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The long-awaited nasal floss

storm 33 °C

At 5:15 this morning, just after drinking the usual unidentifiable herbal tea, we gather in the corner of the courtyard around Roshan, our philosophy teacher and resident nasal flossing expert. You can see the apprehension mounting in everyone's eyes: are we really going to put those rubber threads in our noses? What if I can't find the canal? Is this going to hurt? What if I gag and throw up? And what if it gets stuck?!

I decided to stand right next to Roshan for the demonstration. I wanted to see every step of the process, from the first insertion of this foreign object to his technique for recovering the thread at the back of his throat. He slowly bends his pink rubber strand (probably around a centimeter in diameter) and begins weaving it into his nose without hesitation. He inches it bit by bit, and then stops, and pulls it back out. "This nostril is backed up today," he says, "I will attempt the other". He repeats the same process on the left nostril. This time it goes in effortlessly. I watch the part of the strand still hanging out of his nose shrink, and shrink, and shrink as it fills his nasal passageway. After a few seconds, he opens his mouth and skillfully reachs inside with two fingers. In one swift movement, he recovers the other end of the rubber strand, slowly dragging it out the back of his throat. Then, as if it were nothing, begins flossing. The expression on my face must have been priceless. It was like watching the three-headed turtle freak show on Venice Beach.

"Not everyone will be able to do this on the first try," Roshan cautions us. "If you cannot, do not worry. Do not force the process. It took me five tries when I first began this practice". I have no intention of taking five attempts to master this odd talent. "If I strongly believe it will happen, it will," I coach myself recalling the previous day's philosophy lecture. I take my rubber strand and some tissues, face the stone wall of the courtyard a little ways away from the rest of the group, and bring the object to my nose. I ty to do as Roshan had done, bending it slightly and inserting it into my left nostril, the one that seems to be the best candidate. I find my nasal passageway easily and ambitiously begin pushing the rubber further and further into my nose. You'd think that the thread should go UP, following the bridge of the nose like a Broad Street subway train, but actually the canal is totally horizontal.

I feel like I'm going to sneeze, but then realize that this is my body's programmed response to foreign objects. So I breath steadily, inhaling and exhaling with purpose, convincing myself not to expell this piece of rubber I've intentionally stuck inside my nose. To my immense satisfaction, I'm convincing and soon enough I feel the piece of rubber making its way into the back of my throat. I imagine I could reach back into my mouth and grab it, but just to test the actual location of the thread I swallow lightly. Nothing. So I gently push through another few centimeters, realizing that the urge to sneeze has disappeared, replaced by only a faint tickle. Swallowing again, the rubber emerges just behind my tongue. "Okay, here we go...", I reach a finger inside my mouth, hoping that I can also convince myself not to gag. Miraculously I manage to hook the thread on my index finger, clasp it with my thumb and lead it out of my mouth triumphantly.

The flossing part feels really bizarre. Imagine massaging the inside of your nose and the back of your throat all at the same time. It's kind of a slimy experience, though nothing compared to the sensation of pulling the thread back out your nose. I'll leave that up to your imagination.
Now for the next lesson: thread the same piece of rubber in your ear, out your nose, back in the other nostril, out the opposite ear, clasp both ends with your teeth, do a headstand and then carefully, with the breath, levitate off the ground...

Posted by pack_it_in 20:14 Archived in India

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