or revealed to others. It's a sentiment that no one wants to get into, but somehow sometimes inevitably wefind ourselvesdragged into that situation not of our liking. The bizarre experience, we do not want to recall and wish it had never occurred in the first place. If there was a chance to rewind, we would grab it with both of our hands to have it undone, to forget those bad experiences once for all, but unfortunately unlike the modern day gadgets there is no 'delete' button in life. It would be an understatement if I say that one does not have their own set of embarrassments in one's life's journey. In this piece of writing, I have put together a few of mine.
Ladies Toilet Incident:
The iconic structure of the Southern Cross Railway Station, Docklands, Melbourne where an embarrassing situation unfolded
This is a story from our current abode – Melbourne, Australia. One fine day in March 2007, I found myself inside the Ladies Toilet. Surprised! Here it is how? It was a stressful day of a job interview in one of the big international audit firms for a responsible role. As I was walking back to the Southern Cross Railway Station (also colloquially known as Spencer Street Railway Station), brooding over the interview as to what I could have done better, on my way thought of visiting the restroom to answer nature's call before proceeding to the relevant platform to catch my train home. The gigantic Railway Station houses two restrooms, one at each extreme corner diagonally opposite. The one near the ticket counter of the Country line trains (rural line) is the one I often visit whenever I need to.
The toilet on the other side under the stairs is the one I have seldom visited. The second one mentioned was the one that was around and thus I had entered here. The restrooms here have an open single broad entrance and the one I used to frequently visit has the male section on the right hand side and the female on the left. With so many things going on in my head I just entered this restroom, turned right and went into the last cubicle to pee. In the middle of it all, I almost fainted when I heard some feminine voices outside. Have I entered the wrong one? Then how come I can hear some feminine voices? So many things went on in my mind %$*#@*% … When I had finished, I opened the door and briskly walked outside expecting the worst. It was indeed a Ladies Toilet and since a train must have arrived, there was a queue of about a dozen ladies waiting for the cubicles to be free. When I saw them, I was stunned and nervous and looking at me they were speechless as well looking at this alien as nobody reacted in that short time until I quickly disappeared. The gender markings were opposite for this toilet as compared to the other one I often visited. In a way, it was not my fault after all!
Sensing trouble I exited then and there, immediately made way to the male toilet on the left hand side by walking straight after exiting the Ladies' and came outside calmly after some time rolling my eyeballs in every possible direction. Here the entrances of toilets and elsewhere are fitted with cameras and if you are caught being on the wrong side of the law, you had it. The bad news is that I did not make it to the job as they said there were better candidates than me; the good news is that no law enforcement personnel caught me or called me for an explanation for my faux paus.
A Lawyer's Saga:
I completed my LLB (Bachelor of Law) Degree from SDM Law College, Kodialbail, Mangaluru in April 1991. This professional course, I was pursuing by appearing for classes early in the morning that commenced at 6.30 am. Once I graduated in Law, made it to the 'Graduation Ceremony' in Bengaluru and after taking the oath registered myself as a Practising Advocate. With dad's pressure compounding my misery as regards to another professional course I was pursuing simultaneously during the day, I made up my mind to go to Bengaluru to practice Law in the High Court. I got into a leading Law Firm situated on Palace Road that was walking distance from the High Court.
About 4 to 5 months had passed in the Lawyer's office and I was still stuck with drafting of pleadings, rules of court and other legal office works and was never given exposure to attend Courts to have a look at the practising side of things. Though in the Final Year of Law, we did have practicals of attending Courts in Mangaluru, that was just not enough. There was another Junior Lady Lawyer in our legal office and being senior to me she was obviously preferred. Getting bored doing the same job over and over again, in search of a bit of variety and excitement, decided to take the onus on myself. I advised our Senior Office Clerk that I will be back in an hour or so and left.
