Or another Amul advertisement you’ll never see on billboards:
Nothing royal about it, just regular butter. It won’t embarrass you!
Here is a compressed re-write of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers for dummies (what Gladwell already writes for dummies? double dummies then). I’ve re-written it so that even a child can understand it. It currently has just introduction and epilogue. All the chapters are still missing, but not much is lost, I assure you. Continue reading
The music playing on FM radio, as I drove down Indira’s flat, was “Desi Girl” (literally a song about native girl, and how you won’t find anyone like my native girl, anywhere in the world).
The idea that the nakharas of desi girls are unparalleled in the world is highly suspect. No I wasn’t going back to native charms, I was leaving Uma to go back to Indira who had newly acquired a FB profile, where she was posting her photos in the latest western clothes, updates about her visits to spas, and hair stylists, snaps of pastas and enchiladas she was cooking at home; Indira whose father owned a, now prospering, packaged foods business; and all this with an additional promise of freedom from unmitigated feminism of the likes of Uma.
The new face of Indian feminism, and whole lot of crabs:
Ah, the prude me! If only I had the guts to substitute the word face with something with more, umm, oomph factor, I guess I’d have made the cut (into the real liberal league, or the RLL for short). I should start kicking myself, and learn to be more liberal (or more real liberal). Bear with me. Bear with me, as you’ve been bearing with me all these days/months/years, the way you bear with any other megalomaniac dimwit (if you’re a first timer, go to paragraph no 31 directly). This time, I’ve an excuse. I’m writing after a long time (unless you count book review as writing). Yes, at times, the anti-constipation medicines might be a little too effective for comfort. So, for the third time, bear with me. I’ll come to the point, later, rather than sooner. Oh hell with it. I’ll come to it anyway. What’s sooner or later between friends?
Yes, I’ve come down from the pedestal already, as some of my regular readers (actually one, unless I count myself), would say (IW, you’re still reading, aren’t you?). I mean, why oh why, am I chewing on a subject that deserves its own share of ignoring? The reason, as I already told you, is this: something is better than nothing. I mean, I’m thirty one plus (not twenty-something, unless 11 counts as something), not getting any younger, definitely not getting any smarter, more definitely not getting any creative (I contemplated if I should add more before creative, but then backed off). My writing career is in the middle of nowhere, since the day I started. Mind you, it hasn’t moved left or right, up or down. It’s right in the middle of nowhere, all along. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that that is where it’s gonna stay. So what was I doing on the pedestal anyways? Smart question. But then, I’ve come down, haven’t I? OK, OK! I promised I’ll get to the point.
Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we, for a change? Let me share all that I learned in the last two hours (I hope my manager, who has the feed of this blog in his reader, and even reads it sometimes, isn’t reading this. He thinks I’m writing a design paper. There! I’ve confessed! Ummm. Sorry, I shouldn’t be jumping the gun). So first thing I learned is: there is a blogger called eM. Damn this new Firefox feature of online spell check. It says eM is a misspelling. I mean, do these guy have any sense of humor? Just because you spell something in reverse doesn’t make it a misspelling! Doesn’t make you ulta either. There! Another red line under ulta. Okay, honest now, I’ll keep it straight. Not that straight, dear. I mean, of course I’m straight. But as an aspiring member of the RLL, I don’t want anyone to think that I meant straight as a value-judgment. The last thing I need is being called homophobic!
So anyways, I was telling you about eM. She has a blog. What did you say? Everyone has a blog these days. Thanks for educating me. But eM has an ubercool blog: The Compulsive Confessor. It deals with: “partying, smoking and binge drinking, along with candid musings about sexual techniques and escapades” according to Telegraph (UK) feature. Oye, where are you going? I haven’t even finished! Good thing I didn’t give you the url right away. So anyways, Telegraph (UK) did a story on her. And what’s more, the story divulged that Penguin India has commissioned her to write a semi-autobiographical book. So far so good. What has it got to do with feminism, you ask? Well you tell me. I wish I knew! Who’s saying anything about feminism?
Oh you mean the title. Sorry. Fooled ya! Ha. Just kidding. I’ll get to that. (No wonder no one takes me seriously).
On Sepia Mutiny — the greatest thing to have happened to Indian Blogdom since Margaret Thatcher (what? what has she got to do with Indian blogdom? I’ve no clue. It’s the first name that came to my mind. It seemed as good as any) — Amardeep did his take on the article, and then Indian feminism was born. Err. Okay, not really. Again, blame it on those anti-blogstipation medication thanks to Amway. I’d have sued Amway, but then my brother will be implicated too. (What I’ve no brother? How did you know? Is there no privacy on net, dammit?)
So we had two of the most famous Indian Women Bloggers (or so I’ve heard) taking up the fight against the patriarchy that was pulling crabs down, and pants up.
What’s wrong with compulsive confessing, Sakshi asked. Well, absolutely nothing, I agree. I mean, just because it’s compulsive doesn’t mean there is something wrong!
Wonder why our society’s philosophy on empowerment starts at providing women with decent education and then abruptly ends when she starts expressing her individuality.
Indeed! With you all the way.
Similarly, many think eM writes solely to attract attention and gain that temporary hype (and therefore she ended up getting a book deal) because it’s difficult for them to comprehend the fact that an Indian woman can also think, write, discuss and not be apprehensive about her intimate thoughts on a public platform
Absolutely. Indian Women rock! Err. I didn’t mean… you know what I didn’t mean.
On the other hand if her writings were preaching the sati-savitri qualities in desi-women, the joys of motherhood, the precious value of an intact hymen – she would be applauded for her thoughts, no matter how farce they maybe in actuality.
There you lost me, Sakshi. Intact hymen? Are there bloggers writing about intact hymen? Where are they? Why are they hiding? I mean, if they’re being applauded, as you contend, surely I should have heard about them. But then, I’m a little hard on hearing, so sorry for asking again. Where are they? I so love blogs about intact hymen.
The only question I have is, where in the blog did Sepia Mutiny/Amardeep actually said she should not express her individuality, or take off her blog/not write a book/do whatever? But asking that question might bar me from RLL. So for the record, I never asked it.
