Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cornucopia




It happened some years ago and this man with whom I had a brief acquaintance whiffed into my thoughts this morning. It is the easiest thing in life to be critical about another, while we may often ignore or overlook into ourselves and be critical of self. Nevertheless, as I try to be not judgmental about this person, I cannot refrain from observing how silly and stupid his actions and thoughts were. It was naiveté!

An unassuming quite man, he was known to me for a while through a friend. He and his spouse were Bank employees by profession and was enjoying a middle class life .It was without forewarning that abruptly something triggered in him the urge and longing to be rich- rich as rich can be. Having being transferred on his job to the industrial town where I lived and worked, he was dazed by the speed and maddening pace of commercial life in the town and the rapidity in which people became neo rich. The industrial city was equally famous and infamous for all the good and the bad reasons of commercial entrepreneurship. Certainly money that could be made in that booming town was amazing. But what he did not recognize was the stupefying speed at which the money, made and the richness got could also be nullified in even time. I mention the word money specifically as he, like most of the town folk related money to wealth and material wealth alone.

I, one day came across him at the local railway station and he was boisterous and in greatly enlivened spirit. To me it appeared quite strange, for he was reticent and soft spoken by nature. He took out a book from his bag and thrust towards me. ”Read it”, he said. “This will change your life overnight”.

With the least presumption and prejudice I took the book and flipped through, for I did not believe that a book could change one overnight. I do not remember the title of the piece- it was something like, “How to make money or How to become a millionaire”. Instinct told me that the book was the kind of ‘Dale Carnegie’ stuff and that was something I was never fascinated about, all those quick remedies and quick firing in matters of life. I remember thanking the man for the advice and persuading him to take back his book and that I would borrow it later. But he was insistent that I have it then and read it. For, he swore that he saw his life brighter than ever before and he will not have to turn back. He was very persuasive of the value of the book and its contents. I do not have the book with me now and remember casting it somewhere soon after.

I must indeed have to mention that the poor fellow was later heard to have been chastened and disillusioned. But only after losing as substantial part of his savings and provident fund benefits which he literally squandered by following his “Bible” to the letter. Apparently he invested with some local charlatan in the latter’s business there and was squarely cheated.

A doc friend once told me that money is in fact necessary and is a vital life line. I cannot disagree for it will be pompous and silly. He also added that those who swear having no need or value for money would rue when they are penniless and their turgid statements in the twilight of their lives. For not all are lucky to have a smooth sailing into the sun set.

The important point is what is the limit of sanity in terms of wealth? And what is wealth per se?

I ‘m aroused by a comment of Warren Buffet. He said, “I know people who have lot of money and they get testimonial dinners and hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them. When you get to my age, you will measure your success in life by how many people you want to have loved you, actually do love you. That is the ultimate test of how you lived your life.”






Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Warmth of Hearts



I had a dream.
It is strange that sometimes events and people from long ago visit us in dreams. Whatever may the Freudian analysis about such episodes and of which I must confess I have no knowledge of, it is certain three things in life would stay in our subconscious- people, places and events. Perhaps flavour of good gastronomic delights too!

It is often irksome and wakes you from the deep slumber when a quiescent and pleasant dream is cut short without an end and in haze. One such happened the other night.
The genesis of the story was long ago when I was in my twenties and the three of us who were from Thpuram used to with unfailing routine meet over weekends and, breaks from work in between on other holidays. I used to travel back from Cochin where I was then placed. The meetings were generally at S’s house and we used to spend much time of the day and evenings in his room tucked away downstairs. We used to spend hours talking nothingness, women, and all nonsense under the sun. In gradual time we acquired the audacity to have a few glasses of booze as well, secluded there. All this, while two noble souls used to be sitting up above, watching television and chatting – S’s wonderful parents!

The extreme difficulty was we had to go out through the living room upstairs where his father and mother spend most of their time. So sneaking out after the few drinks was ruled out and invariably one of them caught us on the way out and we had to sit with them and politely spend sometime chatting. It was awkward to be around with them after our episodes with alcohol.But,I'm certain his father was aware of our audacity but he did never mention even in passing.

