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As I child while returning back from school kicking pebbles on the road, the cherubic me would daily see an old frail man sitting on the road side with a long beard flowing till his lap hiding his modesty in such a way that passers-by wouldn’t be able to view his bare torso. The frail he looked, but he sported a head gear, the traditional turban which in size would cover ten heads like his, creating a picture of tiny creature slid under the mushroom of a big umbrella.
This man on the road side would have never gone unnoticed, not because of his peculiar features, but because of a tiny little parrot, or was it a parakeet, I would not be stating with conviction, that perched on top of a tiny cage kept on a bed sheet spread before him. Every day, as I used to pass by this creature and his owner on the road, I used to wonder why this little bird never flew away. Wild guesses by my little childish brain could only fathom reasons like the pet being very attached to the owner or that its wings must have been clipped by its merciless owner. All these wild imaginations were not my own creative intuitions but borne out of the various stories we used to read as part of our curriculum in English and Hindi. But one thing which really intrigued me was why this old man ever felt the need to have this cage when his pet would never be inside it.
Oh yeah, before I forget, this peculiar old man had a few more assets to his possession spread over that cloth lay before him. A few small rectangular cardboard cards, they were. All looked alike to me from the distance but I knew that they would be quite distinct from each other, similar to the playing cards, with the cricketers’ statistics that we children used to collect and play with.
These cards, which we used to play, had all vital statistics of the cricketing heroes of our times, mostly from our country, but sometimes, if we were lucky enough, we could lay our hands on some foreign cricketers too. Our net worth used to be decided based on the number of these cards we possess and flaunt and proudly carry in our pockets, and if we had magnanimous friends, someone would barter a card of a more flamboyant cricketer for one of a little less known one, that I had.
As fate would have it, it was invariably without fail that a pebble kicked up in the air by me would land up just near the bed sheet, making up that jot of sound and kick up that iota of dust, just enough to startle that old man and his pet to turn their heads once towards the location from where the sound emanated and then towards me in disgust.
Yeah, the look towards me used to be in disgust, because, quite often than not, apart from these two living creatures occupying the space on the side of the road, there would be another one sitting facing the old man, as if staring in complete disbelief of whatever the conversation going on between them and having a sign of pity on his face which I could read at that time as something which meant to translate into being at a wrong place at the wrong time. I had always assumed that this new face that I would see every other day would be a visitor, perhaps an acquaintance or even perhaps a distant relative of that old man who had casually come inquiring of him.
The visitor would also undoubtedly be started by the sound and dust that my honest action would create and would bring the conversation between them to an abrupt stop. I would always be able to have a quick glance at their faces, noticing the menacing look on the old man’s face and an absolutely contradictory look of thankfulness on the visitor’s face, before I would suddenly increase my pace and brisk walk away from the location towards the safety of my home.
It was that fateful day, when incidents narrated above happened yet again and as I walked away, I felt a strong ironed hand pulling me back holding me by my arm. As I turned back, I was petrified to see the turbaned bearded man, holding me by arm and staring at me through his bespectacled eyes straight into my eyes. I was so scared that I just stood there glued to the ground and before I could react anything, I could see the old man smiling at me and I could notice a few sets of stained yellowish brown betel leaves chewed teeth or whatever was left of it through his open lips.
Without uttering a word, he started taking me towards his seat. His hold on my arms were not that strong enough not to allow me to jerk myself out of his grip and run away but I too was following him as if I was mesmerized by his hold, the way the rats followed the pied piper.
The old man made me sit in front of him, the seat generally I have seen reserved for his acquaintances or distant relatives, whoever they were, and I just quietly sat there in absolute obedience. In close vicinity to the turbaned old man and his pet creature, had I the opportunity to look at the little rectangular cards that lay before him. I realized that they were so much different from our playing cards and had minute scribbling on each one of them, in a language, which perhaps at that time was beyond my comprehension.
As I sat there in perplexed confusion, the old man uttered some words looking at his pet and the creature immediately stepped down from its perch and came skipping up to the cards, lifted one in its beak and dropped it on the old man’s open hands, before going back to its resting place.
The old man’s smile widened even further as he was reading the scribbling on the card and then as if in synchronized movement, kept looking at my face and back to the card and again at my face at least a dozen times before deciding to settle his gaze on me.
No words spoken between us till then, he opened his mouth for the first time and just uttered a few words in Hindi, “Beta, Tum Zindagi mein khoob paison ke saath kheloge!”, loosely translated in English as “Son, you will deal with more than enough money in your life!”. Just these few words, and as if I did not want to hear more what he intended to prognosticate, or he never wanted to say more, but I sprang up, thrust my hands into the pockets of my knickers, brought out the only fifty paise coin in there, thrust it into the old man’s outstretched hands and ran away towards my home.
