WORLD AS SEEN BY AN IDIOT
My family thinks that I am an idiot. Sure enough, I do not like to study. In fact, I hate school, college, books and anything even remotely intellectual. That appears strange to all my family members.
My father is a teacher and a well-known author. My mother got a gold medal in her college days. Both think that they have feathers on their head, when actually their heads do not even have good hair. They like to talk on and on about their achievements. But if you ask me they have no achievements. They live in a fool's paradise drawing solace from scraps of papers called certificates. What they have never realized is that their so-called certificates and honors are not even worth the paper used for printing those grand documents.
My father takes pride in his articles that are published across the world by various newspapers and also on various websites. He maintains a thick file of clippings and once in a while looks at it as if he is looking at a great treasure. I hate to disturb him at such times. After all everyone has a right to small pleasures. The reality is that those clippings are nothing more than waste paper that collects dust and causes allergic coughs and sneezing. Most newspapers do not pay anything for publishing articles. A major newspaper with circulation running into millions pays a princely sum of Rs. 350- (less than US$8) for an article. A feature agency that sends matter to more than fifty newspapers across the country used to pay Rs 1000- for an article, but have now reduced it to only Rs 500 (just about US$ 10). Even these grand sums do not come very easily or promptly. A delay of two months for sending payments is normal.
International newspapers are no exception. Three years ago my father received a cheque for US$25 from a Malaysian newspaper. Wow! You should have seen my father jump with joy. For weeks, he did not deposit the money in his bank account and showed it to every visitor. The irony was that the newspaper did not send a clipping of the published article. Till today, father does not know why he received the amount. Surely, it must have been for something that they used. Father routinely conducts search on the Internet to discover sites and newspapers that use his work without bothering to even inform him. Father keeps telling himself that he is a social reformer. I only wish that he realized the old adage about charity beginning at home. His financial position is pathetic and is in urgent need of drastic reforms. I wonder how an intelligent man like him cannot see what a young idiot like me can see.
I do not know much but I know that money matters. Everyone I know is much less intelligent than my father but makes more money in a month than he earns in a full year. And I know many people, even though I am just nineteen years of age. There is that fellow who runs a small paan (betel leaf) shop on the street corner. He sells paan and cigarettes worth just about Rs 200 per day. That is only to keep up appearances. He makes real money selling drugs like marijuana, brown sugar to select customers. He has good contacts in local police station and helps out guys who get into trouble with the police. Fees from such services add to his income. He is very popular in his locality and is planning to contest for membership of municipal council next year. He is just about twenty-five years old. I am sure he has a great political career ahead of him. One day he may become a minister in state government or, if he is lucky, even in Central Government.
Talking of politics, my father lives in the illusion that he is a great political analyst. He knows all top political guns. They keep coming to our house for taking his advice. He writes pamphlets, press notes, posters and such assorted junk for them. He has been doing this for more than two decades. During this period many of such politicians, who were paupers, have become millionaires. Many visitors to our house have climbed the political ladder and have become VIP's, while my father has remained where he was - struggling to balance his monthly budget. He realizes that he is used by everyone. But then, he is a misfit for politics. He can only talk about politics.
Do you know why father is a misfit in politics? The answer is simple - he lives life like an open book with nothing to hide. He is proud of his clean, honest image. How silly! How can you be friend with anyone unless you have some common dark secrets? Friendship for my father is based on common ideals and values. Such friendships are very temporary with nothing to bind. I have seen my father's friends ditch him at the smallest excuse. Real good useful friendships are based on fear of mutual blackmail. Let me give you an example - If you come with me to have a glass of milk, we are friends till we walk together and have the milk. Two weeks later you would have forgotten all about me. Now suppose we have whisky and later jointly do a rape followed by murder. That would be the beginning of a lifelong relationship, which will be cemented by the fear of one squeaking against the other.
My father does not understand such simple facts. He has no secrets (either his own or of others) and hence, has no friends. All those, who take his advice and help, forget him as soon as their work is over. My father is powerless against them. I pity him but cannot even advise him - after all, I am an idiot.
Being an idiot, of course, has its advantages. One major benefit is that one does not have a bloated sense of ego. I have never seen my father touch anyone's feet. On the other hand, I have seen successful sixty-year-old gentlemen touching feet of men who are just half their age. It seems that the route to success lies through people's feet. The more feet that one can touch higher are one's chances of success. As one rises up the ladder, feet keep changing. It is not unusual to kick those whose feet one was kissing just the day before. The most important decision in life is to decide when to kiss someone's feet and when to give a good kick on the buttocks. Schools and colleges should teach such practical skills instead of all the theoretical nonsense that no one ever uses.
In spite of the rotten state of present education system, I am optimistic about the future. Idiots like me who have a very clear view of reality are fast rising up the political ladder. The day is not far when some idiot will become the education minister of India and will introduce much needed changes in the education system. Till then, I have no option but to bear with the stupid system. I am waiting for the day when I shall be out of college to begin my life. I shall then prove to my father that an idiot's view of the world is more real and true than an intelligent man's - at least in present-day India.
Note: The characters, including narrator, in the above article are purely fictional and any resemblance to any person, either living or non-living, is purely coincidental and unintended.
Evening of festival of Holi
17 March 2003
Please write to me your comments about the above article.
ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.
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