The uniqueness I have not seen in other parents was the unbridled affection and love they had for us. The difference between their son and we, his friends was something they were alien to them. It was one particular incident when B, reached the house and found his parents with a few old guests seated in the living room. When the strangers saw him behave like an  inmate and straight  into conversation and unrestrained chatter with the father and mother, one impertinent old fellow in the group eyeing him suspiciously asked the father who the fellow was. His immediate response was, “This is S’s friend and he is  like my son, rather he is my son too!”
It is beyond the capability of words to describe the pure love and feeling they maintained for us. They were not from the economically  upper-class of the society. In fact his father retired as a policeman in the common rank. His parents reared six children and we now sometimes reminisce that all the six are in very good realms of life, it is because perhaps of the nobility of hearts of the old couple.

It was on the occasion of the sixtieth birthday of B’s mother that we had a small luncheon at his house. It was during the peak of the simmering upheaval in the aftermath of my decision to marry  “C”, a catholic girl. I was there with my mother and S with his mother too. Besides us there was B and his mother. I had not met S’s mother since the news of my audacious and unconventional decision was out. She looked me straight in the face and said in an admonishing note, “You little scoundrel .Do not grin, after all that you were up to, do not keep smiling at me. You boys take pleasure in hurting us, parents and our feelings.”S and B were taken aback by the suddenness of the rebuke and its tone. My mom was affected severely and she later confided to my sister. B's mother was elegantly callous in appearance as if she did not hear the reprimand.  I was taken aback for a brief while (though it seemed like eons) by the severity of the rebuke. But after, I was feeling sublime and serene within- for her angry short expressive outburst and censure was something different from the more passive disapproval I faced from my mother who was then nonconforming in a different way to my decision. It was then and where I understood the intense power and rage of affection. I still remember the happiness in her face and how she took C by the hand and held her when I took her to S’s house after our wedding. The bond sometimes exists even when one is not tied by the superficiality of relationship.

I saw them vividly in the same living room and like I may have seen them many a time while they were alive. It was hazy as dreams often are. But then is it not the haziness and the abrupt ending of dreams such as this that makes one live with fond memories?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Agony of Noesis


                  

  “But I don’t want to go among mad people", Alice remarked
 “Oh you can’t help that “, said the Cat. “We are all mad here. I’m mad, you are mad.”
  “How do you know I’m mad?” asked Alice.
  “You must be,” said the Cat. “Or you’d not have come here”.

1975-“Unlike Hamlet there was no method in his madness if you want to believe that he was mad, because he was not mad. If he showed insanity as we call it, it was only the reaction to the incongruity with the world he lived in, the corollary to an insane world.” She said.
“I have not seen him in that state of anguish. His chirpy voice and the sprint in his steps seemed to be a memory from distant days. I was worried for him but also feared that he would make an unpleasant seen. He was in great emotion and I guessed I saw his eyes were glimmering with tear.” She paused and looked out through the window and exclaimed, “That was an unusual sight! It seemed that finally the misery of loneliness had grasped him."

I sat across on the sofa in the modestly spruced room and watched her intently. Rows of bookshelves stacked with books lined the walls aesthetically. The accolades and mementos she gained thus far adorned a couple of rows. The laurels that were awarded to her for excellence in academic and creativity in literature were enviable in display. A four feet tall bronze oil-wick lamp, the quintessence of Kerala stood in the far corner. The token of gratitude from the alumni she shepherded as the member of the faculty for thirty and five long years!

“That’s where he sat,” she pointed to the right side of the sofa in which I was seated. “I offered him some tea and he took it. He wondered if I would cook him a meal with the entire flavuors of the Kerala household and his favourite lamb curry in spicy gravy of coconut milk and coriander.” She paused and again looked out through the window. “Remember how he used to devour eggs and meat at the cafeteria in the college? The time when he gobbled twenty five iddlis in a whiff of time in that manic competition! He had not lost the lusting and intense fascination for food- spicy meat and fish.” Her eyes seemed to display moments from the long time past.The sun was frantic and ablaze, unrelenting on that midsummer afternoon. Did I notice her eyes were moist?

“I suggested that he come back another day and I would have all he wanted laid on the table. He sat still for a while not talking much, puffing away in chain the ‘Panamas’ and when I came back with some jack fruit chips, he was gone.”