Melody highlighted the Indian Crab mentality with a nice old story. Of course she was being a little judgmental of the crabs but then I’m not a PETA activist, so I guess crabs will have to deal with the damage to their self-esteem on their own. (Comment to the crabs:) Sorry guys. I like you, but on my dish. Lightly spiced, and cooked well. Your self-esteem is, frankly, not my problem. (End of comment to the crabs). Besides, she didn’t really give the crabs a benefit of doubt. Maybe they are pulling the other crab down, because they:
1. Think he might be killed if he goes out, in the unknown world.
2. Like him so much that they don’t want him to go away.
3. They are actually trying to push him up, but are just plain incompetent.
4. It’s not a he crab, but a she crab. And the he crabs surely don’t want to let a her go.
(Note: I’ve implied that the pulling crabs are all male. After all, women crabs cannot be that insensitive!)
But I get the point. Postmodernism is not on offer for the crabs (although crabs are on offer for the postmodernists! What a win-win). Especially not for the Indian crabs. There I almost sound like a PETA activist now (except for that insensitive comment about the dish. But then I really like crabs, when dished out that way). I’ve heard PETA members have a preferential queue in RLL. But then we aren’t reading for any ulterior motives, and just taking the things on face (errr! there again, I lost my second chance. the prude me) value.
According to Melody, its a “very very sad” thing to “diss”(miss?) another blogger, a fellow Indian blogger at that, a fellow Indian Female blogger at at that that (this last I presumed), especially by a group of “desi bloggers”. Doesn’t she get it? There are Indian bloggers, and there are Desi bloggers. Surely, you can’t expect one group to root for the other! But then, I’m with you Melody. We must not ever dismiss anything Indian. Even Shobha De. There, I’m against Sakshi, even. She says Shobha De is a hypocrite! How could she. I mean, Shobha De is an Indian Writer for god’s sake. And an Indian women writer at that. And an Indian women writer who wrote about women taking down their pants (or so I’ve heard), and men too, for it takes two to tango, and in those days when you said two, you said one M and one F, how homophobic!) long before there were bloggers writing about women taking down their pants.
I get it. I get it. Why Shobha De is not kitsch, is that she only wrote about other people taking off their pants. Never about she taking off her pants. But it’s a big mistakes. She never wore pants! So come on now. Let’s forgive Shobha De for her alleged hypocrisy. We must root for Indian feminism, in all shapes and forms. Err… I didn’t mean it that way. You know what I didn’t mean, don’t you?
“How is it, three?”
“To be very frank, four, it stinks”
“Thank gOD for that!”
— The Dialogs of the Third and the Fourth believers (Second-last triplet)
You cannot have your cake and eat it too, says conventional wisdom. But you can eat your cake and shit it too. No wonder the (Shhhh!)It religion has no prohibitions about eating cake, or for that matter anything. So long as you increase the amount of it! in the world, anything is fair. But if there is one thing that the Shhhhh! religion wouldn’t allow — not to its high-priests, not to its collectors (we’ll come to that soon), not to its aam junta — it’s coffee! Coffee, the Shhhhh!tian belief goes, is constipating — and constipation, in Shhhhh! religion, is the number one intestinal sin. But first things first.
Nobody knows how the Shhhhh! religion started. There are a lot of conflicting hypotheses, none of which are supported by any reliable historical evidence. But the Shhhhh! creation myth is well documented, mainly because it’s very short.
“gOD had a chronic constipation, and then it! happened”
Theologians have often debated whether constipation should be considered a intestinal sin or intestinal virtue, for surely if it weren’t for chronic constipation, it! wouldn’t have come into existence at all, but that’s a very recent development. The high-priests of the Shhhhh! religion insist that if there is an original sin (the reason for all the suffering in the world) in this universe it’s constipation. Modern psychologists, who have tried to find a link between constipation and pain tend to support this albeit regressive belief of the Shhhhh!tians.
In a very recent controlled experiment (double blinded and all that) in a sample of eighty seven people who were given constipating medicines, a whooping eighty six of them claimed that they felt unhappy. The eighty seventh person, it was later found out, was a masochist. What is surprising is that all eighty-seven of them were given a laxative, to rule out any placebos, but even the thought of constipating medicine made them unhappy!
However when it was pointed out that coffee actually makes people feel good, the psychologists who conducted the experiment insisted that was because people did not know that coffee is constipating. But then we digress!
The first serious altercation between the Shhhhh! religion and science is known to have happened with the law of conservation of it!, which says, in simple words, that:
It! can never be created, nor destroyed. The total amount of it! in the universe remains constant.
Apart from the obvious fact that it went against the creation myth of the Shhhhh!tians, this really got the theologians who also made and sold cakes very upset (In those times the Anti-trust laws were almost non-existent, so the theologians did not have to disclose their businesses even if there was a provable conflict of interest. Even the office-of-profit bill is very recent in origin — and even that didn’t last long!). Surely if it! cannot be increased, you cannot insist that people eat cakes! The theologians got angry and stopped making cakes. This made experimental psychologists very angry, because their mice preferred cakes to virtually any other food item, and suddenly stopped ignoring all stimulus. May be it’s this old indirect rivalry between the scientist and the psychologists that might have resulted in the psychologists siding with the high-priests of Shhhhh! religion on the matter of constipation, but then we’re not into constipation theories.
When asked if he could explain the wondrous workings of the universe in simple words, a famous scientist is known to have answered:
“It’s a piece of cake”
He wasn’t even kidding!
[To Be Continued…]
[Note: This series is a scholarly study of a fringe religion that’s lost to anonymity, although evidence of its one time existence is undenying. To some people, especially those who tend to regard only the mainstream religions as religions, this writing may sound offensive, or even making fun of religion. Stop right here, if you’re one such person. For I don’t want religious bigots to read my writings, it’s an affront to my religion and hundreds of fringe religions that have been ignored/denied by the mainstream all these years. This is no parody, and branding it as such will be taken as an offense by many. Holy Shit!]