Leaving behind my Advocate's Coat pretending to go incognito, a little later, I entered the High Court premises and recalled my previous visits ages ago including once when the High Court building was in flames. Walking gently inside the red building waded through the memories, scanning the Court Rooms pondering as to which one to enter. Ultimately, decided to get into a Court Room that was full to the brim as curiosity got the better of me. Slowly entering the room with a booming voice echoing on the background, presumably that of a judge...I went and stood at the back reclining against the wall to observe the proceedings as there were no open sitting spaces and people seemed to be standing wherever they could fit in. At this sight, the whole Court Room burst into laughter with all eyes on me. I for one thought I entered oblivious to the surroundings and thus was taken aback and confused at the same time as to what suddenly must have gone wrong. There were couple of other people on my left standing upright and the two policemen in either corner having rested their long guns vertically on the floor.
The laughter went on for a while and I pretended everything was normal until the khaki clad Policeman on my right approached me and in a serious voice blurted in Kannada saying – “Yei … Yarappa neenu? Illige bandu apaditarajothe yake nithkondidya?Aache sariyo!” (Who are you? Why are you standing with these criminals? Move away!) all conversation in 'present tense', accepted in the normal police jargon? Realising my folly then and thoroughly ashamed, I briskly exited the Court Room and as I left, I could hear the giggling resonate behind me. It is supposed to be a Court. What those criminals were doing right at the back of the Court Room begs an answer when they should have been in the front near the witness box somewhere. My efforts of getting a first-hand exposure in a High Court setting turned out to be a joke on myself!
Money in the Shoes:
In my earlier piece of writing – 'Joys of Life', I had narrated about how an Uncle of mine, a Manager in Air India in Mumbai, in the nineties and early years of the twenty-first century would see through my green exit on my arrival from the Arabian Gulf and on departure check in my pieces of luggage securing a 'boarding card' much in advance facilitating me to board the flight only a few minutes before take-off. That was the good part of it! But as every rule has an exception, there used to be a few dramas here and there too.
In one instance, on my return journey Uncle had cautioned how the guidelines of carrying both Indian and foreign currencies overseas have recently changed and how it was strictly enforced. If my memory is correct, Indian Rupees five-thousand and foreign currency totalling about five-hundred US dollars were allowed to be carried through. What I possessed was a lot more than the stated limit. I requested Uncle to keep the extra with him so that I can collect it the next time when I was down. He was not all that fascinated with the idea and instead suggested to tuck in the 'extra' in my shoes for he was pretty sure they would never venture there in search of it. Without seeing any other way, I went to a secluded place and did the way I was told. The officer checking me in did ask as to how much value of currency notes I was carrying. I boldly showed him my wallet pretending to count the notes and explained this is what I possess.
Another officer who was watching my body language queried whether I had anything elsewhere on my body. For a moment, I was a bit dumb founded and thought this pair must have observed what I did. Remember, the officers all of Mangalurean/Goan origin were clever guys and of course I was a notch cleverer than them too being of the same breed. Passing through, when the Maharashtrian security guy hopped up and down with his security beep scanning the surface of my shoes, my heart skipped a beat. I for one thought, it would set off a 'currency alarm.' Luckily, all was well and it was a good ending to an unpleasant ordeal and the first thing I did after clearing the security moving to another corner was to take off all that money and put it back into my wallet. None of you I reckon reading this would have had such a unique experience. Money in one's shoes, was I not embarrassed? Though it was the need of the hour, it does send a tingly feeling within me when I recollect the incident even today.
Bride Kissing Episode:
I am a disciplinarian when it comes to punctuality and in doing things to perfection. Hence, my wedding day will be evergreen in my mind for this very reason as most of the things went haywire because of my own undoing. With many things that went for a shot that day, this incident during my nuptials (formal wedding ceremony in the Church) was a bouncer of sorts! Our main Celebrant had flown from Mumbai especially for our wedding. He was the Parish Priest of Gloria Church, Byculla at that time Rev Fr Joaquim D'Costa, a Goan priest who was the head of the Deanery as well (currently the Rector of Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Bandra).
