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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014

Celebrating All Fools’ Day

Rajesh Krishan, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, April 01, 2014
First Published: 08:04 IST(1/4/2014) | Last Updated: 08:12 IST(1/4/2014)

It was April 1 and I was on a flight from Doha to Paris. A few minutes after the plane took off, a flight attendant, an English-speaking lady of Arab origin, came to me and said, "Hello sir, would you like to have something to eat or drink?" To this I replied in French, "Bonjour, s'il vous plait, je veux bien un verre d'eau (Hello, I'd like to have a glass of water, please)."

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The attendant's reply was, "Sorry sir, but I don't speak French."

In that moment, even as I wondered at myself for replying in French after being asked in English, a thought flashed through my mind that why not have some fun and play a prank! It's one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions that led me to pretend that I was someone that I really wasn't.

"Tant pis (Too bad!)," I said to her, adding, "Je ne parle pas votre langue (I don't speak your language)." Before she could reply to that, my co-passenger, an elderly woman from Punjab, who had been observing me with strange curiosity all this time, decided to intervene.

Probably prompted by my fair complexion, she said in her typical Punjabi accent "Oho madam, French people don't speak English." I smiled at the old lady, almost as if I was acknowledging what she was saying. In my heart, I was dying to tell her that her judgment was deeply flawed.

Meanwhile, the attendant looked around, trying to find someone who spoke French. "Excuse me sir, I'll go find someone who can speak French," she said and left.

I watched her walk up and down the aisle of the plane several times before she returned to me with a French-speaking stewardess who said, "Bonjour monsieur, puis-je vous aider? (Hello sir, can I help you?)" I couldn't control my laughter anymore, "Yes, sure miss, but first let me wish you a happy April Fools' Day!" As soon as I answered in English, the attendant to whom I was speaking looked shocked, while the old lady stared at me absently for a moment.

Then we all burst out loudly into laughter.  

Another prank that comes to mind is from my early youth. It's about 'stealing' our visitor's cars. My cousin and I once 'stole' a Maruti 800, which was parked in front of our house, and took it to the rear.

That car belonged to one of the clients of my dad, who went into the house with him that afternoon. When the owner came out and realised that his car wasn't there, he became nervous and shouted, "My car! God, somebody stole my car!" He then ran hither and thither in panic for a while.

In the end, when we told him that it's All Fools' Day, he was bowled over with relief. Later, he shared our laughter most joyously. I reckon such an antic today would land one in jail. Things were different, though, in the early 90s.

To quote American writer Mark Twain, "The first of April is the day when we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year." So let us all play our part today, indulging in some folly and spreading cheer!

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