“Shit happens” — Vincent Vega (pulp fiction)
The custodians of the Holy Shit got it all wrong — no not the shit of course, that’s one thing they got dead right. But they didn’t know what they were supposed to do with all that shit. It was way before Television was invented, forget Internet, and it still kept coming!
And it so happened that one day, Nishchit, a very sincere follower of a then new religion (which soon vanished into oblivion, as its high priests went on a long trip to find the *it* (or it!) that so eluded the humans, never to return) stumbled upon the custodians of the holy shit, as they were contemplating the nature of the holy shit.
Hard of hearing, Nishchit thought he heard the phrase “the holy it”, and that really got him interested in the conversation. There aren’t too many accurate historical parchments that have survived, but it’s known that the dialog went something like this:
“Do you know anything about *it*?”, Nishchit asked.
Not knowing how to answer a direct question about the world’s best kept secret at that time (according to all the historical accounts of that time, which are now mostly destroyed) the custodians decided to play it safe.
“It’s unknowable, you gotta experience it!”
“And what if you don’t know how to”
“Oh! You better know. No shit!”, one of the custodian said, with a relieved smile.
“He knows no shit”, he whispered to his colleagues, who tried not to laugh out loud.
At this point Nishchit, more confused than before, decided that religious philosophy was out of his reach. It was a good thing, as far as his wife was concerned.
[With due apologies to Dylan for trivilazing the song]
How many flops must a fan play down
Before you call him a true fan?
Yes, ‘n’ how many surrenders must he witness
Before sense seeps into his mind?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the paper tigers fart
Before they’re forever shunned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
How many times must a fan look up
Before he again looks down?
Yes, ‘n’ how many tears must one fan shed
Before he can manage one smile?
Yes, ‘n’ how many matches will it take till he knows
That too much hours have been spoiled?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
How many years can a hype exist
Before it’s busted once and for all?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years will the icons exist
Before they’re shown to be made of sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a fan turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
The marjar community has been living in the dandakaranya since god knows how many years. The marjars have three rules — something which they call the rules of thumbs, for the one who made those rules, prophet N, allegedly had three thumbs on his right hand. Legend goes that he disliked his right hand very much, for he had asked for a girl’s hand to her mother (which was the tradition in the pre-marjar tribes, and still exists in some sections of marjars — but those are not considered marjars by the true marjars, i.e. those who believe in the rules of the thumbs, literally and uncompromisingly. Anyways that’s somewhat (but not entirely) irrelevant to the issue in hand), holding his right hand forward (which wasn’t the entirely accepted way then either, but was tolerated by consensus (the ideal way however was to shout from the rooftops till the Girl’s mother — and only her mother, for it was a matriarchal society) came out, however N being dignified did not like that way at all), she refused the union on the pretext that he was a right handed person.
Some say she didn’t like the fact that he had three thumbs, but that’s pure speculation, for it’s a documented fact that even in the pre-marjar tribal cultures, three thumbs were taken as a sign of prophetic personality (however, there is also a minor but very influential clique of intellectuals who believe that that documentation is not really pre-Marjar and that it has been altered by believers of N who wanted to prove N’s prophetic credentials). Some say that she rejected him because she thought that prophets make bad husbands, however the author believes that bad husbands make good prophets, although not all of them.
In any case, N blamed his right hand for the heartbreak, and decided to go to the fish market to meditate. It was a common practice in the pre-Marjar cultures to choose crowded places for meditation. Some people preferred meditating in the caves or mountain-tops or such secluded places, but they were not taken to be true divine souls, and rarely were accepted as prophets. Those who had real spiritual quotient (although that’s not how they used to identify it — they called it buhaahaa), were supposed to meditate right in the middle of crowded marketplace. This was no mean task, but then being a prophet wasn’t as easy then as it’s now in most parts of the civilized world. You needed a lot of buhaahaa.
N chose fish market, because of two reasons. One, he abhorred the smell of fish. It was impossible for him to think of anything else when there was that smell in the atmosphere. Naturally, his mind couldn’t be distracted at all from that one point, making it easier for him to meditate. (That’s spiritual cheating, yes, but then try telling that to his followers!). Second reason, is quite unknown.
Anyway, what we know (and with quite a certainty) is that when N finally emerged from his deep meditation (the faithless think that he had passed out due to the fish smell, but the faithful say that there is nothing fishy about the whole affair) he declared that he is a prophet. Since no one has meditate that hard and that long anywhere close to a fish market, he was accepted as a prophet without the examination that other lesser souls might have been asked to take. Although in majar language mean means fish (we believe the aryans picked it up from there — for the sanskrit word for fish is also mean), that was no mean achievement!
However, that is not the point, actually. We were discussing the three rules of the Marjar community. That is the problem with why’s and how’s. One gets so entangled in the why’s and the how’s that one forgets the what. Such is life, and marjars knew it very well. So, marjars had very simple rules:
And still people couldn’t follow them.
“Professor, can I come in?”, asked Luna.
“Yes, Mr. Nayak”, responded Prof. Ghosh, who having spent a large part of his life in Europe, didn’t like the Yankee informality that some of the other Profs in the department seem to be picking up — like addressing their research students with first name. For that matter he hated everything Yankee, except for his wife Nora. Nora liked Luna, and always called him Luna, which infuriated Mr. Ghosh, but then there was nothing he could do about it. Luna always called Nora Mrs. Ghosh which infuriated her a lot, but she couldn’t do a thing about it, for she knew that if he called her Nora, Mr. Ghosh was sure to make him pay for it. But then is that really relevant? Of course not.
What is relevant is that Prof. Ghosh was a professor of Diabolical Anthropology, a newly started Department in the University of Chattisgarh. Most people haven’t heard of diabolical anthropology. Well for that matter most people haven’t heard of anthropology. But at least, one can google anthropology. Not so with diabolical anthropology, for it’s a secret branch of study. Theories are abound that this branch of knowledge is actually pre-Columbus, and Columbus was actually working on his post-doc thesis on tribal prophets, when he learned about the legend of Prophet N, and his guide Senorita Isabella, arranged for his voyage to Dandakaranya, Indies, for discovering the mythical marjars.
