We were at a restaurant where the lighting was muted, the forks and spoons polished silver and the waiter had the air of an artist about to deliver his masterpiece. Here, if my shoes were off, the waiter’s nose would have turned up another two inches.
We ordered our food and sat back making polite conversation in hushed tones. Everything around floated, shimmered and a sense of being entitled prevailed on the tables. Our appetiser arrived, a two inch tidbit placed in the middle of a 14 inch plate.
We were about to tuck-in when a loud noise erupted through the hall scandalising every eater. All forks stopped in mid motion. Somebody had loudly burped. Everybody tried lo look around discreetly to spot the culprit. Our table thought it was the man on the left, a walrus-looking creature whose beetroot red face and shifty demeanour gave away his crime.
Then almost on an invisible cue the chatter resumed and the dining continued as if nothing had happened. When I went back home I thought about how all of us have coached our burps to be silent. When we feel that bit of air about to explode out of our mouths we beat it down to a quiet submission down our throats.
Very often, these burps come flavoured. You may remember the taste of the garlic vada pau you had in the morning or the flavour of a bitter beer in the afternoon. I wonder why it is socially unacceptable to let go of a loud one after a meal? A few people I have met claim that it is as satisfying to give a loud belch from a belly-busting meal as eating one.
A burp is basically extra gas forced out of the stomach, up through the oesophagus and released through the mouth. It’s probably healthy for us to let go of all this, yet, we hold it in, a silent secret that will die shamefully in our bodies.
There are so many natural habits we have to hide for the sake of keeping up appearances. Farting, picking the food stuck in our teeth, scratching an itchy head, smelling our armpit, digging our nose.
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It’s not that we don’t do any of this, we do, but in the privacy of our bathrooms or our rooms, away from other eyes. I wonder if the world would have been a different place if we were allowed to do what our natural bodies wanted. Would we be less fake? Would we accept people as they are? Would we be less judgemental?
I am not sure, but I think, at least, our selfies would look different and just for that, perhaps, we should all burp uninhibitedly in unison after every meal.
'Still Figuring It Out’ a funny, sad, questioning take on adulthood will appear every Saturday on Asianet Newsable. Arathi Menon is the author of Leaving Home With Half a Fridge, a memoir published by Pan Macmillan. She tweets at here. The views expressed here are her own
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 7:01 PM IST