Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Giggling girls

All teachers have idiosyncrasies which pupils love to note, mimic and remember long after all their teaching has been forgotten. I have my own share of them. Frowning when the girls, as is their wont, were giggling away to glory among themselves in class, I asked ‘Who laughs over nothing at all?’ and they replied on cue, without a shade of embarrassment, ‘Madmen and chimpanzees!’ as they had heard me observe a hundred times. I recalled a teacher in their school, long retired, who used to say ‘These girls can fall off their benches tittering if they see a leaf fall…’

And the thought struck me that when you see women – who were girls ten or twenty years ago – on the roads, they almost invariably wear grim and forbidding expressions, as if they are disgusted with the world, and cannot think of anything that could make them smile, leave alone laugh. The contrast is so sharp that I wonder many more people don’t notice and comment on it. Why does it happen? I have a little theory of my own. Since overdoing anything is the surest way to grow sick of it, maybe the grimness of adult life comes in reaction to all the hysterical, mindless giggling through teenage? Maybe we should laugh a little less when we  are young so that we can go on laughing now and then all through life?

7 comments:

Shilpi said...

I'm sort raising my eyebrow with that 'on cue response' from the giggling girls. I can see you frowning and can almost hear the girls giggling and tittering and tossing that response out too. I wonder why they'd been giggling. I'd ask them, 'So what's so terribly funny?!"

But then again I remember being a giggling girl only too well. And the fits would hit especially when it was forbidden to laugh - like in morning assembly. I think it was in Class X that I had a band-aid right across the bridge of my nose and was standing solemnly in the assembly line when our then class teacher was breezing by, stopped in front of me, examined my face and said something to the effect of, "Had fun boxing, Shilpi?" and then she breezed off without even giving me the chance to respond. For the entire assembly I was standing there giggling away to glory and with tears streaming down my face...I had to summon all the serious and sad thoughts and all the terrible agony in this world to stop myself from bursting out into noisier fits...and I have no idea why I was so tickled. Giggling girl in the assembly line.

....and it happened quite often in class too. But sometimes girls would giggle over remarkably silly things - like the girls who'd been giggling away noisily when a bit on fish reproduction was being taught in class IX. The Bio teacher who was a no-nonsensical teacher told the offending girls to get out of the class if they couldn't stop giggling (and no, I hadn't been one of the noisy gigglers in this instance).

As for your theory - I second you on that one. In fact I think the hysterical gigglers grow up to be very solemn and terribly grum (grim and glum) the older they grow....I was in danger of becoming one myself by this age, so I should know.....

Shilpi said...

Ooops. It was a broad piece of white sticking plaster across the bridge of the nose! Not a band-aid...

And I can't help wondering while I'm typing: what other idiosyncrasies do your students love to note and mimic...?

ginger candy said...

Dear Sir,

I have often noticed this myself, and like you, I too have wondered what drives these grinning teenagers into a steadily escalating condition of grimness in a very short period of time. My experience, however, has mostly been with boys than with girls, although you are absolutely right in saying that it's in the fairer sex that this change is more discernible. Most of the boys in my hostel were cheerful, energetic, fun-loving and interesting (well, at least some of them were). Five years down the line, alas, the same folks have turned into the most boring, gloomy and sad bunch of people you can ever meet. Self-confessed movie buffs hardly watch movies anymore, and the same goes for rock music fans and literature enthusiasts. When we meet up, they have nothing else to discuss other than the latest models of cars or phones or real estate or equally mundane stuff like that (nostalgia eventually saves the day). On the surface, there's no obvious reason for getting the life sucked out of them; all of them have well-paying jobs, they carry very little responsibility over their shoulders and they don't suffer from any long-term physical ailment. What is it then, I often wonder, that has turned them into such pitiful, bleak people from the cheery boys they were just five years ago?

Thanks,
Joydeep

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I strongly believe it comes from growing up through pampered, over-protected childhoods and feeding on absurd dreams of fame, fortune and glory, Joydeep, so that when they suddenly come up bang against all the drabness, drudgery and pettiness of adult reality as it is in most ordinary lives, all their mirth (which was little more than idle teenage hysteria) cannot help drying up suddenly. The cure lies in much better parenting - never mollycoddling youngsters, yet filling their minds with bold and glad anticipation of the future, based on a strong and sober faith in themselves. Alas, few parents have the faintest idea of how to do that! Indeed, today's parents are the worst there have ever been: they think that their responsibility stops at paying for all kinds of coaching classes, which will teach their kids not just a bit of English and math and how to get into engineering college, but even how to live meaningful lives...

ginger candy said...

You are absolutely right, Sir. Pampered childhood, coupled with chasing unrealistic dreams take a toll on people at a young age. I am surprised to find distinct signs of aging so early among my friends, ranging from pot belly to baldness to white hair and what have you. As if physical signs of aging aren't bad enough, most of them age mentally equally fast, so that by the time they hit thirty they have nothing else on their minds except repaying EMIs and shopping for new gizmos. Pampered childhood combined with general improvement in India's economic condition have left our generation with very little responsibility; our middle-class parents' generation had to take care of their sister's marriage, brother's education and such things once they began working. Our generation, free from such burden, have taken it upon themselves to get married within one or two years of graduation. These people, at 25, still retain the maturity and IQ of a 15 year old, and are not at all prepared to face the responsibility that marriage entails. I shudder to think how our next generation will turn out to be.

Thanks,
Joydeep

Noodle said...

I am going hahahahaha at the moment. No, it’s a hehehehe to be honest. “Maybe we should laugh a little less when we are young, so we can go on laughing now and then all through life?” I am not sure I agree, sir. How I wish I could get those simple ‘madmen and chimpanzee’ days back. It didn’t take much to feel happy then. With age a certain level of cynicism has set in; as a 27 year old I need a very good reason to be amused, and god forbid if it’s flimsy.
Difficult to please IS what we become and I am not sure if that is growing up. Had I giggled a little less as a teenager to save up my similes for the future, I would have probably ended up a glum youngster and an even morose hag. The leaf does not make me titter anymore, but would I really mind if it could?! I wonder.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

All I shall recommend to you, Chitra, is any job that requires you to deal with hysteric female teenagers day in, day out, for several years at a stretch.

True humour, if you have it at all, never dies with age but becomes deeper, richer, finer. Biographies of Socrates, Lincoln, Gandhi and Bertrand Russell will bear me out. You might even look at the quotation that is a fixture at the top of this blog. And finally, you might consider that I am pushing 50 myself, and I see far more fun in life and living today than I did as a boy...