It is spring in Bengaluru and the famed avenue trees are blooming everywhere. It makes the citizen’s heart foolishly hopeful. You start to think Bengaluru will be back to its glory days soon: Namma Metro will become fully operational, garbage will be cleared regularly, and our lakes will be full of water and not shaving-cream. If you start to feel this way, please drink a tall glass of Cauvery water and lie down until the sensation passes. Resume honking at Silk-board junction when you feel better.
Maybe it was in this spirit that someone sent a cheery message to one of my six-thousand “Family” groups on WhatsApp — I had tried to avoid them but, like with the asura Rakthabeeja, every time I exited one, a hundred more sprung up in their place. The message said, “Let us all to top up our good deeds account on Akshaya Tritiya, by sharing life-skills to needy.” Now, this was something radical — an Akshaya Tritiya message that didn’t ask you to go out and buy gold.
I considered it seriously. What skill could I share? My main life-skills are (a) eating and (b) smiling. I cannot elaborate on the first one, but before you roll your eyes at the latter, let me tell you that this smiling is a serious skill. It has got me out of many sticky situations. Let’s say some uncle or aunty comes up to me at a function and says, “Do you remember me? I came to your marriage and gave you an alarm clock.” or “No good news-aa? Tried homeopathy?” Years of training means I am able to spot this person ahead of time. Even before they have finished speaking, I unveil a wide, toothy smile and hold it for a few seconds to confuse them. I then divert the conversation to more suitable topics such as the deteriorating weather or the talents of their grandchildren.
This is not a skill one can teach easily though, so I had to think of something else. Maybe something to help university students? You know how misguided they are these days. Instead of concentrating on studies, they are busy thinking and forming political opinions. With all the arrogance of youth, they seem to think they can speak their mind freely, which is just ridiculous. But I also feel sorry for them. As our honourable minister has said, they are just children. So, as a scribbler of sorts, I thought I would make an all-purpose apology template that they can use if they ever get into trouble. In keeping with the times, I have created a multiple-choice version so they can simply tick or strike-out as per the context. Here it is below:
Respectful: (a) mediaperson, (b) guruji/imamji/father, (c) minister, and/or (d) roadside goats. I lay my head at your lotus-feet in all humility and utter, abject regret. Please accept my unconditional and humble apology for: (a) drawing cartoons, (b) saying seditious stuff, (c) infecting my brain with thoughts, or (d) buying fake watches from China on AliExpress. I was wrong to do whatever it is you think I did. Since your blood has been brought to a boil by me, I completely support your right to: (a) beat me up, (b) call me names, (c) disrupt law and order, or (d) grind your own biriyani masala. You were, of course, only doing it out of love for the nation/religion/Constitution/carbs — and love is always above the law.
I did not know the consequences of my actions until you highlighted the unrelated issues of (a) brave martyred soldiers (b) poor dying farmers, (c) non-veg food, (d) condoms or (e) all of the above. Since I did not provide my views on these beforehand in triplicate, I understand you had no choice but to make up stuff on my behalf. Mixing fact and fantasy is a strenuous task, and I am sorry I made you do it.
I admit to being ignorant, decadent, virulent and flatulent. Since (a) government and/or (b) religion can never be wrong, it is all my fault. I apologise for all this hot air. To show my sincerity, I have attached with this letter, a framed picture of: (a) our national flag (b) our holy shrine (c) cows (d) Hema Malini in a Durga costume. Kindly do the needful with whomsoever it may concern. I remain, forever, your faithful and very quiet student.