Imitation, they say, is the best form of flattery! Many celebrated artists like Vincent van Gogh, Picasso, Velazquez, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and the like are some of the most imitated artists in the world. Besides these painters, there are numerous sculptors, actors and even authors have been extensively imitated. People imitate well-known work for recognition for themselves and also making some fast buck! Quite a few of us may be producing noteworthy works of art but until they start getting imitated, we can’t claim to have arrived! Apart from all works of art and literature, styles and mannerisms of well known people are also imitated. Mimicrists imitate the voices of actors and other public personalities. Among the actors, Rajni Kanth is the most imitated star today. Last week, the Sun TV channel started a new programme of people imitating famous stars. I personally felt that the chap who imitated Sivaji Ganesan was too good but the guy who imitated Rajni walked away with the Prize. It was not his outstanding performance but the current craze for Rajni that tilted the scale in his favour. There is an unwritten law of what can be imitated and what can not be. Thus one may imitate the voice and mannerism of a celebrity, but he can not imitate any deficiency that the celebrity may have, physically or otherwise, say a lisp, stammer or lameness. Years back, such handicaps were often made a subject matter of jokes even in renowned periodicals but not any more. I even remember a teaser of yester years. Why did the chap with a stammer did not get an answer when he sought to know the time from a passerby? The passerby also had a stammer and he was afraid that if he replied with a stammer, the other chap might feel offended and slap him! Yawning is, however, different. No one imitates someone yawning unless that someone does it in a very unique manner. This is about the only facial activity where Rajni has not set a style of his own. Yawning doesn’t need to be imitated but comes on its own when someone starts it. It is most prevalent in a Dentist’s waiting room where it takes the form of a Mexican Wave. Many have given some explanation or other for the contagious nature of a yawn. I am actually one of the quickest to catch a yawn even from a hundred meters away. The Hindu has published a couple of days back a news item giving yet another explanation for contagious yawning. The report says that psychologists have discovered that contagious yawning is strongest in people who are empathetic and have a more developed sense of social awareness! Researchers from the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1lace><st1laceType>University</st1laceType> of <st1laceName>Leeds</st1laceName></st1lace> selected 40 psychology and 40 Engineering students for the experiment. They were unaware of the experiment. One of the researchers set off the process by yawning ten times and the wave started. On average, the Engineering students yawned 1.5 times and the psychology students a whopping 5.5 times! Among other things, this shows that the psychology students have a greater ability to appreciate the mental state of others! This news item has indeed gladdened my heart because I was often criticized by folks at home for my tendency to yawn instantly at the sight of another yawner as though I was a mirror image of the other! ‘Were you waiting for someone to start yawning?’ is the usual question put to me. Now I don’t have to feel bad about it anymore. On the contrary I feel proud that I am very empathetic and my social awareness is very high too. I’ll yawn without any inhibition henceforth. In fact, I’ll yawn as much as possible if I see anyone starting it in a public place to show how empathetic I am!