Now, in those times, research in Diabolical Anthropology was not as harmless as it’s now. Diabolical theories were taken lot more seriously then, and you could be killed over them. Naturally, it was all done with hell lot more secrecy. To start with the Department of Diabolical Anthropology itself was completely secret. And all the students and teachers had to have an alternate identity. And great care was taken to keep the show on — the only thing which can come close to the logistical complexities of running Diabolical Anthropology Department in those time, is the alleged conspiracy of US Government to keep the knowledge of Aliens away from its citizens and the world. But even that just comes close, for there are people who at least say that there is such a conspiracy, where as no one knows about Diabolical Anthropology even today!
What happened to Columbus is a history. The disgrace of not even reaching the Indies was too much for Columbus’s pride, and he decided that there was no point in going back right away, as his academic career was all but over. So he engaged in some colonial activities, with his extensive knowledge of Diabolical Anthropology, and eventually returned to Spain, at which point, the Department arranged for a lot of hype, making a hero out of him, for people don’t ask questions about heroes, only about the losers. That’s another story, though.
Thankfully for Prof. Ghosh, it was just an anonymity of his field that he had to contend with. Something which he didn’t really mind, for that was what had attracted him to the field. Luna Nayak was doing his PhD in Diabolical Anthropology under Prof. Ghosh for the last one year. And Prof. Ghosh was very happy with his progress. Today, he had come in to share some manuscripts that he had got his hands on, which could change the very face of Diabolical Anthropology! Only Prof. Ghosh didn’t know it yet.
So how come no one knows about this Marjar tribe, you ask? Well, for one, they live in remote parts of the Dandakaranya, where no outsider can reach. And two, they never leave Dandakaranya, unless they get lost, which is very rare. And in case, one of the marjars ever gets lost, it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll ever make it to the so called civilized world.
And still some people do know about the Marjars, how otherwise would the author for instance would know about them? And indeed how did the prof that the author was talking about the other day knew it? And how indeed did Columbus could have possibly known about them (provided that that’s true?)
For one, Prophet N had a pretty bad sense of direction. How is that relevant? Consider this: you have a prophet among you and he keeps getting lost! What would you do? There are various things to do, of course:
one: you get lost too (and no, the author doesn’t mean this as an assertion – “get lost”, but rather as a process of getting lost)
two: you can lead the prophet back to where he belongs
three: you live without a prophet.
The marjars were divided on this: this gave rise three major sects of marjars, respectively
the anukaris: who always followed the prophet wherever he went
the panthkaris: who tried to show the prophet the right way
the ahamkaris: who said to hell with the prophet
The ahamkaris were the most disrespected sect. They frankly were not a sect, in the true sense of the word, for no two ahamkaris shared any significant belief, except the slogan – “to hell with the prophet” (I could have told you the original but I don’t trust you with understanding the subtleties of the Marjar language, and that would create lots of mistaken positions about the ahamkaris, who are as it is badly persecuted).
The panthkaris on the other hand believed in most of the Marjar beliefs, but they were a little more practical than the anukaris (who believed that the prophet couldn’t be wrong even in matters as trivial as finding his way back home — or, especially in matters so trivial — and, if he wasn’t finding the way it was because he didn’t want to find it). The panthkaris believed that noble souls are ignorant when it comes to trivialities, and so in the larger interest of the community, they needed to show way to the prophet once in a while.
Of course, prophet N being a man, would never ask anyone for directions as it is. Add to it his prophetic status, and you’d know how embarrassing it would have been for him to ask for a way. Thankfully, neither the panthkaris nor the anukaris would ever leave him alone. Whenever he left his home, one panthkari and one anukari would start with him. Although the reasons were different — the anukaris wanted to send their Representative so that they can preserve the ways of the prophet. The panthkaris obviously sent one representative for getting the prophet back to the community.
The anukaris had one weird belief though. If they came back with the prophet, they would be proving the panthkaris right — or at least would create a reasonable doubt about the prophet’s abilities. So the anukari representative would never walk back to the community with the prophet, and would find the nearest human habitation and ask them for asylum.
This wasn’t as easy then as it is now. First, since before the prophets time, as I already told you, no Marjar had ever left the Dandakaranya, there were no Marjar interpreters around. Two, the anukaris were so used to following the prophet, that without him around, they were really lost! So they would rarely used to find any human habitation. Still, some anukaris managed by their sheer will to reach different parts of the (now civilized) world. Being proud followers of the prophet N, they would tell his stories and would generally do nothing else. As a rule, they were not liked by their new communities. Naturally, in couple of generations, the prophet N’s legend were changed into devilish myths.
The anukaris thus were scattered around, isolated from each other (for prophet N would never get lost on the same road again!), till one day there were no anukaris left in the Dandakaranya. The panthkaris, on the other hand became the prominent sect (the ahamkaris had too many strives in them to really threaten panthkaris position). The panthkaris obviously believe that they’re the only real marjars.
Intelligent readers would ask, how did the panthkaris manage to get the prophet back, when he never asked for the way. Surely they couldn’t have just gone and told him, “hey prophet N, you’ve got lost, let’s go back!” Of course they didn’t. But like I told you already, prophet N didn’t mind some spiritual cheating, especially if he was on the verge of panic. So what he would do was to stop suddenly and turn around and start walking. The panthkari would also start with him. The anukari would stop right there, and wouldn’t move till the prophet was out of sight. At this point he would be expected to find out what the prophet had got him there for. The prophet would stop once again, and would let the panthkari walk ahead of him, and then just follow him back home. The panthkaris could spot the cheating, but then they weren’t too concerned about it, for they believed in the greater common good, anyway.
“What is Love, N?”, asked Tenosa (yes they had such names in those times — and this, if you’re wondering, is a male name) in the weekly meeting of the faithful.
Surely they didn’t just call him N, you say? Well as a matter of fact (and nothing but fact) they did. They called him just N. For one, they didn’t believe that reverence had anything to do with the title. So how come he’s referred to as prophet N in these chronicles you ask? Well, that’s because the anthropologists pollute everything). And if all this time you were wondering what N stands for, N was his name.
