It was a con game, plain and simple and I fell for it headlong. The letter was post-marked Aligarh and it introduced an outfit with the grandiloquent name of Directories International (DI). Familiarly addressing me by name, it went on to tell me that DI had undertaken a “stupendpous” and “epochal” task of compiling a directory of all the “greatest”and most “eminent” living Indians and would I please cooperate in making the venture a grand success.
The letter gratuitously informed me that the “Editorial Board” of DI after “due” and “diligent” consideration had decided to include my name in the proposed directory because my “awesome”, “unprecedented” and “historic” achievements were an “inspiration” to present and future generations.
Iâ€ˆwas directed to act pronto and fill in a 10-page questionnaire and return it to DI, within six days along with a passport-size photo and a demand draft for `5,000 to cover “block-making expenses” and administrative overheads”.
I looked closely at the envelope to make sure that it was indeed addressed to me. There was no doubt it was and I let out a wild whoop. Fancy my name being included in a directory of “greatest” and most “eminent” living Indians! Wait till the boys in the club got to hear of this. From now on I was going to put on the dog in no uncertain manner.
I mulled for a while. What were those “awesome achievements” of mine that had found favour with the august “Editorial Board”? Oh yes, I knew. In January last I had broken an orderly bus queue and made a mad dash for it, 13 times in a single day.
And in April Iâ€ˆhad spat betel juice across a 100-foot road and the stains can still be seen, and just last week I had played my new hi-fi gear at 600 decibels disturbing the entire neighbourhood and forcing them to lodge a police complaint for creating public nuisance. These are the “achievements” that usually confer greatness on its Indians and no doubt they had swung the Editorial Board’s opinion my way.
I got down to filling in the questionnaire. In the column “Interests in life” I wrote with a flourish, “Tao, Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation and Zen” and in the column “Aim in life” I wrote “To spread peace, amity, brotherhood, and love among my fellow human beings.” Attaboy that was the stuff to give the troops!
The questionnaire, accompanied by a passport-size photo and of course a demand draft for `5,000 was soon winging its way to distant Aligarh.
Six months passed and there was no word from DI. An enquiry elicited the response that block-making charges had risen “sharply” following budgetary imposts on brass, zinc and copper and would I please fork out an extra `5,000 so that DI could successfully overcome its fiscal stringengy and bring out their directory on time? Fancy one of the “greatest” living Indians being bothered by and banal talk about ‘gujri’ stuff like copper and zinc!
More than a year has gone by and there is still no word from DI. Their directory appears to have gone to the ground somewhere north of the Vindhyas and I have become the butt of ceaseless ribald jokes from my friends who keep telling me no doubt out of sheer jealousy that I have been taken for a deluxe ride and that I am in a hole to the extent of `10,000. But I remain unfazed and serenely confident that the directory will be out and hit the stands before the year of the Lord 2095 and will become an instant best-seller.