Touch. It is perhaps the most deceptive word in any language. On the face of it, it is all about the surface, but in reality, it digs into your depths.
'Touch' is a word that denotes the most superficial and harmless of acts, physically speaking, yet it invariably acts like a ladle that plunges deep into your mind or body and stirs your insides, bringing to the surface what is hidden deep inside and sending to the bottom what floats on the surface.
The touch of a live electric wire can kill a man, while the touch of a woman he desires can bring a dead man alive. On the other hand, the accidental touch of shoulders between a man and a woman deeply desiring each other but who have not yet touched each other so far can electrify the atmosphere -- be it a crowded bus or a claustrophobic elevator or the hallowed corridor in the workplace.
When you have to pacify a child who has not done well in the exams or has lost a football match, you begin with a touch. When you want to console a friend for a death in his or her family, you gently place your hand on the shoulder. The touch has always the desired effect as long as it is an honest one: the feelings permeate the flesh and the bones and reach the desired destination that is located deep inside.
Even in bed, the wildest of actions begin with a touch. She may be well aware what is on your mind, and you may have a fair idea what's on her mind too (or else why'd she be there in the first place?), but you still have to follow the protocol of 'touch'. Doesn't matter if the fingers touch the fingers, toes touch the toes, shoulder touches the shoulder, or something else touches something else. But touch one must. Or else what is the difference between a dog who will make a dash for the mutton biryani at a buffet, and a human who will first have some soup (even if he is not used to having soups), then lift a plate and queue up and allow some biryani to be served onto it?
Once the biryani is on the plate, it does not matter how you eat it: like a dog or a human. But if you are a human, you have to go through the drill of touching, in this case a warm ceramic plate.
Today, most of us have everything we need on our platter, yet we lack -- and crave for -- the basic thing that stokes wants in life: the touch. It is not as if touch is in short supply. Touch, in fact, is in abundance. You only have to stretch out your hand to touch or to be touched. But elusive, forever, is the touch you most crave for, and the object you most want to touch.
Why did I write about 'touch' tonight?
This morning, I went to Sholinganallur, a township on the outskirts of Chennai. In the peak-hour traffic, I noticed a bike snailing alongside my car. Astride it was a young, handsome couple. Since I do not drive and like to be on the backseat smoking a cigarette and watching the world go past, I had the luxury of taking a close look at the couple. In spite of his helmet, I could tell that the man was in his late 20's. He was well-built. The woman on the pillion was just my kind of woman: a dizzying beauty who perhaps did not have a mirror at home to tell her what a head-turner she was. She sat rather awkwardly on the bike, squinting under the sun. I almost held open the door for her, "Babe, just step in." But the words that actually escaped my breath were, "Wow, what a couple!"
The traffic began to move. So did the bike. That's when it struck me: they were not a couple. The woman, all through the bike ride, had just one preoccupation: not to let her breasts touch the man's back. The traffic came to a sudden halt every now and then, but she held on tightly to the grip at the backseat to save her chest from the man driving her. Finally, at one traffic junction, when the red light was still on, she climbed down from the bike and waved goodbye to the man. The man smiled and waved back and became part of the general traffic: my eyes were no longer following him.
But the eyes at the back of my mind still followed the woman, who was now long lost behind in the chaos. Who was she? What did she really mean to the man who had just transported her from point A to point B? One could spend a lifetime guessing that, but one thing is sure: the woman had ensured to keep something completely out of the way -- the touch. And that goes on to show the importance of a touch in human lives and the kind of things it can trigger, even if accidental.