“If any young person with attitude
Refuses to express their gratitude
For the love they are shown
— Just leave them alone
With no single degree of latitude”
— From Ghazals of Gulligoochi by Bachchoo
Friends from India informed me that the talented and A-list presenter of the nation’s most honest TV channel NDTV, Ms Nidhi Razdan, was approached through email to take up a post as a visiting professor of journalism at Harvard University.
Ms Razdan, who in all fairness deserves invitations from universities with greater reputations and more rigorous standards than Harvard (Cambridge UK, for instance, comes to mind) fell for the hoax. Perhaps she, in an act of altruism, wanted to do some charitable service to herds of benighted American students.
She may have thought, in accepting the offer of a professorship, that she could bring the great Indian standards of fearlessness before government, religious authority or bigotry followed by Indian newspapers, TV, radio and even film and web series, to the Americans who have fallen for Donald Trump’s tweets and the fake news of his media sycophants over these last few years.
Having made her plans to depart for New England, Ms Razdan, as a good journalist would, checked on the authenticity of the invitation and found that there was no such invitation and the correspondence she had got on the Internet was some purposeless, elaborate joke. The humour escapes me, though!
What it does confirm, gentle reader, is that the greatest instrument of public discourse, of the dissemination of information, of the connectivity of the human race, can be as malevolent as it is benevolent. Not only has it put tremendous power (we are not talking about wealth) in the hands of those who control these devices of the ether, it has also facilitated evil.
Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and the rest decided last week, after Donald Trump’s urging his supporters through these platforms to overturn American democracy, to ban his “free speech”. A decent gesture, but one that came years after they allowed any and all manner of hate speech, terrorist and even openly fascist propaganda to go uncensored on their platforms. Crooks and perverts seemed welcome.
Because, gentle reader, Ms Razdan is not the only one to have fallen for fake offers which arrive through the Internet. Must I now admit that I have been, on several occasions contacted through email to inform me that I am the lucky winner of millions of pounds on the Nigerian Lottery?
It seemed the first time like very welcome news. I wonder how many others in our world, this vale of tears, didn’t stop to consider that they couldn’t have won the Nigerian Lottery as they hadn’t bought a ticket to enter it. Of course, the emails persuaded me that a fan and admirer, who insisted on remaining anonymous, had bought a hundred tickets in my name and one of them had proved the lucky one. All the paymaster of the lottery now wanted was my bank details, passwords, etc, and the money would be deposited, making me an instant millionaire, in the following twenty-four hours.
How could I resist? I sent my details post-haste to the designated email address, expecting a phone call any minute from my bank’s branch asking me to attend and shift my millions into safer and more profitable investments.
And then, two hours later, when the banks opened, a call did come. The lady banker at the other end asked me to identify myself. Yes, the necessary checks and usual questions — my birth date, the name of my first dog, my best friend’s favourite food, the bra size of my first girlfriend — I rattled all the details off. Then came the news. The lady banker at the other end said that since my account had been overdrawn for three months by several hundred pounds, they were suspending all activity on it.
I was of course aware that my account was in the red, but surely all that would change when my lottery win came in. Holding the phone some distance from my mouth, I let out a contemptuous laugh, saying words to the effect of “you just wait, young lady, your branch is going to be flooded with a bigger deposit than what elephants leave in the jungle”. She politely asked what I meant. I told her about my triumph at the Nigerian Lottery.
There was a long pause and she said I was the hundredth customer to fall for what was a confidence trick and if I had had any money in my account it would have disappeared.
Disappointed and downcast, I buttoned the call off.
Hanh, merey yaaron, I knew that the Internet and the social media are the vehicles of fraud as never before. In imitation of a famous Indian scam, some crooks have taken to sending posts to the unwary to say that they are guilty of tax fraud and they ought to deposit X amount immediately or be arrested that very day. Those with a guilty conscience will be inclined to fall for it.
Myself? Having been made a fool of once, I’ve resolved to train myself to be a cyber detective with the help of my distant cousin, Hutoxic Feromonereplacementwalla (abbreviated mostly to Effpeewalla), the first Parsi woman to be appointed to the post of detective sergeant at the Bottomlea police station. Okay, not quite Kamala Harris, but still something?