Anyways, the weekly meeting of the faithful (call abambaa) was the biggest even in the Marjar community life since prophet N declared himself a prophet. The major reason, of course, was that there was no television then. If there were, people would have watched prophet N on Aastha channel, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun as the real meetings of the faithful were. I assure you that. For the meeting of the faithful was a forum for the faithful to meet. They even used to have a primary agenda, a few secondary agendas and a open hour when the faithful could ask practically any question on the face of the earth (which to Marjar meant their piece of forest). Make no mistake about it, any damn question (which turned holy by the very fact that it was asked to the prophet, for there is a well documented book of the “answers of the prophet”, that is referred to by the Marjar in case of any disputes even today).
There are some interesting entries that we were able to steal from the highly guarded book:
“N, how can I become a prophet?”
N: by prophesying correctly.
“N, if I kill a man for he was stealing my wife, will that be moral?”
N: Don’t kill those who want to help you.
“When will I be rich, N?”
N: Stop selling stale fish”
Now most of prophet N’s answers are ambiguous like this (although the faithful believe that they are clues to the deeper truth), and since the same person couldn’t ask the question again on that day (refer to the Marjar rules), typically he would not waste another week for getting them clarified (for the Prophet rarely spoke in the interim period).
A similar thing might have happened with Tenosa, but he was Tenosa! So when the prophet answered his question as:
“Love is a misnomer”, he asked right away:
“What is a misnomer?”
Prophet N didn’t like that one bit. So he very politely told Tenosa that he’d answer the question next week.
Tenosa however didn’t have the patience to wait for another week for the meaning of a word, so he went to Juntha the learned one (there were no dictionaries back then, and so typically words had just one meaning).
Juntha was himself a prophetic candidate who had made multiple wrong prophesies. So he had to contend with the job of the learned one. He didn’t like it one bit, for it had no glamour, but at least it earned him his living — for instance Tenosa had brought two eggs with him to gift him if he told him the meaning of “misnomer”.
“Misnomer is something that does not mean what it’s supposed to mean”, said Juntha.
Tenosa gave away the two eggs happily to Juntha. Then suddenly he asked,
“But what is Love supposed to mean?”
“Oh! Only N might know that”, said Juntha, for he knew Tenosa didn’t have any more eggs with him, and he was very hungry.
Tenosa walked back puzzled, and waited patiently for a week, when he raised his thumb in the open hour.
“N, I know what a misnomer is!”
“And what is a misnomer?”, asked the Prophet
“It’s something that doesn’t mean what it supposed to mean”
“Wrong. It’s something that means what it is not supposed to mean”
“But N, what’s the difference?”
And then Juntha realized that he had lost another week.
The difference is very subtle”, is all the prophet said.
“Professor, I want to talk to you about my latest findings about the Marjars”, said Luna Nayak, as he entered Prof. Ghosh’s office.
Of course, for those who are raised over the staple diet of sitcoms and Hollywood, an office of a Professor is something very different from what Prof. Ghosh’s office was. Prof. Ghosh’s office was a room formed by soft partitions, so that whatever one would say in his office could be easily heard in the two adjoining offices (and vice-a-versa, although Prof. Ghosh himself didn’t care much about the latter).
“What Marjars?”, asked Prof Ghosh, to the utter surprise of Luna. His valiant attempts to ask him to shut Luna up using gestures didn’t help either, for Luna also specialized in the subject of body language and gestures. His Master’s thesis was titled: “Study of the covert and overt tribal languages: what they don’t teach in Anthropology“. Of course it’s not true that they don’t teach that in Anthropology classes, it’s definitely true about Luna’s thesis. His thesis was that body language in tribals is actually a way to mislead the eavesdroppers, as the eavesdroppers are known to be body-language experts, so much so that, they most of the times ignore the main channel of communication! Naturally, the smart tribals adapt and start using the main channel as the secure channel of communication.
“I’ve got a manuscripts, here Professor …”
“Just leave them here, Mr. Nayak. I would look at them after I’m finished with this stuff”
“But Prof. this can’t wait!”
“It’s doing that fabulously so far”, said Mr. Ghosh tersely.
“Should I wait here?”
“No need”, said Prof. Ghosh, nodding his head at the same time.
Luna left the manuscript on the table and left the room.
“A$$hole”, muttered Prof. Ghosh as he picked up the manuscript.
It looked like fifth photocopy of an ancient moDi script. However, it was not moDi. Prof. Ghosh’s first guess was it was nothing, just a prank
He decided he’d actually finish what he was doing, and then spend some time on it. He contemptuously dropped the script. Just then, he realized that he had seen it before. Of course he had, he said to himself. Way back in London, he was a member of the Academy of Diabolical Anthropologists (ADA), when one day someone had walked in with that script to him, for he believed that it was a script from the sub-continent, and couldn’t make a head and tail out of it.
Prof. Ghosh had assumed that that was nothing but some prank too, but surely it was more than a prank. What the script looked like was a series of rats as children would draw them. But later, he was told that an obscure anthropologist from India had actually deciphered the script. And indeed it was a rat script. No one knows who used that script but sure enough there was this script, all well formed — one to one mapping to Pali, the ancient language of the Buddhist sacred texts. Thankfully, Prof. Ghosh still had the translation map for the rat script in his computer.
When Prof. Ghosh painfully translated the first line of the text, it read:
Are you sure you want to do this?
As he deciphered the next line it said:
Think thrice, for your life would never be the same — and don’t tell me I didn’t warn you
“This sure looks like a Diabolical document!”, Prof. Ghosh thought all excited! Then a question crossed his mind. How in the hell did Luna know how to decipher this script? For that kind of stuff was zealously guarded by the Academy — no outsider could possibly get a hold of any material from ADA.
And then, his cellphone buzzed.
It all started with Tenosa, of course, but in more ways than one could possibly imagine. In the history of the Majar tribe, no one — and I repeat, NO ONE — had ever thought of doing what Tenosa did: questioning the Prophet’s intent.
