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Urban Junkie

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The cover of medical science

The first time I came across the concept of Asperger’s Syndrome I wasn’t sure whether to be miffed, relieved or delighted. On one hand, here was an acceptable medical condition to hang my supposed eccentricities on. Then again, I’m not sure that a collection of minor personality quirks – that do no harm other than ruffling a few social feathers – need to be described as a ‘condition’.

But first, a quick quiz to classify you.

When someone you don’t quite recognize walks up and says “Hi, how are you?” do you respond with
a) A vague smile and “have we met?”
b) A vague smile and “Hi … I’m fine, thank you”
c) A delighted smile, a hearty slap on the back and “I’m great … How are you? Been a long time, where have you been?”

On observing the last kebab left on a platter being shared between friends, do you
a) Pick it up promptly and chomp into it
b) Offer it around, find that no one reaches for it, and then help yourself to it
c) Leave it on the platter to watch it being carefully ignored by everyone while it shrivels up and turns mouldy and is ultimately removed by the waiter

The average number of awkward pauses in your conversations with social acquaintances is

a) Slightly more than the number of words exchanged
b) About as many as the number of words exchanged
c) None

(This one’s for women only) When visiting the homes of elderly relatives and being asked what you want to drink, do you

a) Point immediately to the Single Malt
b) Say “whatever you’re drinking, uncle” and cast a significant look in the direction of the Single Malt
c) Say “whatever aunty is drinking” and resign yourself to watching your spouse knock back the Malt while you nurse a glass of nimbu pani, homemade wine or (if the gods shine on you and aunty is a closet lush) shandy.

For the competitive sorts who are more interested in maxing this test than in earnest introspection, it doesn’t take much to figure out that the ‘c’s are what you should be gunning for. For the others, however, a warning is only fair: any answer other than ‘c’ is likely to land you in ‘Asperger’s’ zone.

The gist of Asperger’s, as far as I can see, is an inability to make small talk and a slight tendency to be oblivious to social sensitivities. I’m not quite sure whether or not to be offended that this is considered deserving of medical attention. But the more I think about it, the more I regard it as a blessing. Having lived with various labels over the years - 'painfully shy', 'a bit quiet', 'slightly aloof', 'a bit weird' and just plain 'rude', I find that the Asperger's label has a lot going for it. There is, of course, the slight unease of living with a chronic medical condition. But consider the advantages. A solid, scientific medical explanation to take cover behind. No longer having to rack your brains to remember who that vaguely familiar face belongs to, while trying valiantly to keep the chatty bonhomie afloat. No longer having to carry around lists of interesting things to say to keep conversations going. Never again having to watch the last kebab wilt on the tray, having been kicked under the table by a well-meaning friend and prevented from reaching out for it. Getting to the Single Malt with minimum fuss, bypassing forever the homemade wine and shandy. Spending as much time as you want on the net without getting friends and family in a twist.

Like I said … the more I think about it, the more it seems like we’re onto a good thing here. Fellow sufferers, what do you say?


  • My childhood best friend suffers from Aspergers, and I think it's a lot more serious than you describe it. It's affected her academic life as well as her social life. And unfortunately, it's not well known enough to be used as an excuse. It's like "I'm sorry, I have Asperger's syndrome." "You have what?"



    By Blogger Aishwarya, at 11:24 AM, October 16, 2005  

  • Oh these social pressures to be perfectly nice without any intention of being so.

    By Blogger Jayesh, at 2:29 AM, October 17, 2005  

  • Hehe. If one goes by the quiz, I am a fellow sufferer. I answered a,b,c :)

    By Anonymous Anirudh, at 3:09 AM, October 17, 2005  

  • finally, someone's got a name for it..always knew it wasnt my fault :)

    By Blogger manuscrypts, at 5:06 AM, October 17, 2005  

  • aishwarya : hi, thanks for visiting.
    ... and yes, I know what you're saying - I don't imagine any label, well known or not, can really take away from the seriousness of a problem that bothers you. Laughing about it is just my personal solution to a lot of stuff :)

    jayesh, arvind, manuscrypts : lots of empathy, i can see!

    By Blogger Anjali, at 6:34 AM, October 19, 2005  

  • Hi Anjali,

    Thanks for dropping by. Could not take in ur whole post as in a rush but am adding you to my blog roll and will go through it in the evening :)

    By Blogger Prerona, at 1:34 AM, October 20, 2005  

  • I'm in. Now I have a ligitimate excuse for being shy.

    By Blogger LA, at 7:55 PM, October 20, 2005  

  • I'm definitely in...I didn't get a single c...anyway, my first time here, and great post...will definitely be back...

    By Blogger the Monk, at 3:56 AM, October 24, 2005  

  • I am sufferer too, and like you I am glad here is a word I can take refuge in as well. Like manuscrypts said... I should have known it wasn't my fault :).

    By Blogger Emma, at 4:07 AM, November 07, 2005  

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