The chewing gum is a regular ‘chomp’ accompaniment — anywhere, or everywhere you look. Most sportspersons, besides a host of cricketers and several others, for instance, indulge in its glory, as we all know: for enhancing their image, dental hygiene and, perhaps, to distract their nerves from the rigours that modern sport, or life, is all about. While it is true that gum-chewing isn’t a pastime that all of us enjoy witnessing, most of us would take to manipulating a wad of the ‘slosh’ substance in one’s mouth with gay abandon. From the word, go.
The use of chewing gum clearly has a paradoxical basis. When you see someone chewing, you would not really know whether they are listening or not, to a point, during conversation — even when its import is urgent. What’s more, the person who is somewhat fixated in one’s own preoccupation, what with the ‘sound’ of the gum in one’s mouth and head, could ‘make’ you feel miserable as you ‘allow’ them to ‘slosh’ the ingredient. Yet, the irony is — chewing gum may, in effect, elevate someone to revel with prime appeal, more so by way of a glorified sense of ‘jazzed-up’ physical, emotional and mental activity, including serenity..
As Edward Carrigan wrote in the Chicago Tribune, a long time ago — a contention that is as fresh, in its quintessence, today — “Gum, not to put too fine an edge on it, is almost an impenetrable barrier to effective communication. You would find it difficult to talk to someone shining shoes, or sewing his shirt, and it is not markedly different when trying to discuss any subject more intellectually challenging than the latest phases of the weather with anyone with gum in their mouth.” The inference is obvious — for one who has cultivated a veneer of graceful, polite demeanour, the gum habit could be offending and needless.
Argued Carrigan, “In a historic epoch when governments pride themselves in their vigilance to curbing the consumption of mood-altering substances, it has always amazed most of us that they neglect to move against chewing gum, a product seemingly designed to turn unsuspecting users’ brains into tepid oatmeal.” Carrigan, was as keyed to his contempt for the gum, as his ‘loss’ to the finding that, “Some observers speculated that chewing gum was devised for people who had difficulty salivating naturally.” Well, for such an exotic physiological purpose, the invention of chewing gum may have been a scientific advance. Yet, its function, as Carrigan observed, “that comprises much grinding together of teeth, slurping and stimulated output of saliva, should be performed in isolated and darkened places conferring privacy.”
There is also a quirk. Gum-chewing may induce a feeling of mental tranquillity in the minds of a vast proportion of human beings: in spite of the ‘jarring sound’ in it, the noise of teeth grinding against one another, and of saliva, with its cogent acidic properties breaking down edible materials placed in the mouth.
Research suggests that chewing gum enhances our memory, cognitive power, and blood flow to the brain. It reduces stress and improves oral health and digestion too. Yet, as Carrigan grudgingly acquiesced to the idea, while tracing the socio-historical background of the gum: “The chewing of gum, a weak form of rubber, seems to pander to those who derive significant pleasure and also balance the many sounds they are able to register from external sources. One of the odd properties of chewing gum is that the substance being chewed does not diminish in size with chewing” — call it a value-added benefit, or what you may.
This wasn’t all. As Carrigan again articulated, “Recreation gum, to distinguish from what oozes from trees and is used in the making of turpentine, is resistant to the action of molar, incisor and acid-laden saliva. Most practical-minded people would regard such a pursuit [gum-chewing] as frustrating, like renting a taxicab and having it remain stationary at the sidewalk.” All the same, Carrigan draws happiness from Singapore’s legislation: “A ‘blow’ to civilisation.” “The name of the small island nation will be forever engraved in the hearts of grateful civilised people as a result of its government’s being enlightened enough to make the sale, import and manufacture of chewing gum illegal.” “Importers of the ‘contraband’ substance are subject to fine and jail-term. Retailers who compromise their good names by selling chewing gum will be subject to fine.”