For us, raised on precepts of the faithless scientific revolution, this seems like an obvious thing to do. But in those times, you must understand, that was a luxury few could afford. In the Marjar tribe in particular, it could mean expulsion — and not just from the tribe, but from the world. Tenosa, of course knew it, but Tenosa wasn’t Tenosa for no reasons.
So when Prophet N trapped him into asking a question, he was sure that the Prophet was playing games with him. And whatever little he knew, he knew that Prophet’s don’t usually play games. So he applied logic and then he realized that he was a prophet too!
His logic was simple, if Prophets don’t normally play games, and if N was playing games with him, and him alone, then naturally he had to be the prophet. Given that, there was no reason for him to ask questions to N, he just knew everything! He declared, there in the open forum:
“I’m a prophet”
At this point, prophet N asked him:
“What do you mean by that?”
“I could have answered that, N, but I don’t think prophets should be asking questions!”
The Marjars till that point had never witnessed the showdown of the Prophets. They forgot their due diligence in face of an impending prophethood, and just bought Tenosa’s words.
“He’s a pseudo Prophet”, N roared.
“And why do you think so?”, asked Tenosa.
“I know, I’m a prophet!”
“If you were a true prophet, you wouldn’t have answered my second question for the day!”
At this point, of course, the crowd was convinced that Tenosa was the real prophet, and expelled prophet N from the world (and you thought prophethood was easy?). What happened after this: there is no clear consensus. Most diabolical anthropologists believe that that was the end of Prophet N, as with his horrible navigation skills there was no way he could have actually reached anywhere. At the same time some historians believe that those who get lost are the ones who actually find new worlds, like Columbus!
With immense excitement Prof. Ghosh decoded the next line. It said:
And the next said:
Order a 14.5 Inch Pizza with mushrooms
Prof. Ghosh looked at the translations with disbelief, and mechanically went on translating the text:
And if they ask for your credit card number, tell them, you’ll pay in cash
And then Prof. Ghosh looked at his watch. It told him two things: one it was time to go home for lunch, and two, it was first of April.
Prof. Ghosh tore the manuscript into four almost equal sized pieces and threw them down into the dustbin. “If this is your idea of fun Mr. Nayak”, he thought to himself, “then you are in for a lot of fun!”, and with that he walked back home.
When he entered the compound of his quarters, he saw Luna’s bike parked outside. As he approached the main door, and tried his key, he realized that the door was bolted. His wife never, ever, bolted the door. He moved into the garden, and approached the bedroom on the back. The windows were closed, and the curtains drawn. Prof. Ghosh went back to the main door, and angrily rung the bell. After 5 minutes, Luna opened the door.
“You scoundrel”, cried out the Prof, as he got into house.
“What happened, Prof?”, asked Luna innocently, which infuriated him more.
“So now I know why you gave me that manuscript!”
“You do! And did you get it with you?”
“I threw it in the dustbin, you rascal”
“What? Are you crazy! I that manuscript is the key to the world’s most well kept secret!”
“Right, and you’re the US president? Just get out of my house, and what were you doing here anyway?”
“I cannot tell you that, but trust me, it’s not what you’re thinking”
“Nora! How could you do this?”, he asked, as he slumped into the couch.
“It’s not what you’re thinking”
“Yeah right!”, he said vehemently, “Just trust me, the divorce papers that you’ll get are not going to be a April fool’s joke, and Mr. Nayak, you are finished in life!”
“Prof. There is a serious misunderstanding here. Your wife and I are part of a secret society, and if you don’t keep this with you, we all will be dead before you can get me out of the university”
“You think I’m idiot?”
“The manuscript!”, said Luna and suddenly he dashed for the door. Prof. Gupta dashed out after him, swearing.
The story of the Holy Trail is the most enigmatic legend that has circulated (or rahter, not circulated) on this earth. But the most fascinating thing about it is not what is told, rather what is not told.
For instance, it is believed that there is something called a Holy Grail — supposedly a cup from which Christ drank, and in which his blood was collected after his crucifixtion. With a due respect to believers, let me tell you, it’s a holy you know what! It’s a well known fact that the early church has tried to take over pagan symbols and legends. So it’s no wonder at all that they took over the most well hidden secret legend of all time till then (and even after — so much that even today very few know the legend), and changed it to fit their own — what they call it — meta-narrative and all that.
How did they get their hands on to the secret legend, you ask? Well, that’s one secret I cannot divulge for the fear of wars that it would lead to in this world. But trust me on this — they did get their hands on to the secret.
And what is the Holy Trail? Holy Trail, as the bright among you might have already guessed, is the trail that Prophet N allegedly followed after his expulsion from the world. Prophet N had one advantage that historians and the anthropologist alike tend to forget: he used to lose so many times that the anukaris he left there couldn’t always find a human inhabitation close by. Some of them found one cave or another and lived there meditating, and basically waiting for the prophet (another theme that the Church exploited — the so called day of judgment) to visit them there again (for they never believed that Prophet could actually lose his way). Now the part of Dandakaranya where Majars lived had only limited number of paths leading out of it (and the caves nearby), so at times even two or as many as eight pathankaris ended up into the same cave. Eventually some of them had to hunt out for other caves due to internal strife about the place of meditation.
Eventually, all the caves were in regular contact with each other, giving rise to the first decentralized group of followers. Each cave group wanted to believe that they were the chosen followers, and would deride the other groups. Eventually, when Prophet N was expelled, he also stumbled onto one of these caves, but didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t overcrowded enough for his brand of meditation, and also that that would mean less number of active followers. So he went from one cave to another, till one day he got tired of it all. This is of course not history but legend.
“It’s not there!”, cried out Luna as he entered Prof. Ghosh’s office.
“I threw it in this dustbin!”
“And you didn’t lock the office?”
“You had the most explosive manuscript in your office and you didn’t even lock it?”
“I had an April fool’s joke in my office!”
“Professor! That wasn’t a joke. On each April 1, this document leaves the secret brotherhood, to be distributed to a select few. The document is shown to these people and destroyed then and there. But at times, it might happen that it falls in wrong hands. So true, not many know the rat script, but you never know. So the brotherhood puts a first page which talks of some contemporary and non-sense references, to throw the person off track. In fact the brotherhood invented the whole April Fool concept as a double protection.”