She moved towards the rosewood paneled book shelf in the room, opened a tiny chest of drawer affixed to the shelf and delicately took out a book from in it. She walked by to my side and sat next to me in the sofa. I noticed her hair was graying  but her face still sparkled with elegance and charm that enchanted many of us, years ago while we were at the university. The panache was distinct as ever- in her gaze, her gestures and I noticed even in the walk back to me caressing the book as it were her pet and her soul. I sighed involuntarily; it has been thirty plus years since we were all alumni.

“ ‘Desert Spring’, this is CV’s only published work and he did the publishing himself spending a tidy sum. I did the forward to this anthology of poems.” She extended the book to me. I opened the pages and saw his elegant autograph carelessly across the forward page, ‘To the dearest friend of my youth and of all times’.

“There are many who trivialised and even rubbished this work as the clowning of an eccentric. Yes indeed you know as I do, that people branded him eccentric because he was different from the insipid and specious conventions that we, they claim as wisdom and so, inviolable”. She tapped the book and continued, “Even the poesies in this book are distinct and ricochets his mind, his persona. Because it is different from what the world likes to see can we rubbish it? His life was a statement against the frivolity of this world.” She was annoyed and incensed, I felt. She continued, she again threw her gaze outside the window and watched nowhere, “He was a bellwether friend, you will agree as you knew much about us”. She still seemed to have retained the passion to defend him, his words and his life too. Something she was adept and keen about while in our youth. Did I see a strange beauty that even anger and melancholy can display in some?

“I saw no necessity in more than a cursory glance at the small news column in The Hindu that a middle aged man, a Government officer was found dead for three days in his apartment in Palghat. The man was unmarried and staying single .It read that he apparently overdosed. It was later in the evening that I was called on the phone by a former ward to tell me that the newspaper report was on CV.” She keened   muted.
“It was only less than a month before he sat here in this very sofa and despite his stirred mental state we spoke quite a bit. He was not paranoid nor was he in a devastated state. He was probably burdened by the occasional excitement and worry we have seen often in him.  I do not think for a minute that he would overdose. I ‘m sure he died peacefully in his sleep. The annoying aspect of his self was the cigarettes he smoked. You knew very well didn’t you? Even from our old times? I confronted ,beseeched him many a time to kick the habit.” She looked down at the book she held in her hand, her slender fingers clasped around it. It seemed a tear fell on its neatly bound outer and she quietly turned her face away.

It must be true that CV would never have overdosed; it is hard to believe otherwise. For, despite the fluttering mind and instances of anguish as he seemed to display in later life, he was a person who wanted to live and live forever, to never die. The lust for life was unbounded. He used to remark while we were together at the university that a life is full and marked for ending only when there are no more books to be read, no one to author anymore and when he is barren of ideas to pen.When the mind ceases to function, to think, to create ,then it is time to depart.
For that he had a long, long way to span.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Generations to come Will Scarce Believe......"


                                       

                             “….But they killed you, the naked you,
                              Your blood with mud was gooey goo.
                              Sadist fool, you killed your body
                              Many times before this too.
                              Bapu, bapu, you big fraud, we hate you.”  (Meena Kandasamy)

Utter the phrases my opinion, freedom of expression and speech, many will pounce upon you to skin you alive before satiating their ire by guillotining you; some may be content in treating you like vermin. The above mentioned verses are from Meena Kandasamy’s anthology of poems. This poem on Gandhi was crafted by her when she was seventeen. And the poem recently fluttered and ruffled many and some turned away their gaze in disdain. For, she blasphemed Gandhi the “Mahatma”! Poet SugathaKumari refused to chair a function that she was to attend to release some works of Ms.Kandasamy. The former sighted the poem as priggery and accused Ms.Kandasamy of calumny. She lamented that such irreverence to an icon and symbol of greatness like Gandhi made it impossible for her to morally accept the invite and share the stage with Ms.Kandasamy. She, Ms. Meena Knadasamy the firebrand poet has committed a sacrilege!
I was directed by a fellow Blogger to the Google and advised to search for “The Poona Pact” to know more on Ms.Kandasamy’s premises of ire against Gandhi.

