In the drama that is life, tiny fluffs of happiness snowball into our routines and leave behind puddles of amusement. Cheap thrills, let’s call them, for lack of a better term.
The last squirt of toothpaste on the brush after squeezing the tube with both hands and teeth make for a triumphant start of the day, like nothing can push you down. When you’re able to get that corn kernel unstuck from the last molar with your tongue, the joy is immense. The bubbles from the body wash, when the tight pants fit, when you find some cash in an old pair of jeans, when the restaurant forgets to bill that extra soda, a good hair day, when a song defines the meaning of life, epiphanies, getting that sneeze out, and growing up enough to not care about the unravelling strings of the quilt. Happiness, no?
V believes in getting these jolts of pleasure from cooked rice. “I place my fingers a few centimetres over hot rice and it feels like my nerves are being peeled back. It’s not a painful experience, just a curiously weird one.” V loves the winter just so she can feel warm under the blankets. So the warm rice is a piece of heaven for her.
L—as far as one can see and hear— loves food. She wants to eat K’s food during class but he refuses to share until lunch break. It’s no surprise that her happy ending is a clean plate. “You know, there’s that last piece of roti, na? I love it when I can clear off the entire plate with that piece. It makes me very satisfied,” she says, smiling, just thinking about it.
It isn’t often that we get to meet one or two oddballs whose oddness, maybe, becomes a surprisingly integral part of one’s life. “I get so excited when videos of cleaning ears pop up on YouTube.” It’s a testament to the strength of their friendship that N didn’t even bat her eyes at S’s admission. S continued, “They pull out so much ear wax from people’s ears,” she exclaimed, chortling. N is influenced by what she wears underneath her clothes. I’m not talking about fancy lingerie, but Jockey bikini cut panties. “I iron them and wear those hot cotton panties. They make my skin feel so good. You should try it,” she tells me, her voice conveying how much she wished for some hot cotton right then.
“What are your cheap thrills?”
“What do you mean?” A little befuddlement at the term.
“Happiness. Happiness that comes cheap and hits you in unexpected ways. Stupid things that make you happy. It’s usually meant in a sexual way, but I’m not asking for that.”
For M, it’s doodling proper little pigs. For R, it’s smelling glue and warm paper in new books. For G, it’s removing stains from a white wash basin.
It may be a little embarrassing to talk about private obsessions that revolve around morning ablutions, but Professor J didn’t hesitate. “I like to look into the commode one last time before flushing. It is cathartic”
“It’s watching videos of little kids sucking on a lemon for the first time. Their parents give them lemon juice or the entire lemon, and you should see their faces,” Q laughs. She is gleeful at the babies’ expense, and so is everyone around her.
After a lot of persuasion, Professor Z revealed that his amusement had its roots in the Amar Chitra Katha comics. “When I was a child, I was fascinated with how women’s backs were drawn in them.” Not now? “Aho! Not now. Look at this woman judging me,” he bellowed to K.
Professor E may deny that he’s said this, but he enjoys sleeping in random places, or even when he’s standing. “It’s my fantasy to fall asleep in class all of a sudden while I’m teaching, you know. Just fall down and no one should disturb me. And I’ll be wondering about what the students would be thinking. Of course I wouldn’t do it, but it’s a nice thing to think about.” He also finds it amusing when he discovers books in the most random places. He admitted to one incident where he found a book in his shoe rack.
“I would take pleasure in licking cement railings after the rain. Not the metal ones, before them there were cement railings. I’d try to take in the smell of rain and mud,” said Professor A, looking a little hesitant.
The best thing that can induce happiness for O is something that has surely made everyone thank the lords that they woke up on time. “I feel like I’m actually peeing but then that’s just a dream. Then I wake up and use the loo and it’s the bestest feeling ever. Makes me want to dream of peeing more.”
“Something weird, is it? I don’t know about this, but, well, I like taking pictures, endless pictures, of dogs sleeping on the streets or on railway platforms. It’s quite beautiful that they trust human beings so much, and trust them not to be hurtful,” said Professor C. He seemed wistful and wished he could emulate them as well.
“It’s removing your heels after wearing it for a long time. The floor on your bare feet is strangely flat.”
“It’s cleaning out the biggest booger in my nose.”
“Removing nail paint from the smallest corner of my toe nails.”
“Scraping wax off a table.”
“Extracting dirt from under my short nails.”
Who said everything now has a price?
Illustrations: Vismaya Vishwa