“Yeah right. And how do you intend to prove that to me?”
“The manuscript, we gotta find that”
“Who could have taken it?”
“Did you get a call when you got the manuscript?”
“Yes! But before I could find my cell in the drawer, it stopped ringing”
“Give me your cellphone”, he said, almost snatching it out of Prof. Ghosh’s hands
“Is this the number?”, he asked, while Prof Ghosh nodded.
“Can I make a call from this phone?”
“No! Cellphone to land line tariff is exorbitant!”
“I’ll pay you back!”
“No need to call”, said someone at the door. Luna watched in utter horror, as Prof. Ghosh turned to look at the intruder.
“Is this is what you’re looking for?”, asked the intruder, as he extended the torn manuscript
“What are you talking about?”, asked Luna
“Come on! Where is the real manuscript?”
“What real manuscript?”
“You guys would never stop playing the April fools joke would you?”
“I think there is some mistake here. We got this today by mail, and have been trying to make sense out of it”, said Mr. Ghost, trying to help Luna.
“Oh yeah? You want me to believe that you don’t know about the brotherhood and still you got the manuscript?”
“Luna? You’re carrying the joke too far!”
“No Mr. Ghosh, you’re carrying the joke too far”, said the intruder, but trust me on this, if we don’t get the manuscript by tomorrow…”
“You have the manuscript already. And keep Mr. Ghosh out of this. He’s not part of the brotherhood”
“This shit? This is how you get to the holy trail? So they started selling it with Pizza?”
“Did you dial 911?”
“Stop kidding me!”
And just then Luna fell to the ground, and after a couple of convulsions he lay motionless.
“Cyanide!”, exclaimed Prof Ghosh,
The intruder panicked and ran away, leaving the torn manuscript on the table where they were.
Just then Prof Ghosh heard a sound of frantic breaking of a car and a thud. When he ran outside, the intruder was lying mangled in the middle of the road. A golden key was lying alongside him with the figure 8044443. The car in question was nowhere to be seen.
“What is that?”, Prof Ghosh said to himself, as he picked up the key before the police can come to the scene.
Okay, so we’re coming to the end of our epic story that covers god-knows-how-many years. For one, the Marjars weren’t good at keeping track of time. When all you do in life is basically fish or meditate, it’s hard to keep track of time. It’s no wonder then that in the western world, fishing is one of the biggest ways of killing time. Second only to golf. And Golf, my esteemed readers, was invented by none other than the Marjars to — you guessed it right — kill both fish and the time. The idea was to hit a stone hard with a stick and hope that it would kill a fish when it landed in the stream. Dandakaranya was full of streams, which in turn were full of fish, so simple fishing was rather boring. Over the years the Marjars were ruled by other tribes that were against such a fish cruelty, and so the native Marjars had to move the game into the field. Anyways, that’s not relevant to the story.
What is relevant, and very relevant at that, is that Tenosa as he became the new Messiah, decided that it was time to change the things around. Obviously, he knew that there was no way that he could change the rules, for the Marjars just wouldn’t accept that, even from a Messiah. Still, the change had to be a big one — a huge one — for Tenosa had to show that he was there to stay. He decided that he was going to change their logo.
Yeah right, logo, you must be saying. But believe it or not, Marjars were the first one to come up with the concept of logo. And what was their logo? Their logo, my esteemed readers, was a Cat. Yes, those who know Sanskrit probably know that Marjar is a Sanskrit word for cat, and that was because Marjars were cat people — they had only The Cat God — and not just symbolic, but real cats — all of whom were the direct descendant of The Cat God. The reason why Marjars did so much of fishing was actually to keep The Cat Gods happy. Tenosa decided that this was where he had to bring in the changes.
What happened to Prophet N is a mystery. What is known is that he left one of the caves. The anukaris left scrolls after scrolls of verses which are called the “latter day verses”, and are the most contentious of the Marjar documents. Luna Nayak, among other things was the native expert on the latter day verses. It’s strongly believed that Prophet N left hints of his plans in these cryptic verses.
When Prof. Ghosh came back to his cabin, he was sure that he had passed the stage where he could be surprised. He couldn’t have been more wrong, for there, where Luna’s dead body supposedly should have been, on the floor was a chit, that read:
I have spelt the secret, if only you would open your eyes!
The body was missing. So was the torn manuscript. And later when he came back home he realized, so was his wife, Nora. And on the mirror of the dressing table, there was another chit, that simply said:
Words, words are all I have, to take your heart away
Prof. Ghosh sat on the bed devastated. Right now, he needed a large peg of whiskey before he could make head or tail of what was happening.
Luna, as you might have guessed, had not died at all. He had feigned death — something that he had learned from the latter day verses. A chemical used by the Marjars could temporarily stop any visible signs of life, and anyone who inhaled it would drop down pseudo-dead. This was the most common camouflage in the Marjars. The minutes after Prof. Ghosh ran after the intruder, Luna came back to consciousness. He carefully hid the manuscript in his inner shirt pocket, and left a note for Prof. Ghosh. Then he hurried out. He saw Prof. Ghosh picking up a gold key from the ground.
Prof. Ghosh decided that he must read Luna’s thesis material if he had to make any sense. For if Luna had spelt anything to Prof. Ghosh, it was his reconstruction of the Marjar history. Prof. Ghosh started reading.
One of the side effects of Marjars being cat people was that they persecuted the Mushakaas — a sub tribe of Marjars for they all stayed together and were known to the outsiders as Marjars only, but internally they had huge differences with the real Marjars, and their Prophets. Tenosa however changed all that by changing the Marjars logo to a mouse. Soon, the Mushakaas accepted Tenosa as their prophet too. In a few generations, the Mushakaas, brainwashed most Marjars to believe that all of them were Mushakaas, and that prophet N and all the prophet’s before him were actually false Prophets. Since N was already a disgraced Prophet, the argument was easily absorbed by the Marjars, and that is the end of Marjars history as we know it. Most of this history was preserved in the caves. The anukaris never went back to the tribe since their prophet was expelled by the tribe. This proved very difficult as there was no fish to be had (or to feed to the cat gods) around the caves. The very fact that they survived in the caves without fish is the testimony to anukaris love for Prophet N. Their only aim in life was to prove that Prophet N was a real prophet, and not Tenosa.Over the years, the caves came in contact with the outside population, and were harassed for their esoteric practices, and the Marjars went underground.