I would like to take a dispassionate view on the matter, i.e. neither pro Gandhi nor reserve expletives for him. And I do not want to accuse Ms.Kandasamy of intemperate language or of cussedness. She has certainly borrowed the strong views Ambaedkar reserved for Gandhi.  However, the allegation that Gandhi was a caste Hindu peddler, vile and masochist, out to perpetuate the dire life and social ostracisation of the untouchables or Dalit is rather a queer contention. To me it seems like aspersing motives on Nelson Mandela or Ang San Su Kui. It is also a strange allegation that Gandhi was against social emancipation of Dalit. Glancing around us would tell much about the nations born on premises of religion and administered on the theocratic Mumbo jumbo  and one could easily accede to Gandhi’s lamentation against further alienating people through partition and separate electorate based on caste. Why he acceded to the demand for separate electorate for Muslims is not understandable as the perplexing endorsement of the Khilafat movement, something that should have had no bearing on us- whether a Caliph rules the remnants of the old Ottoman Empire.

Here are the gist of the events from the past.

Poona Pact ( Sept 24, 1932), agreement between Hindu leaders in India granting new rights to untouchables( low-caste Hindu groups).The pact, signed in Poona, resulted from the communal award of Aug.4,1932, made by the British government on the failure of the India parties to agree, which allotted seats in the various legislatures of India to the different communities. Mahatma Gandhi objected to the provision of separate electorates for the scheduled (formerly “untouchables”) castes, which in his view separated them from the whole Hindu community. Though in prison, Gandhi announced a fast unto death, which he began on Sept 18.

Ambaedkar made an official demand for separate electorate system on an all-India basis. At the London Round Table Conference (II) he sparred verbally with Gandhi on the question of awarding separate electorates to untouchables. A fierce opponent of separate electorates on religious and sectarian lines, Gandhi feared that separate electorates for untouchables would divide Hindu society for future generations. “It passes my comprehension why Mr. Gandhi should stake his life on an issue arising out of the communal question which he, at the Round Table Conference, said was one of comparatively small importance.”Ambaedkar said on a later day.

Exhorting orthodox Hindu society to eliminate discrimination and untouchability, Gandhi asked for political and social unity of Hindus. Gandhi’s fast provoked great public support across India and orthodox Hindu leaders, fearing communal reprisals and killings of untouchables in the event of Gandhi’s death, Ambaedkar agreed under massive coercion from the supporters of Gandhi to drop the demand for separate electorate and settled for reservation of seats. This agreement, which saw Gandhi end his fast, in the end and achieved more representation for the untouchables, while dropping the demand for separate electorates that was promised through the British Communal Award prior to Ambaedkar’s meeting with Gandhi. The former later criticised this fast of Gandhi as a gimmick to deny political rights to the untouchables and increase the coercion he had faced to give up the demand for separate electorates.

Ambaedkar said,,”There was nothing noble in the fast. It was a foul and filthy act. The fast was not for the benefit of the Untouchables. It was against them and was the worst form of coercion against helpless people to give up the constitutional safeguards of which they have been possessed under the Prime Minister’s Award and agree to live on the mercy of the Hindus. It was vile and wicked act. How can the untouchables regard such a man as honest and sincere? Gandhi is the greatest enemy the untouchables have ever had in India.”

To circumambulate the opposing ideas of two of the greatest social reformers of the twentieth century India is to exercise incessant arguments and contentions. It is best to understand the following expression of Gandhi and leave the rest to one’s individual faculty to infer.
“I gave support to the caste system because its stands for restraint. But at present caste does not mean restraint, it means limitations. Restraint is glorious and helps to achieve freedom. But limitations are like chain, it binds. There is nothing commendable in castes as they exist to- day. They are contrary to the tenets of Shastras. The number of castes is infinite and there is a bar against intermarriage. This is not a condition of elevation. It is state of fall.” Mohandas.K.Gandhi 1925.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Rarity of Goodness


                        “With uplifted arms I cry,but no one heed;
                         From dharma flow wealth and pleasure.
                        Then why is Dharma not pursued?”- Mahabaratha

In the recent past I read a book that was recommended to me by a special friend. The book was titled “The Difficulty of Being Good”.

