Friday, December 31, 2010


A Sneeze is like love. It can catch you off guard. You wouldn't know what caused it in the first instance. You may have to kill time mercilessly, if you have it that is, muse and ponder over the suddenness of it all, groping for the reason. Of course you can find out what caused the sneeze if you try a bit harder, just as you might be able to understand why love whelmed you. Just like love a sneeze can slowly sweep you off your feet as well. Theres a build-up to it. You feel it growing inside of you leading to that tickle in the nose and finally to that "hih...heh...huh-t-choo" release. Like love a sneeze can also be stifled. And sometimes much to your distress you realise that its not in your hands. Try as you might, you find it hard to stifle a sneeze. Just as you might fall in love even after avoiding it for long.
Dear reader, this post is essentially about sneeze. Hence I will stop here the analogy between love and sneeze but go ahead with my expositon on sneezing. You can continue, I beg you to continue, but I have forewarned you!
A sneeze is usually preceded by whats commonly called a pre-sneeze expression. You might have noticed a person standing with his head slightly tilted backwards, half-open mouth, half-shut eyes looking as if focusing on something distant. Well, thats classic pre-sneeze expression. Its caused by a ticklish nose and I reckon that the mind of the about-to-become sneezer would be thinking as to how to look less silly if sneeze vanishes. It can happen, you know. You grandly pose with that about-to sneeze expression and suddenly realise that sneeze has royally ditched you, for reasons unknown. You feel as if you overhyped your own sneeze! And you feel mortified and silly.
Theres a variety of ways in which a person can sneeze and make that inimitable sound-noise or music, chose your word, my dear reader! It can be a masculine sneeze or a feminine sneeze not necessarily by the respective gender. I hope you got what I mean. A delicate looking, fair, lovely lass might raise a hand to her mouth and powerfully sneeze with a particularly loud AH-ECKOO--TSSCHOO, a sneeze so forceful that it might rock her forward slightly.
And a well-built, hunk of a man might sneeze with a short, relatively noiseless atchoo!
Sneeze varies from person to person. From high-pitched CHEW! to soft sort of a sneeze to nearly-inaudible stifles to enormous, uncovered, unstoppable explosions in the form of multiple sneezes. But in my opinion they can be broadly divided in to two types. Dry sneeze and wet sneeze. A dry sneeze is, as the name suggests fortunately or unfortunately dry. You won't get any output here. No watery snot or mucus. Allergy, dust, and in South Indian homes like mine, preparation of rasam powder can cause dry sneeze in people who happen to pass within a 2 km radius! A wet sneeze is as a result of cold in most cases. But in recent days bollywood movies as well as Ekta Kapoor have also been found to cause a running nose which ultimately leads to a wet sneeze. Heavy nose blowing is observed along with wet sneezes. Mucus and phlegm tend to get collected on the clothes of the sneezer or in the hanky of the sneezer, if he is using, or on the person standing opposite the sneezer.
Now we come to the reactions to a sneeze by the sneezer. I am tempted to state that you can define a man's character by the way he handles a sneeze. I will not go that far!(3)
One way of handling a sneeze is just to sneeze. You know, just achoo, atchoo, achew, or atishoo or whatever variety you are capable of producing. If you take the photo of a person against a dark background while he sneezes you can capture the bioparticles like in the following photograph. (Sorry, about the logo).
If you cover the face of the man and ignore the logo, dont you think it looks like a group of tiny asteroids in space! Cosmos to errrr....nano, may be.
Going back to sneeze, this is I guess the most common way of sneezing. Open sneeze.
Next when you have handkerchief or a wad of tissues or a cupped hand. When a medium is used you get a muffled sound from the sneezer. Here a person spreads the hanky like a mid-day tabloid across the face covering the mouth and nose and sneezes in to it. And later with the same hanky he wipes his mouth, nose and also, hold your breath, the rest of the face! When the person is sneezing into cupped hands it is observed that he later wipes the hand clean either with his shirt or pant or the nearby wall!
There is no perfect art of sneezing. But following are the preventive techniques as given in Wikipedia (4): deep exhalation of the air in the lungs that would otherwise be used in the act of sneezing, holding the breath in while counting to ten, crinkling the nose and keeping the eyes open, or gently pinching the bridge of the nose for several seconds.
But if you try these techniques there is the danger of people mistaking you for trying to ape Johnny Depp or Jim Carrey!
[1] I sneezed while standing in the mild sun of winter. And that was the inspiration for this post because for the nth time I failed to observe whether I closed my eyes while sneezing. Look, some time ago there was this email which said that it is impossible to sneeze and also keep your eyes open. Unlike smile or tears you cannot trigger a sneeze, can you ?(2). You need external stimuli for that. The thought did occur to me, but you see I am good in thinking many thoughts but very poor in putting them in to action. So I thought I will verify the truth of the matter whenever I sneezed. So I was on guard for may be 24 hours. But alas, it was a very bad day. And I didn’t sneeze. And after a bad nights sleep all was forgotten. Sometime later a sneeze, at the speed of Federer’s serve caught me off guard. And I realised that I didn't observe. The thing is, I know for sure that one cannot keep eyes open but still wanted to know first hand!
[2] Of course you cannot also burp, fart or hiccup at your will. I sort of thought of doing a piece on any one of them. But settled down on sneeze, because I thought the chances of getting that errrr ..Yuck reaction from you was more in this case!
[3] I am told that one can know the character of a person by his/her choice of books, music, color, friends and who he/she sleeps with or how a masala dosa is eaten! So why not how he/she sneezes. I thought of trying but it means more work.
[4] BTW, I would like to believe that my plea sometime ago on behalf of Wikipedia worked. They have almost reached their target of fund raising. I would have given not just $5 but more than that if only I knew how to send it in `.

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