It was in the good olden days. A milkmaid used to turn up in front of our house around six in the morning with a gang of buffaloes en-route to the grazing grounds. For our sake she used to stop by and milk one of her buffaloes at random. She used to shout out for a glass of water to wash the udder before milking. I was seven then. Waiting for the can of milk to be filled up, I used to wonder how she could figure out which buffalo was who, when she called them by name. But to me all buffaloes looked alike till date. Maybe it was a puzzle to the lay outsiders and first timers. When she had to live with buffaloes 24/7, such problems should not arise in her case, I realized with hindsight. Then, it is easier to pick up the distinguishing features of an animal individually, when rapport is built overtime to be able to know personally their distinct expressions at different times of the day.
Similar incomprehension dawned on me when I was watching TV during a reality show aired recently. It was a musical competition for youngsters, and they were doing so well with the exciting numbers in front of the camera. Off and on, the lens veered to catch a glimpse or two of the cross-section audience. But the faces in focus seemed to be made of granite. So was with their limbs. They all looked alike, in all their somberness, as if it was a funeral show watched live. I thought, maybe they were deeply absorbed in the lyrics, not to pulsate with the ebullient music score or the exciting vocal cords of those budding singers. Or they did not want to encourage young singers by giving away their true appreciation, lest they got overconfident. I for one was either tapping my feet, cooing or gyrating in the sofa as though I was trying to egg on, or communicate or otherwise acknowledge those budding singers rather from my living room.
I saw similar shows aired through other language channels but it was a very different story altogether. Here the audiences were on their feet irrespective of their age and girth, mingling with the scenes or attitudes around like one. Still, the former set of audiences when they go home, must be very mobile in their facial expressions in front of the family including friends, such as when they are angered, loved, or otherwise moved. The problem arises only in public places especially in front of cameras. Lo, the Stiff Upper Lip Syndrome catches on.
Then I wondered fleetingly, if the school curriculum had better introduced the art of positive posturing in public places. But it dawned on me that the extent of projection of one’s inner mind through face and limbs varies across cultures, regions, sexes or age. One cannot set a standard for the same. This problem of identifying people by their defining characteristics haunted me to no end.
In an English movie that I watched, an actor who won an Oscar seemed to me so much stony-faced to make me wonder why he won in the first place. Maybe the skit or background score magnified the acting prowess on screen. Alas, in local cinema, Best Actor should be throwing a fit or two in histrionics department. I cajoled myself thus: at Oscars they might be seeing how best an actor controlled ‘the overkill’ itch in spite of himself or herself.
Finally, on my grandson’s birth, I visited the Children’s Ward for the second time. I had a tough time recognizing him among all the darlings. As adults we grow features like beards, scars, etc. which spot us out, silly. On the contrary, our politicians lack apt facial or body expressions to reflect their true character. Probably, it is the reason why some foreign reporters tend to misjudge us by the looks, as being very coy, whereas it was not to be so. Boy, ask the opposition or family for that matter!