Chewing gum feigns the act of eating food, but the act of eating food in public places is widely treated as a breach of refined manners... People try to take their meals in their homes, or restaurants, where the murmur of hushed conversation and quiet background music draw attention from the raw sounds of mastication; they also go to considerable lengths to avoid looking at their table companions chewing their food. We all know it, don’t we? Picture this — India’s ubiquitous fixation, ‘pan chewing,’ what with its all-pervading vermilion presence on footpaths, streets, staircases, or anywhere else, if only we view it as closely as the gum. The panmasala, unlike the gum, is perilous. It can cause oral and other forms of cancer. Well, to state the obvious, again: India, as a nation, is yet to generate fulsome awareness for folks who chew the thing merrily. A bar, or ban — as it limply exists — maybe a far cry.
All the same, the clarion call for a blanket ‘ban’ on chewing gum has now gained new ground in the West. Take this — the voice of civility in our uncivil times that has also acquired momentum in yet another flavourful domain. In other words, clamour and pitch for the cup that cheers. The New York Times, for instance, once picked up Letitia Baldrige, the American etiquette expert and public relations executive, who was most famous for serving as Jacqueline Kennedy's social secretary, to bring home the point — with tea. Its credo is just as relevant today. Wrote the paper, “Baldrige selected her tea, without hesitation, from an assortment of eight. Her utter confidence and sense of command in making her choice, as much as in handling introductions, or keeping a conversation going, were warmly reassuring, never intimidating.” The paper went on, “Tea can make people comfortable. Once the formality of pouring is out of the way, the participants can get down to business, without spending too much time.” In Baldrige’s words, “I have seen business deals confirmed over tea and people fired over tea.” She would have known it best, because she had had good first-hand experience of working with the CIA on a psychological warfare project just as well. Besides, tea has several medicinal and health-enhancing qualities, most importantly as an anti-cancer agent [green tea].
Green tea, as we all know, is used in rituals that invoke prosperity, as also to revere deities. There is a custom, in certain cultures, to ‘flame’ the tea leaves too — the belief being the practice makes sure of one’s future riches. Besides, some believers, to provide both guts and strength to the one who wears it, place green tea leaves in talismans. You also know them, don’t you — that tea ceremonies of a spiritual nature are popular and essential part of life and culture in the Orient? A case in point: the well-known Japanese tea ceremony. A must, for any familial, social, or PR rendezvous. Tea, or coffee, is, likewise, and on the contrary, subtly excluded for an unwelcome guest in both the Orient and the Occident. It helps, at times; sometimes, it doesn’t. Well, the best thing would be to offer yet another cup only half-filled. A few sips would determine whether you’ve clinched a business deal, or slipped down in the other person’s estimate. Either way, you have played your own subtle game: of getting on with someone you don’t like, but who is yet important — without the use of the chewing gum to beat your anxieties.
The medicinal value of green tea, to expand on the herb’s healing benefits, includes anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, antioxidant, diuretic [promoting the excretion of urine], expectorant [promoting the expulsion of mucous from the air passages], stimulant, stomachic [agent that improves appetite and digestion], analgesic [pain relieving agent], astringent [agent that contracts tissues and controls bleeding], cardiotonic, digestive, nervine [medicine that relaxes the nervous system], and carminative [digestive] properties. Green tea contains several pain-killing agents, including the same salicylic acid [aspirin] found in the bark of the white willow tree. Reports also indicate that green tea contains over 50 anti-inflammatory compounds and that long-term use of green tea has been shown to inhibit conventional drug-induced ulcers. The USDA Phytochemical Database, for instance, reports that green tea contains 15 anti-ulcer phytonutrients [naturally-occurring compounds] that not only prevent, but also speed up the healing of wounds.
Millions of people across the world suffer from pain — both acute and chronic. In spite of its pervasiveness, treating pain is often exasperating for physicians/therapists/healthcare personnel and patients because there are far few effective [conventional] therapies and, even if benefits accrue, they are riddled with adverse side-effects. There is nothing to lose, but everything to gain from increased green tea consumption. So, what better than a cup of green tea, followed by another mug of the refreshing brew, to quash the pangs of arthritic pain — to cull just one of its uses?
Yes, the best part too is simple and profound. It pays to be a diplomat, after all, in our own individual ways, because interpersonal communication is a strange ball-game. It bids fair no less to holding one’s judicious nose while extending one’s hand, with a mug of green tea, the cuppa that cheers — and, not slosh, as it were, with the chewing gum.