The earliest reference to April Fools’ Day and its origins one can glean is contained in one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s 24 stories from his epic, The Canterbury Tales. In which, intentionally or otherwise, mention is made of the 32nd of March, which has been interpreted by subsequent literary historians as a clever trope by the author to mean the 1st of April. That, in a nutshell, is what my research revealed but I am sure people more scholarly than I can come up with far more involved explanations. I’ll leave it to them to agonise over it.
There are many such days and special occasions that the west has bestowed on us, in its misguided wisdom to ‘spread the good word’, and countries like India, where the colonial hangover is ever present, adopted many of these customs blindly and without thinking. April Fools’ Day and Valentine’s Day are two particularly asinine occasions that spring to mind off the top of the head, the latter a thinly-veiled excuse for the opportunistic gifting market. Fortunately, Guy Fawkes’ Day, with all its historically violent and explosive connotations, did not quite find favour in these parts. We have our own Deepavali to create enough noise and pollution to keep our youngsters engaged, though we have a religious association to celebrate thus, with good triumphing over evil.
Let’s return to April Fools’ Day. Even as you’re reading this, you have probably already received Emails and WhatsApp messages to gravely inform you that North Korea has declared war on the United States, Arnab Goswami has been kidnapped, Sachin Tendulkar is coming back from retirement to play for India in the forthcoming World Cup, Nirav Modi was last seen diving into the English Channel and has been reported arriving safely (if a trifle wet) on the shores of Calais in France, Vijay Mallya followed suit but the strong ocean currents pushed him back to England where he was arrested, and Navjot Singh Sidhu has accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Imran Khan to join Pakistan’s cabinet. Obviously all this is laughably untrue, though the last one regarding Sidhu may warrant careful examination.
Besides these high profile messages today, you are also to keep your eyes peeled for missives from your bank informing you that your account has been cleaned out, which will not give me sleepless nights given the pittance I have. In fact, my bank manager received a message from the April Fool scam artist that the bank should be ashamed of itself entertaining customers holding such pathetic balances. My manager was quite cross about this, even after he discovered it was a joke! He has now asked me to top up my account substantially. Which of course, was his April Fool joke on me.
We learnt recently that a British Airways aircraft, taking off from London, destined for Dusseldorf, landed instead in Edinburgh in Scotland! No explanation was given, the plane was not diverted due to bad weather en route, and no mechanical failure was reported. I can only surmise that the pilot was a Scot and felt homesick. Obviously, the affected passengers did not see the funny side of it, and one hopes the pilot was suspended. I would caution those flying on April 1st, to pin your ears back for this announcement. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this flight was to touchdown in Delhi but we are landing shortly in Kochi instead. April Fools Day to all of you.’ A magical mystery tour. Then again, as a passenger, there’s not a lot you can do about it. Just enjoy Kochi, a much nicer city than Delhi.
We cannot conclude this piece without a few purported words of wisdom from some prominent personalities on their thoughts on April Fools Day.
Rahul Gandhi - ‘If our party is elected, correction, when our party is elected back to power, I promise financial benefits to the poorest of the poor. I have no idea how the calculations work, as it’s rather complicated and I was never very good at Maths. But one thing I assure you, this is not a jhumla or gimmick, which our ruling party is expert at. The best brains, including Raghuram Rajan, are working round the clock crunching numbers, and if we are voted back, you will start seeing results. In about 10 years. Now this is not an April Fools day prank. But if you don’t elect us, it will become one. Jai Hind!’
Shah Rukh Khan - ‘I am remaking the 1964 Bollywood hit, April Fool. If for no other reason, I would like to be a part of that memorable song and dance sequence that originally featured Biswajit and Saira Banu, April Fool banaya, toh unko gussa aaya. Except, instead of the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ backdrop, I would opt for the Swiss Alps. As for selecting the heroine to sing and dance with me, I will await the shortlist from my producer. You media wallahs think this is an April Fools’ Day prank? Just wait and watch.’
Donald Trump - ‘I have requested Tim Apple and those Indian guys in Microsoft and Google to develop some April Fool software, whereby anyone (and I have some specific persons in mind), who opens my April Fool mail will find his mobile, laptop or desktop exploding in his face. I’ll have a real blast on April 1st.’
M.S. Dhoni - ‘I will announce my retirement from all forms of cricket on April Fools’ Day. Though I am worried about my CSK fans jumping into the Marina Beach in Chennai.’
Arvind Kejriwal - ‘On April 1st, my Aam Aadmi Party will formally merge with the BJP. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! Happy April Fools’ Day to all my fellow workers.’
Narendra Modi - ‘India will no longer celebrate April Fools’ Day. By an act of Parliament, we are declaring February 28th or 29th, if it’s a leap year, as February Bewakoof Day, the Budget day. Bharat Mata ki jai.’...