Which is the naughtiest three-letter word of them all? As any seducteur will tell you, it is the chase that counts. From the world of chase, the obvious three-letter candidate vying for the leading position is a word that began life as an acronym: SMS.
SMS has been linked in its short history spanning only a decade with scandals of every hue, ranging from pre and extra-marital affairs to murders, payoffs and high treason.
Who sent an SMS to whom, when and why, are the first questions to ask in any investigation. Graham Greene might never have written The End Of The Affair in a world of GSM communication. At any rate, his private eye who follows the ex-mistress, could have used GPS technology and saved himself a lot of running around.
Without the SMS, would modern day urban adultery which is so much a part of the naughty Indian cityscape even exist? The fixed land line sitting in the family living room on its respectable coir mat with a fancy diary for jotting messages is utterly impotent as a device for convening trysts and assignations of the illicit variety.
The burden, be it of long-distance pillow talk or of up-to-the-minute-up dates like ‘I’m stuck at the Nehru Place flyover so wait inside Coffee Day,’ falls squarely on the three-letter SMS which would win hands-down over that steamy three-letter S-word with a vowel and an x, if it weren’t for a slight glitch.
My first memory of hearing the three-letter word in public is from the George Michael days. He had split from Andrew Ridgeley a year earlier and cut his single I want your sex.
The boy’s hostel of the school invited the girls for a social night and played the song in a continuous loop all through the party, which I distinctly remember, was catered with excellent pineapple pastries.
Though it was 1990 and you didn’t hear the S-word ever on DD or Star Plus, for us Delhi teenagers who liked to call ourselves cool cats, it rolled like water off a duck’s back. We even hummed the word nonchalantly in class when inexperienced substitute teachers showed up.
Significantly more traumatised than the co-ed teenagers they were there to invigilate, they usually left near tears. For those like them beyond the reach of adolescent hormones, the S-word has a different trajectory.
My theory is that it has gathered slow respectability through its four letter derivative: sexy. Did you ever suspect that a simple ‘y’, the same one you learnt stood for yellow, could illuminate and lubricate the mistrusted path to that most taboo S-word? I will conjecture that this happened because automobiles became sexy.
In the larger world, the automobile probably became sexy because of pinup calendar girls who draped themselves over it, but the local modification for that global caveat is of course that the Delhi carscape had to bide its time for the days of the Premier Padmini and the previous avatar of Ambassador with their lurching and spluttering bodies, to be over. New car bodies flooded the market and Bold and Beautiful flooded our homes.
Fast forward to 2007, we're now full players in the global economy and there is no dearth of sexy. Not just your SUV and your sleek two-door convertible but your iPod, your Sony laptop and the mobile phone that transmits your SMS, are all sexy, in all likelihood even very sexy.
It is easier to bandy about the word sexy in mixed company when it describes the Universal Good (in our times pluralized with an s) than when it could be applied only to a starlet playing a mujrawalli in some B-grade film.
But now sexy and its single syllable cousin without the y describe the very goods we are all hunkering for and, no longer taboo, se-x can actually contend for the winning spot in the category of naughtiest three-letter words.
Abha Dawesar is the author of novels such as That Summer in Paris, Babyji and Miniplanner