Meanwhile the Mushakaas assimilated into the mainstream, and successfully detached themselves from their history and practices. One thing they didn’t detach themselves from was their logo. The Mushakaas rule the modern Cartoon industry and that explain why an animal that is the single biggest nuisance for the farmers is glorified in cartoons — Micky and Minnie mouse, Jerry in Tom and Jerry, and so on. The inventor of the mouse, Douglas Engelbart was influenced by the Mushakaas in his team to name his device as a mouse when there were plans to name it bug.
The Mushakaas supposedly connected by a secret brotherhood, the symbol of which is supposed to be the original logo that Tenosa designed. No one knows, however what was the symbol is.
Prof Ghosh looked at the note that his wife had left for him, again and again until he saw that there was some mistake. The words were split at odd places:
words, words are all i have to ta ke y our heart a way
“The KEY!”, exclaimed Prof. Ghosh.
“Our heart?”, he wondered what that could mean, and then he realized that that was the name of her favorite mushy sitcom.
“The Key Show a Way?”, he said aloud, “why yes! the key will show the way!”
He looked at the key, and the number again: 8044443. And then he thought of the rat script.
“Rat script!”, he cried, “that explains it — it must be the Mushakaas’s script”
Then suddenly he realized that if he wrote the number in devnagari and connected it, he got a mouse! Why in fact when he was small, that’s how his teacher had taught him to draw a mouse (see picture).
What does that mean? Only one thing, that the intruder belonged to the Mushakaas brotherhood. And the only logical explanation was that Luna (and Nora) belonged to the Marjars brotherhood! It was then that he remembered the manuscript. He dialed 911.
“Please check the number you’ve dialed”, the cold recorded voice told him.
And then for the heck of it he dialed, 6463663663 (N I N E O N E O N E). After a couple of rings, someone picked up the phone.
“The Pizza Palace”, said a feminine voice
“Can I have one 14.5 Inch Pizza with Mushrooms?”
“Can I have your address?”
Prof. Ghosh gave his address.
“And your credit card number?”
“No I’ll pay in cash”
“After you have your Pizza, take the bus number 3, get down at Kala Bazaar, take bus number 5 from the opposite side bus stop, and get down at the old Jakaat Naka. Move in the same direction. In the third lane on the the right, you’ll see a house. It’s not a house but just a camouflage. Ring the bell and the door will open slightly. Pretend to talk to someone inside, and move in. Lock the door behind you. A car will be waiting for you when you step out of the other door. Take care, and act as if you’re visiting a friend. Please don’t look behind you, with all probability someone is following you. Say thank you”
He heard a beep on the other end.
“Thank you”, he said into the receiver.
In fifteen minutes, he had Pizza delivered to his house.
“Prof. Ghosh!”, greeted Luna with excitement, “We’re so glad you made it. For brotherhood refuses to welcome anyone who cannot find his way to it.”
And then Luna proceeded to tell him the rest of the story:
“Prophet N left the caves and traveled to the plains. The first thing he realized was that he was no Prophet of course. And neither was Tenosa. However, he wanted to keep the story of the Marjars alive, and wanted Marjars to be the rightful rulers of the world (or Dandakaranya, however you look at it). The brotherhood had succeeded in finding the Holy Trail and the Manuscript was actually Prophet N’s logs — where he had written down his plan for the Marjars to rule the world. And the plan? The plan was to rule the world with language — which later became known as English.”
Prof. Ghosh looked at Luna with disbelief.
“Why, look at the cat words in English — numerous references to cat people: fact, act, tact. Just see the number of words that have cat seamlessly woven into them. And just look at the bad connotations that rat has got. Rat race, rat chance, rat shit, gutter rat, mall rats, rat faced, smell a rat …”
“But why are the Mushakaas after the brotherhood?”
“That’s because Prof. if this document is ever published, the Mushakaas would be humiliated. So much better if the thing is destroyed forever!”
“But why don’t the Marjars publish it then?”
“They will. When the time comes. Right now, the Mushakaas are very influential, and they will suppress this theory by claiming it to be some wisecrack diabolical document. The Marjars are waiting for the day when the time is right.”
“And till then? Do all of us hide?”
“No of course not, Prof. This all running away business was just to get you into thinking very seriously. You see, the brotherhood doesn’t allow marrying outside for obvious reasons. In case of one of the couple joining the brotherhood, the other has to take the test and if s/he fails, the marriage is broken.”
“But what about the intruder?”
“Oh! He was a crackpot Mushakaa, who had grown too big for his shoes. He wanted the manuscript so that he could publish it as a diabolical book and be famous. He was acting independently. Don’t worry the Mushakaas are not after you”
“Can you say that cat-e-gorically?”, asked Prof. Ghosh.
“Yes sir. There is not a rat’s chance of it being otherwise!”.
‘The time has come’, the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of contracts — and BCCI — and sony Max —
Of Ferraris and Pepsis
And how Mandira was more hot
And whether Tendulkars serves chicken wings’
‘But wait a bit,’ the Oysters cried,
‘Before we have our chat;
For some of us have bad breath,
And none of us have close-up teeth
‘Go hurry!’ said the Carpenter, ‘Or you’ll miss the comercial’.
They thanked him much for that.
‘A streak of luck,’ the Walrus said,
‘Is what we chiefly need:
And a track that turns only when they bat
And yes, rains just when we need —
Now, if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can watch the farce.’
‘But they must not win the toss!’ the Oysters cried,
Showing off his little blue cap.
‘After such a trashing, that would be
A dismal thing to do!’
‘The lady is a riot,’ the Walrus said,
‘Do you admire the view?’