Needless to say, I sacrificed my candy, which I was supposed to buy with that money that day, which I donated to the cause of hearing those few proverbial words from that old man.
Things changed from the next day, Neither did I ever kicked up the pebbles or the dust when near his location, perhaps out of fear of drawing his attention towards me, nor did he ever bother to even look at me as I passed by, at least on the pretext of having met once.
My rendezvous with the turbaned fortune-teller ended with that little astrological prediction that he did for me that afternoon.
It was one of the many little incidents during my school days which had long been forgotten and never written into the books of my history, which has already been overloaded by so many more important incidents and anecdotes.
Back to the present, the year ending hustle and bustle, settling accounts and advising clients of financial closure suggestions and ideas, I have been extremely busy throughout, being in the profession that I chose for myself to be in.
I wondered that all throughout my professional practice, I have handled so much money for and of all my clients, perhaps running into millions and billions, though myself, I have only been able to struggle and earn just enough to keep my family sufficiently satisfied of their basic needs and perhaps a few of their subdued luxuries.
As I counted the currency notes sent by me client to pay off their taxes, before it gets safely deposited into the government exchequer, to be supposedly used for the improvement of our country’s infrastructure, I wondered and exclaimed in astonishment, as to when would I be able to see all these kind of money belonging to myself.
The prophecy of that old turbaned astrologer suddenly splashed before my eyes. He had prophesied, “Son, you will deal with more than enough money in your life”.
And lo! How right was he!
Hey, what’s up? What’s that? Two word greetings had become passé ever since the
advent of short messaging services. The SMS had almost revolutionised and
revamped the poor Webster’s who have been trying hard to keep up with the
changing times on their dictionary. So here, what’s up had become whazzup!
Easy on the fingers as one lesser word to type, that’s the excuse, but extra words
to squeeze in within a message and so easy on the pocket, that’s the honest
Then came WhatsApp and very soon it became the largest messaging platform across the
world. With it ended the era of people being stingy with words. Seconds became
minutes and minutes became hours that people started spending flexing their
fingers on the tiny virtual keyboards of their smartphones.
WhatsApp was a bit scary at start but before we realised it became a necessity. Yeah
true! Perhaps it took the place of food. The slogan changed to Air, Shelter and
WhatsApp. People could now stay without food for hours engrossed in chatting
and food as a necessity of life was thrown out of the door.
Old friends were contacted, bonds renewed, friendship grew, affairs developed, love
and laughter bloomed, advantages became galore. To be honest, even business dealings started
being exchanged over this medium. And in all this, emotions became emoticons.:)
WhatsApp evolved to keep pace with the needs of the mankind. Ticks started getting
multiplied, adding to the agony and the excitement. Groups were formed and the term
‘administrator’ got a totally new meaning.
Old school and college alumni started interacting more with groups formed for this.
Then splinter groups too started mushrooming with the boys only for the more
casual talks and the all-inclusive ones for the decent conversations. And this
is where the poor average male started developing a dual personality.
Call it bipolar disorder, a common form of schizophrenia or maybe the more clinically
inclined dissociative identity disorder, at the end of it, the common male
blame it on WhatsApp.
And this is how it starts. There is this common group consisting of all males and
females as members. The male feels the urge to post comments and forwards
galore to this group, the honest intention being just to impress the women folk
with their assumed “Oh! Here is the best gentleman I have ever seen” persona.
So to create that aura, the male needs to look, re-look, edit, re-edit and
finally censor the posts before he puts it on board. Then this poor desperate
anti-hero keeps checking his phone for Ooh-Laala! response from the females.
In between he shifts allegiance to the male only group too this honestly is where
he finds solace to speak up his mind, to be his honest self. He posts the
naughtiest of jokes, forwards the hottest of photos, and downloads all the
raunchy videos that he secretly runs through at least a zillion times in the
cozy comforts of solitude in the washrooms. Here too, he needs to impress, but
the impression to be created is a different type, where men are pitted against
men to prove their raunchiness.
Poor male! It’s a real pity that he needs to go through this multiple personality
disorder just to keep his persona intact.
WhatsApp, you need to take the blame for this neurosis in the common male. You need to
accept responsibility for the mental disorder in men. WhatsApp, you need to be
crucified for this dissociative behaviour of Adam in his quest to impress Eve.
PS: The author takes pain to clarify that he is not active in any WhatsApp groups
in either of its forms and hence has been able to live a single personality
life so far. So far, so good! Here’s, wishing myself all the best.