Itches and scratches

Perhaps, no other bodily sensation may be able to compete with an itch, medically known as pruritus, in demanding immediate attention — a scratch.

Where there is an itch, there will be a scratch. “Happiness is having a scratch for every itch.” What a gem! In one of his delectable comedic slices, Charlie Chaplin, while sleeping with his shoes on, would scratch the sole of the shoe involuntarily, and continue to sleep with smug satisfaction.

Though one has to scratch to tend to an itch, people react differently to it, depending on their upbringing. The one at the top is performed globally at the back of the head, when a student or guilty husband is foxed by the question the teacher or wife would ask, when they know the answers themselves.

During the times when money was not electronically transferred in a jiffy, negotiable instruments like cheques and demand drafts were sent, the simplest being money orders. Some postmen delivering a money order, after handing over the cash craftily including small notes, would scratch the nape of his neck for his commission. Ask any man, “did you shave today?” His rapid reaction would be to feel his cheeks and chin, followed by an investigative scratch.

For the sheer delight of knowing the extent of satisfaction a scratch gives even to an animal, one should watch a dog. Its paw will do the honours. Squatting on its haunches, it would lift one of the forelegs in a yogic pose, and scratch the spot that itched. The intensity of canine expressions of satisfaction would vary from one dog to another, it would also vary on time and place. Once the session is over, it would stand up, go around in small circles, wagging the tail, in a self-adulation.

One can merely scratch the surface while satisfying an itch. No book on etiquette will condone scratching in polite company, especially in the presence of ladies.

It is an art to smother it with a finger. Many newsreaders who have to perform before TV cameras, may do it when they know that Camera No 1 is not on, and the voice-over stories are streaming. I wonder whether any spray is available to nip the itch in the bud when the tip of the nose and the adjoining areas itch.

Among the performing artistes I look at awe are the Kathakali performers, who, having spent hours for the makeup, must remain impervious to the calls for a scratch on the face during a spirited performance. But a scratch is not always a solution for an itch.

Universally, if the palm of those who are expecting money (no doubt in cash), itches, a scratch will not work. But ‘to insure prompt service,’ TIPS in short, or a liberal “grease” on the palm, will!

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