By now, I’ve worked so much with the Hindustan Times, that people often mistake me for the editor, or at the very least as the head of marketing or occasionally the fleet-in-charge. (You know the person who organises cars for staff.) This brings me to the problem that has irked me since childhood. Well, actually, now that you brought it up, 27-and-a-half things irk me since childhood. They include pimples, acne of the back, finding two socks of the same colour, the Aam Aadmi Party’s leadership in Punjab, and one of modern India’s most pressing questions – who will be Arnab Goswami’s successor?
The other problem I’ve had is how to be taken seriously. Not to give myself too much self-importance, but when I enter a room, the meeting that’s going on abruptly ends and inadvertently someone or the other ruffles my hair or pulls my cheeks. It’s the kind of treatment the boss’s three-year-old cherubic daughter would get, if she was to storm in without attendants.
To understand what lurks beneath, I once again turned to psychiatrists. But since all the psychiatrists I know, including Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, are dead, I had to turn to something else – my childhood.
Let’s remember what the famous monk Benedict the seven-and-a-half said just before he was pushed off a cliff. He said, ‘Can I have a rope please?’ Oh, actually it was what he said a few years before that, that I’d like to refer to, ‘All answers to the personality lie in the first eight years of one’s life’, which basically meant if you passed away at the age of four you’d have the honour of being an enigma for life, so well done!
Three incidents shaped my thinking since my childhood. Apparently, I wasn’t a very good-looking child. This is not based on the fact that the photographer insisted on applying make-up on me before taking my baby photos, but because the nurse who was attending to my mother, a nurse who was a veteran of 27 years, quit her job 42 minutes after being handed over a new-born me. You want worse news? Hitler’s nurse lasted 47 minutes; Chengiz Khan’s 49; and Cambodian revolutionary Pol Pot’s 52. But Pol Pot’s doesn’t count because his was a male nurse.
The second incident was in the class plays. In all these plays, I was always given the role of the tree, even if the play didn’t have a tree. Such as class 3A’s Space – The Final Frontier, a tribute to Star Trek set on a planet sans trees. Yet, keeping with the government order that all must play a part, I was once again the tree. And bear in mind, the tree was deep at the back of the stage. In other words, a real tree would not be caught dead playing a tree in any of class 3A’s lavish productions.
Then there was that problem with being allowed to answer questions in class. Through all my school and college years, I’d find myself with my hand up, but no response by the teacher to my raised hand. They just wouldn’t take me seriously. It may have had something to do with the fact that whilst in class 3A, on four consecutive occasions of hands-up in response to questions I had asked to go to the toilet. Although all four times were mere coincidences, I was branded for life as someone who won’t answer questions seriously. So much so that one particular teacher would first request me to leave the class and go to the toilet before she asked us any questions.
And yes, the scars remain. My wife still doesn’t know we’re married. She knows she’s married, she just hasn’t decided on my role yet. My children are making a plan for me as we speak. You know the typical kids stuff, as in defining my position in the family: What days should I work? When should I stay home? Whether I should be allowed an ATM card?
Of course, there are perks of being in this situation. The other day a parking attendant didn’t charge me for parking, purely on the grounds of my obvious immaturity. And when I abused a motorcyclist for breaking a one way and almost banging into my car, his response was typical urban 2016. He took a selfie with me.
Then he took one more, this time insisting that I sit on his motorcycle, holding him tight.
Like the camel lives with its hump, or the rhino with his horn, I’m lumped with this label of being a child, not capable of ageing like wine. The first nail on the coffin was from this very newspaper, when I suggested to the powers that I be about writing a column on being myself. They laughed and said ‘...err… seriously?’
The writer is a TV anchor, comedian, columnist, political satirist and author of 23½ Ways to Make a Girl Fall for You
From HT Brunch, October 2, 2016
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