THREATS AND SOAPS
It was the fag end of the month and I was sorely beset by an acute cash flow crisis and with the salary day a tantalizing three days away, I waited eagerly and anxiously for the crackling cheque from an admiring editor for a scintillatingly witty ‘middle’.
When the postman came by with the morning mail, I made a grab for it and feverishly tore open the envelope feeling quite confident that here was manna from heaven that would see me through the critical weekend, but alas I was too sanguine for rather than being a cheque, it was one of those (in) famous ‘chain letters’ and suffice it to say that I felt like an express elevator on its way down.
|I was asked to look nippy and copy out some strange mumbo jumbo cant on a post – card and send it off, pronto, to 25 people, presumably ‘born again’ sinners like myself.|
In my chequered time, I have been on the receiving end of many ‘chain letters’ but this one was pure tobacco. It was from one of those hellfire and brimstone fundamentalist outfits and it went straight to the heart of the matter. In harsh, rasping tones, it warned me in no uncertain verbiage that my sins had found me out and if I wanted to save my corroded (and shriveled) soul, for what earthly purpose the ‘chain letter’ did not specify, I was asked to look nippy and copy out some strange mumbo jumbo cant on a post – card and send it off, pronto, to 25 people, presumably ‘born again’ sinners like myself.
The ‘chain letter’ suddenly took on a coy, mellow tone and it dangled out rewards for prompt compliance and enriching the coffers of the financially strapped postal department by way of purchase of 25 post – cards were tantalizing indeed.
A faithful who had ‘continued’ the chain had been promoted to the senior and suppertime scale of the All India Administrative Services and elevated to the rank of a Secretary to the Government.
So the shoe dropped and the cookie crumbled and I knew now how cabinet secretaries and officers on special duty in the Prime Minister’s Office had gotten to the top of the bureaucratic heap – They had sent off ‘chain letters’.
Yet another faithful had won the first prize in the lottery while a third had gone abroad on a study scholarship.
The ‘chain letter’ again took on a menacing tone. It minced no words in warning that dire fate befell those who scoffed and rashly ‘broke’ the chain. One such heretic had been demoted and summarily transferred as a daily rated dispatch clerk in the Block Development Office in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh on the China – Myanmar border. Another iconoclast had been bitten by a rabid dog while a third had his self – occupied house notified by the Rent Controller.
I know that some people, to while away the time, send off ‘chain letters’ in an effort to exchange rare recipes or exchange mathematical puzzles, but if they are sent to scare the living daylights out of simple folk, I think we are justified in looking squiggle eyed, but then, I suppose, writing and responding to ‘chain letters’ like chain snatching on busy roads, chain – smoking in public places and pulling alarm chains in Indian Railways’ unreserved second class compartments is a habit difficult to give up.
By S. Raghunath
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