Oodles Of Ketchup In Daily Conversation

2021-11-21, 11:22am Op-Ed

sudhirendar-sharma-7515aeceefd93189db931a7052b4e6141637472179.jpg

Sudhirendar Sharma

Sudhirendar Sharma

Is anyone ever taught and trained to be abusive? Yet, who misses the slightest of provocation to expose the other side in us. One such abusive session that I have been witness to is worth mentioning. For the slightest of the design flaws, the loose-limbed editor Vinod Mehta would hurl the choicest of abuses before resigning to his chamber to pen editorial for the next edition of The Pioneer. Neither would bad blood spill on the floor nor would it brood insurgency in the office, the high voltage session would end soon with everyone resuming their respective duties. Rarely if ever this not-so-frequent event would get discussed during coffee breaks. It was indeed a ritual that must have carried therapeutic value for the 'abuser' and as much unpleasant respite for the 'victim'.

anger.

For me, each abusive duel offers fresh insights on the subject. And there is no end to it in our daily lives, be it in our offices, on the street, and now increasingly on the online platforms. Content creators on the internet feel that restricting characters to be civilized hampers free-flowing, realistic storytelling on these platforms. Without digging any further into such assertion, there is little denying that every human carries this innate skill to use the abuse on cognitive demand. Whatever be the reason for the former Philippine President Duterte to use angry expletives while addressing then US President Obama some seasons ago, one thing remains clear that an abuse is a cross-cultural trans-national human trait with no less potent possibilities.  

Curiously, have restrictions ever been posed on anyone to be abusive? Instead, the entire social ecosystem is rich with suggestions to be up with the latest in the abusive thesaurus - from the neighbors, in the classroom, and even now from political figureheads. Though rarely acknowledged by the law, verbal abuse has remained an unwritten human right. Anyone who hasn't exercised this right is unlikely to be normal, so it is thought. And, seemingly so! Else, husbands and wives won't abuse each other to be close and cozy again. It isn't as much a psychological issue as perhaps it often is made into. Try asking Newton and he would say 'it conforms to my third law' - 'to every action there is an equal but opposite reaction'.

There’s an Arabic Bedouin maxim, 'Abuses are signs that the bond is deep and strong.' Similarly, a long North African proverb of Tunisia states that “those who don’t abuse occasionally are as dry as a piece of wood in the desert. They die friendless.' Now, this is the most interesting proverbial observation that those who don’t abuse, die friendless. Utter this before any true-blue Haryanvi or Punjabi and he’ll latch onto it because in northern India, abuses are like oodles of ketchup on the food of conversation. Unless it spills over to being violent, I consider verbal abuse to be an ingenious human trait. Since it cuts across all cultures and each social strata, it surely comes packaged with our existence that we have no option but to live with.         

Unlike any other human expression, the echo of a verbal abuse lingers longer than the resonance of a few good words. It hurts longer than any physical injury, piercing through the calm confines of one's inner self days on end. The trouble is that unless it is rebuffed there and then, its tone and tenor disturbingly persists. As both sides are often abusive at the same time, each serve receives an equally smart volley from the other end. If nothing, it helps soothe nerves and calm tempers. Vexed by circumstances beyond our control, toss a few abuses into the air and feel the difference. The best part is that one could either be an abuser or a victim under a given situation, and the roles can easily get reversed too.  

As verbal tirade dissipates destructive energy, the mind, body and soul return to a much-desired equilibrium. No wonder, in many cultures for the fun of it grandparents offer tutorials to kids on being abusive! At the end of it, verbal abuse could be as much a vice as a virtue. Subject to how it gets used - though rarely people exercise control when they are embroiled in it - it could easily be tried as a tool to control acrimony between people. I often wonder if anyone would consider creating 'abuse clubs' in line with the 'laughter clubs' that we have. This is a therapy whose potential has yet to be fully exploited. I wonder what might have been the outcome had Bush and Saddam engaged in a verbal dual? Who knows, war may have been avoided!

Sudhirendar Sharma is a writer and researcher specializing in development issues. He is based in New Delhi, India)

First published in Outlook on Nov 19, 2021.