Self looking at self (Pic: By self)
The only phobia, if I can really call it that, I have is this lurking sense that bits of food are stuck on my mouth while eating that requires me to take big bites. As a rule I avoid eating food that cannot be easily sliced into tiny pieces which can be slipped in without so much as touching the periphery of my mouth. Phew! I am anal.
Every Time I am thrown into a situation which compels me to take bigger bites, as in the case of subway sandwiches or tortilla wraps, I find myself constantly wiping real and imaginary scraps of food. With advancing years the radius of around which I wipe my mouth has expanded. The first round of wiping is done with a paper tissue, followed by my own handkerchief. It has become a source of some amusement among my friends here in America that I actually carry a hanky. Some of them think it is a very “gay” thing to do. Eating thus becomes a burdensome experience for me.
Ever since I became an adult I have entertained this idea of keeping a small convex mirror next to wherever I am eating to check every few seconds whether food pieces are hanging on to my mouth. There is something unforgivably inelegant about food sticking to one’s face while eating. I have seen people with scraps of food perched on their eyebrows. That takes some talent, man!
This phobia has helped me create a character in one of my three upcoming novels of a Mumbai gangster called Aaina Luchhela, approximately meaning Mirror Wiper. His henchmen carry a large mirror whenever he goes out dining. They arrive at a diner before Aaina does to survey and comb the place to ensure that there is enough room to put the mirror in a way that their boss can constantly look into it. He also has this eccentricity of requiring his suppliants to talk to his reflection in the mirror.
There is a scene in the particular novel where Aaina Luchhela figures in which he is supposed to kill a man who has not paid his dues. The man is utterly terrified at having been asked to meet Aaina in his private office which is full of mirrors. This is indeed written as a movie scene because it is very cinematic. The corridor leading to Aaina’s office is all mirrors, including on the floor. It is like walking into the tunnel of narcissism.
To cut the long story short, after being told why he was summoned the man awaits a gunshot through his head. Instead Aaina says, “Choose any mirror around you. Go ahead, do it.”
The man, already resigned to his last moments, chooses to look at the ceiling mirror. Then in an inexplicable change of heart, Aaina points his gun at the ceiling mirror rather than the man’s head. He fires at the ceiling mirror. Splinters fly all over, some of which cut Aaina as well. He laughs and says, “It was your reflection’s day to die today. Pay when you can.”