It’s odd how mistakes can become an unintended habit. Make the first and you often end up doing it again and again. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to me last week. What made it all the more embarrassing was that, each time, it occurred on live television. Even if that wasn’t the case, I felt all of you were watching. And if you weren’t, that’s not much consolation!
So this sunday morning — as the frenetic television viewing of the last week slows down — let me share with you how I made an ass of myself, not once but twice in a week.
The story starts six months back. On a show discussing the international economic crisis one of my guests was a certain Anand Tandon, a director of Brics Securities. For reasons that I cannot fathom I kept calling him Ashok. The first time he smiled and responded without demur. But when I did it again it was more than he could take. “Actually its Anand,” he gently corrected me. Everyone laughed.
You would have thought this would be seared in my consciousness forever. Alas not. Last week, the day the exit polls were announced, I did it again. CNBC TV18 had a live show with seven guests. Anand Tandon was one of them. Shortly after we began I turned to him. “Ashok,” I said. Anand smiled but replied cheerfully. I misunderstood the smile and did not realise my mistake. “Ashok,” I said again. “Karan,” he chided me. “It’s Anand, can’t you remember?”
“You really are a fool,” the producer whispered in my ear, as I blushed with embarrassment. His name is Ashok. “Now don’t start calling me Anand!”
Believe it or not, three days later I did it again. This time it happened on CNN-IBN. Kapil Sibal was the star guest talking about how the new government will tackle the challenges India faces. To question him, I had the well-known economist, Lord Meghnad Desai, and Siddharth Varadarajan, the Strategic Affairs Editor of The Hindu.
Now Siddharth is a good friend. He’s been on my programmes countless times. We’ve also dined together frequently. But last Sunday, when he was sitting beside me, I turned to introduce him and clean forgot his name. I announced his designation and then gasped because I could not carry on.
It was a frightening movement. I knew I’d forgotten and my jaw dropped as I struggled to cover up. Siddharth realised what had happened and started chortling. Fortunately Lord Desai stage-whispered his name. But what would I have done if he had not?
The last time I made such a ghastly bloomer was way back in 1987. It was during a live episode of ‘The World this Week’ on Britain’s Channel Four (Incidentally, Prannoy stole the name!). The half-hour show was ending and all that was left was to thank the guests. “Thank you John, thank you Paul”, I said to my left. Then, turning to the right, I tried to thank the third. “Thank you,” I began only to realise I’d forgotten her name.
“Susan,” she said adding “or at least that’s what you’ve been calling me. My name, of course, is Siobhan.”
On that occasion, the end credits covered up for me but I’ll never forget Nisha’s greeting when I got home. “Hello Dumbkof,” she said, as I walked through the door. “If you can’t remember names when you’re 31 what will you do 20 years from now?”
I guess you’ve just found out the answer. I’ll either make them up or rely on another guest to prod my memory. But what’s now worrying me is what I’ll be like in another 20 year’s time?
If I take after my dear Aunt Daya, I could end up a source of considerable amusement for my nephews and nieces. One morning, 30 years ago, she had us in stitches when Lakshman, a cousin, rang at 6 am.
“Oh hi, Aunty Daya”, he cheerfully began.
“Daya?” she queried, apparently perplexed by the name. “Daya’s not here.”
And that’s my great fear too — next I’ll forget my own name!