Paint That Word by Navina Anand

“Shall we go for coffee?” he asked . And she smiled.

“Coffee”- A  beverage made from the extract of the beans of the coffee plant. It’s a caffeine drink like  tea, coke or red bull. But the word “coffee”  conjures up much more than just a caffeine boost. It brings up a lot more emotion in us than just satisfying a thirst or a craving for a hot beverage.  “Coffee” can paint a picture of friendship, intimacy, romance, bonding, shared beliefs, ritualistic comfort- Waking up in the morning to fresh filter coffee was a ritual I was hooked on for decades. Coffee breaks can feel like micro vacations in the middle of a grueling day which is why a simple “Let’s have coffee” can paint so many pictures in our heads depending on the person, place or mood.

When my kids were little, I used to call broccoli florets ‘trees’ and play pretend with my kids that they were giants who were eating all the trees. We called the humble kuzhi paniyaaram, ‘moon squirters’ to make it seem more interesting. Sometimes, just calling things a fancier name  generates an enthusiasm for it which is why restaurants call the good old ‘ molagu rasam’, mulligatawny soup!

Words do that to us. They are not just letters strung together to communicate, but each word comes with its own baggage for us. Have you experienced how sometimes we don’t like a person just because of their name?

Are you wearing “those clothes” ? a mother asks her daughter as she gets ready to step out of the house. The word ‘slut’ hovers between them in the air. Nobody said it. But it was heard loud and clear. Sometimes we paint the word with just a raised eyebrow, a tone of voice, a tilt of the head.

‘Amma’, ‘Appa’,a nickname, a special term of endearment, ;Love’ , ‘F***” many of these words bring with them an emotion that is much larger than the word . That is why poetry moves us to tears. The words bring with them an avalanche of emotions that we are unable to stifle as they unleash all that we keep under wraps for most of the time. Words can wrest from us an emotion so strong that some of us are even willing to lay down our life for it-The National Anthem.

So, it is evident that the words that we choose to use in our everyday lives become super important. The power that they wield over us is too impactful for us to take it casually. An ‘Ideal Partner survey’ conducted in 2018 across 180 countries found that “kindness” topped the list of characteristics that people were looking for in a partner. Isn’t that interesting? Not a pretty face.. Not financial security… but kindness. And words are the simplest way to paint some kindness towards the people in our lives. While I do admit that I find sarcasm awfully interesting and satisfying, painting our words with kindness might help us navigate through life happier. So next time think about the words that leave your mouth…Do you want them to ‘float like a butterfly or sting like a bee’?

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