The title was apt and the content, the allegories, anecdotes and its analysis were quite interesting. Though it does give one a confused state of mind when the last page is done with- the moral and ethical predicament, dilemma of being good! A kind of haze I must say rather than confusion, perhaps! The book dwelled on incidents in the epic Mahabratha and juxtaposed it with real time life. Either one has to be a Machiavellian Prince and escort the practical and logical side where morality, forthrightness, ethics and compassion has no grounding. Amidst the haze and smoke, what stands out starkly is the fact of life- the difficulty of being good,the rarity, if not the impossibility.

One of my friends observed (I’m certain in disgust), that he often feels that he is not fit for this world. An arrogant optimist and egocentric that he is not, may have dissuaded him from saying that the world is not fit to have the likes of him. It would be a candid reflection too and I would have agreed the most.
So when the world around, from the past and the present provide nothing but bleak portrait and vile, ominous portents, when the fact is that it is difficult to be good and if one does, it will be at ones peril and distress, I have felt in my life affected by the goodness that we may fear to possess.  It being the placebo, the saviour and like an unsolicited hand, extend in graciousness. Those were the moments when one would believe and be convinced there is indeed goodness that prevail despite the imperiling difficulty. Something in human nature that contributes a wee bit perhaps even for the world to turn around and not disintegrate away. It can be a smile, a wink of the eye, a nod, a touch, a firm grip on the wrist a caress on the back and even more, to alleviate distress.It comes without our asking adds the flavour of manna to it.

It is inexplicable why the fear of being good does not persuade some men and women to not prefer the confined comforts of their cocooned and comparatively safe life and or even stake their comfort for another’s.

Sometimes it is difficult to narrate matters of life as in a fiction, a story. It may be too true to be fictitious and often too fictitious to be not true.

A friend staking his little fortune for you; an acquaintance that does something that make you wonder if he knew you from the past life. In most cases these may not have been necessary, even from a Good Samaritan point of view. Did someone say that no good deed goes unpunished? But yet goodness thrives amidst difficulty. And some are undeterred by the fact that goodness sowed does not reap a bounty in return.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Grumpy Old Men




 Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.'
You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.”


“Are you scared of his foibles? ‘He asked.                                                                                                           “No, I’m not, I’m afraid.” I replied. “What about you?”
“Well sometimes it is awful. You know his temperament, his mood swings. It is fickle and unpredictable as the weather up in the mountains.”
“That indeed is quite like his fascinations for the higher reaches.” I suggested.

We were not alone by the waterfront. The wharf was about fifty odd meters to our right and the ferries that connected the main land - the city to the island were faithfully berthing, dropping off the passengers and picking the new lot for the return journey to the mainland. The sun had set behind us and the last remnant rays was splashing reddish orange array in the sky and on the expanse of water in front.  A huge steamer cargo ship was leaving the sanctuary of the inland harbor and gently sailing out into the vast ocean. The gulls were having a feast of a time as few fishing vessels were returning with the days catch on board and it was abundant viands for them. There were a few people around on the granite benches silently basking the dusk.

For a moment I reminisced the golden days of yore when faithfully some of us used to ride down on our motor cycles and sat there till late night; often fooling the beat policeman and drinking rum and beer   aided by the shadows of the late evening. We used to display absolute innocence when the police man came about us with a skeptical look and curious about our intentions of being there. For it was not quite natural to see youngsters sitting quiet, enjoying the dusk and the cool breeze from the lake. Later in the night we used to descend on the kiosk run by the old Anglo Indian gentleman and devoured baatooras and spicy meat curry. That gastronomic exercise was immensely delightful to me as he always served pork in spicy gravy.

“What I find unfortunate is his belligerence in face of nothing, in face of matters that are trivial and has to be seen so. He has to cope with situations, be it son, daughter or wife; even the insipid ones in his work place.” He continued after a pause. “I told him, warned him that unless he takes things as we all does he will end up making much ado  and fret about nothing.”

“Well, the origin of all his obduracy stems from the fact that he cannot sit quiet and accept something that is against his wish, what he says. It is often the cantankerous obstinacy of a child. And that seldom discriminates between spouse, friend or stranger. It takes away the sheen in his person. The side of his that is mellowed, emotional and a mind that attaches much for romanticism and sentimental matters in relationships, things and events; a person who genuinely cares but fails to ably say so. You know.” I paused and  leaned forward to watch a tenacious gull fish out a catch and fly away. “I often exclaim to myself it may only be possible to see him as he is and be content to treasure the better side of his person than the vitiated. In fact it is undeniable that we all have idiosyncrasies that are unique to us. ”
“True but he makes it a habit to remind us about what we would like to not see.” He moaned.

