Rhetorical is the word

How often does someone ask you a question for which the someone actually expects no answer? I recently read a friend’s blog about rhetorical questions and, interestingly enough, the following day I was witness to an overload of the same, unfathomable and inexplicable rhetorical overdose.

It was a Wednesday morning and I stirred awake reluctantly. My roommate knew I had a crucial graded presentation for the 9.15 class and yet she asked me, “Are you going to sleep the entire day?” Rhetorical question exhibit A. It simply meant — don’t be late. I reached the mess in time for breakfast and asked if breakfast was ready. Now that apparently was a rhetorical question to them. When are things ever ready on time?

Boiled egg in one hand and laptop in the other I clumsily trotted in to class. The professor called out our names and asked us, “Are you ready to present? Prepared well?” With 30 per cent of evaluation hinging on this one presentation, what did he expect for an answer? Post our presentation, my professor explained a mathematical model to the class half stressed out and fully perplexed by the cumbersome math and asked them — “Now, wasn’t that simple?” Which meant — “This model is extremely simple for statisticians; work harder if you can’t follow this”.

Lunch time, I ordered paneer: The dish as always was floating in oil and just as I was about to start eating, a friend walked past, looked at my plate and said, “Hey aren’t you watching your weight?” Now, notice that I did not ask her for her opinion. Yet she insisted in giving me her two cents — stop eating such oily food else you will bloat. The day was just getting better — it was as if I was in a crash course called “learn all the rhetorical questioning techniques in 24 hours”.

That afternoon, perhaps a reaction to having got over the presentation, I had a two-hour nap. I woke up to a misty evening, typical of Kozhikode, with the valleys ever so pretty. I decided to take a walk and met my professor on the way down; she seemed happy too and asked me “Such lovely weather isn’t it?” It might have been the umpteenth rhetorical question that day but this time I couldn’t agree with her more.

Later that evening, my friends and I decided to go out for dinner to a friendly neighbourhood dhaba. Barely seated, I ordered every second dish on the verbal menu that bhaiyya offered and he could just about contain his laughter as I said “two of these, three of that, two of those too and a bunch of rotis”. My friend looked at me and remarked, “how hungry are you?” And I obviously didn’t have to answer that either. This was in keeping with the trend of the day.

And finally, beautiful start-studded night at the campus: My friend with star gazing as a hobby set up his terrestrial telescope with much precision and invited me to take a look. Spellbound, I cannot take my eyes off the Cassiopeia along with the bright Jupiter; I asked myself “Isn’t that the prettiest sight? Can it get any prettier?” I didn’t need an answer, nor was I searching for one.

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