During the nuptials, after the wedding vows were recited and rings exchanged, he gave an indication looking at me to lift the veil of the bride and plant a kiss on her cheek as a celebration that we were now declared husband and wife in front of God. I failed to interpret his sign language as I kept wondering what he was trying to convey. As the other priests stood in stony silence in front of the Altar, he went on giving different signals as the videographer recorded the spectacle unfolding. When he gave another indication may be the fourth in succession for the execution of a kiss culminating that part of the ceremony with the other priests becoming a bit impatient, I could not help wondering to myself: 'Oh God! What does he want me to do?' After a good three minutes or so had passed, the main Celebrant impatient by now I guess, that nothing was going into my head, took a step forward, partly lifted the bride's veil and gently pushed my back for the forward movement to complete the all-important kiss. There was amusement in the packed congregation and I myself could not help burst into an embarrassing laugh.
The Santa Claus:
It was a family holiday in December 2009 when we were visiting our home town. We decided to celebrate Christmas in a unique way and surprise the children – cousins, neighbours and children of our family friends. I was the Santa Claus with a lot of goodies bought from Down Under to be distributed. The party was on Christmas Day late morning just before lunch in my better-half's ancestral home at Kulshekar, Mangaluru. As the adults sang Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells … I, the Santa Claus perspiring in the family car parked nearby had to exit the vehicle and enter the main gate with the goody bag on my bag hopping around with a booming sound of Ho .. Ho … Ho and my brother-in-law hiding behind the bushes would let go the crackers! All went well from the gate to the entrance of the House that was about 30 metres away with the set-up to be a runaway success.
As the 20 odd kids looked amazed and stood in awe and wonder as to what next as I was about to enter the huge entrance of the ancestral home, my eldest daughter Fay Stephanie who was aged nine then, jumped in front of me from nowhere and in one stroke, before I could realise pulled off my white Santa beard proudly proclaiming 'He he he … this is Daddy, this is Daddy! exposing the lower half of my face. It was a secret from her too. The adults left a gasp and the children were totally confused and my wife was speechless. It was her idea after all. What a catastrophe! Managing to somehow put the beard back and fix my hanging moustache that got disturbed in the pull somehow and hiding the fact that I was upset, continued as nothing transpired taking the seat placed for the Santa and distributing goodies and trying to reclaim the glory of what would have been a flop show. Distributing the goodies brought a lot of cheer but nevertheless it was rather perplexing all the way with my attachments on the face giving in, causing embarrassment every now and then.
Banana was and is my favourite fruit andI am very fond of it. When I was little, I could not help stealing half ripe bananas placed in my maternal grandfather's huge trunk in the spare room. When in primary school, in one instance, at home, in search of something to eat I had opened the fridgeand being hungry, finding a bunch of half-a-dozen bananas there plucked one andslowly gulped without anyone's knowledgeand that's what I thought. A little later, dad having opened the refrigerator for something realised that ayellow fruit was missing from the bunch and hence asked us if anyone had eaten it. If I had admitted he would let it go, but he being a strict disciplinarian, I was always apprehensive to speak out.
All the five of us denied having it and I was the one who shook my head the most,swinging either way denoting a vehement denial. Though mom was trying to put an end to the drama in question saying let it be, may be one of them must have eaten it and to forget about it … dad nevertheless was not satisfied because he could not digest the fact that his children were lying and thus kept on asking us repeatedly and we all kept denying. I for one was scared being the eldest I would be made a scape goat and the rest of my siblings of course were innocent. We all got a bit of his piece of mind that day that had many of thefamily's weekly plans cancelled and left us very distressed.
My dear siblings, spread across the world, I would like to take this opportunity to let you all know that I was indeed the culprit and because of me you all had to suffer with peace gone to the winds in the early stages of our lives. 'And to my dad in heavenly abode above, now that I have confessed, hope he will be able to forgive me.'
To sum up in a poem:
From the kissing of the bride and the lawyer's saga
To the shoes concealed with money and many others too,
The Santa Claus, the banana story and the ladies loo…
In unison, the word 'embarrassment' is the one to boo!
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