I didn’t always tell the truth to my friends

By Bikram Vohra

When one of the editors asked me to do this piece, she said you can be as honest as you like. That, of course, underscores the suspicion that half the time all of us writers are fibbing and that honesty is now at a premium.

It also makes life more difficult because when you are lying with grace and finesse you can cook up stuff. It makes writing so much easier. Whereas with honesty, you only end up annoying people and you stop being appropriate and it is a lot more tedious telling the truth because it comes with such restrictions.

Let me give you an example. My outstanding expression of love for 2017. I received this poem from someone aspiring to poetry at the level of Mary Angelou.

2017 is leaving us soon,

It is standing at the gate

Ready to be late

Waiting for a cab

I hab

nothing to say

As it goes on its way

Oh dear

Happy new yearrrrrrrrr.

I read it, appalled. Then I read it again. This is not a child, this is one grown-up person and this drivel has 132 comments applauding the incandescent genius. There are also a dozen odd shares. Why on earth would you share this?

She wrote ‘hab’ because she couldn’t think of another word to rhyme with ‘cab’ and taxi wouldn’t have hacked it. Probably sat there and said, wow.

I become sharer 133. I write: this is wonderful, so inspiring and yet, simple. Loved it.

Then for no reason at all, I say, keep going, you are on the right track, which really is a terrible encouragement — to foist this genre of drivel on friends and relatives.

I should have been honest. Yes. And said, what is wrong with you. Please stop writing as of now, this is intolerable stuff; even if you searched for it with a power torch, you would not find any redeeming feature. But then I would have hurt feelings, bruised sensibilities, lost a friend (albeit one who writes bad poetry, if you can call it that) and generally gone against the grain of the season.

But it is the one thing this year where I recorded my love. It is there on a social platform, like a stranded train.

For me, otherwise, 2017 was like the average guy in class. Sort of coming in 14 out of 24, one red mark, nothing distinctive, just making up the numbers and occasionally showing a spike of effort. Not much to love, spotty-faced, clumsy adolescent of a year in which little was achieved. It was just there, that’s all. And things I love doing, I kept doing, including counting my blessings, which now and again is a smart thing to do.

Among the many things I did not love but said I did, was telling house guests, they were welcome to stay another week even though they were not. That they accepted this generous offer made it only worse.

Admiring a painting that someone famous did. I stood next to the artist and I said, hmmm, it’s got aesthetic appeal and depth, there is something mystical about the texture and the use of the colours to drive the message is subliminal — I love it. It was all whorls and geometric squares squished onto a canvas but catch me being caught out displaying my peasantry, no, no, no, I appreciate good art even if it is a foreign language.

We use the word ‘love’ so loosely it is like a pajama without a cord, flopping all over the place. We say, we loved the experience when what we really want to say is, it was awful and unpleasant. I lectured a post graduate class in Mumbai and nobody was interested. They were on iPads, iPhones, all of them displaying an I-couldn’t-care-less body language that you could not possibly love but I said exactly the opposite to the dean.

If only I hadn’t been ordered to tell the truth. I could have lied with such felicity and picked out clumps of goodwill from among those ghastly pass-ons and forwards that people inundate you with and all those sayings and proverbs about love and warmth and togetherness and hugs for all. Sticky sentimentality dripping from every screen in the house.

I loved your dinner (it was tasteless and yucky).

Loved talking to you, very stimulating (yes, like watching grass grow was an action film in comparison you bore).

What a lovely little kid, so well behaved (can’t you tie him up?)

Loved our vacation, so restful, recharged our batteries (stressful, rude, overpriced, exhausting pain in the neck five days).

Loverly, congrats on your promotion (how the hell did he wangle it, must have sucked up big time).

You won the duty free raffle, so happy for you, love to celebrate, couldn’t have happened to a better couple (aaaaargh, that’s so depressing, why them now they will be twice as insufferable.)

Hab a good 2018 anyway, the cab is at the gate.

letters@khaleejtimes.com

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