It was quite dark by now and the stars had begun to glitter. The sky was clear and the air had a nip. The smell of the waters of the lake had a distinct freshness, of the fishes, and of the life in it. The distant sound of the motor of a ferry ebbed away. There was a lone fisher man in his tiny skiff sitting patiently after casting the net.

“He is a confused fella, I’m sure. And the bottom line is he lacks  or do not show the guts and gumption. He hopes to cover that limitation by flexing his chest.” He continued. “As a matter of fact, I ignore such tantrums. That is the only way. He has sworn after me a few occasions. He announced that he struck me off his list of pals. He feels that he had made a mistake by seeing me as a friend.” He smiled when he finished and clapped his hands in a casual gesture.

“Oh, holy mother of God, that is fantastic realization- and that to come after thirty years and more of bonhomie!” I exclaimed. “And it is these aberrations that make him lovable and makes him he.”







Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Agony of ECG




The first time it happened was long ago. It was a few weeks before my marriage that I decided to book in at a city hospital in Kochi for a general medical check. With the quite an indulgent living it was wise to have a background checks of self before pulling another person on board. Besides, a couple of deaths of people I was acquainted with persuaded me to go in for the checkup. One guy died in his late twenties after a cardiac arrest from the blue and another collapsed a few months after his marriage. Pretty un nerving isn’t it?
Well, so there I was on a balmy morning in Kochi - walked into the hospital and the nurse promptly took me to the physician who was in charge. After the regular questionnaires like history of smoking, alcohol consumption, dietary habits, work out, family history of ailments etc.  , I was asked to do a few tests like x-ray, ECG, and blood analysis.

I have not ever before gone for such tests as far as I could remember except once or twice for a basic blood analysis after being down with viral fever.  The moment of revelation happened in the ECG room. It was a pretty beautiful lass who was in charge of the ECG. She asked me to take off my shirt and lay on the couch, which I obliged with the least reluctance. But the miserable part came later when she decided that the hair on my chest was a hindrance for an accurate cardiogram. She took out a razor and applied some disinfectant solution and began a deft shaving exercise. Pretty awkward .It was not because a lass was doing that but the cold blade and her deftness was unleashing goose bumps. It was perhaps the most awkward moment of my life. Still worse was to come. Once she finished the exercise she began to apply   cold gel on certain points of my torso, arms and legs where she was to plant the electrodes. The application of the cold gel was dreadful torture. I was desperately trying to avoid goose bumps. I was afraid that such a physical display on  the skin  and hair -outrage will not be seen as a civilized reaction and she may take me for a dissipated.

Quite oddly it reminded me of the Hollywood film, "Whose Life is it Anyway". The misery the protagonist,  the paraplegic sculptor was riddled with lying helplessly in his hospital bed with a buxom and beautiful female doctor who attends to him.Though here it was sheer misery from the cold applications and nothing to do about amorous ideas.

I was yanking, eyes shut , grinding my teeth, biting my tongue in my mouth , clenching my fist , well, well, it is difficult to explain any convincingly my most miserable and undesirable moment of living. I cursed the unholy hour I thought of the idea of the ridiculous medical check.  The ECG done, I was peeved at myself and sheepish to look at the pretty woman. As I virtually sneaked out timorously from there I swore, no more ECG even if that leads to Armageddon.

The office where I worked those days was almost a stone throw from the hospital and that ensured that I ran into the pretty nurse almost every day. I always felt that she recognized me and her expression would only tell one thing to me-that I’m a gauche and a moron. I felt awkward to look her in the face and would turn my head the other way and speed off on my motor bike. I always felt when ever sees me she would remember my stupid moments of that day.

The pathetic part of my flirtation with ECG is that I have undergone the test quite a few times after that day, during the regular medical checks and the torture was repeated almost all the time. The worst part was when once it was a man who was the technician and to my horror the goddamn goose bumps was not discriminating between women and men. It was the gel that was cold and ticklish and was too much to handle.  It was a far greater misery because I feared the fellow might notice the changes on my skin and may get the stupid idea that I was titillated by touch and that I was gay.