It was a morning of boundless exultation. What better way for a morning to break than showing up one’s victim writhing in shame and discomfiture! There it was in our morning rag, a triple column caption in italics and a sinister story screaming beneath it! Some police sleuths had, as they often do, goofed up. They got names scandalously wrong, some innocent guy mistaken for the man whom they were supposed to shadow,
An anonymous voice whispered a name in their ears and that was gospel for the special branch sleuth. He astutely watched the airport, both arrivals and departures, when Soopy was to come in and Soopy was to go out. In the heavenly process of political transition, N Soopy and K M Soopy became interchangeable. They operated in opposite political poles, one senior and the other quite junior but that made no sense to the special branch sub inspector. The nominal error animated the police wireless or decorated the file with the red tape which contained “secret” reports.
The mix-up, quite inconsequential, was perhaps a regular feature of CID life but it disturbed an invisible hornet’s nest only when a disaffected group leaked it to scribes like me who had no respect for police concepts of confidentiality. One Soopy becoming another Soopy is not an isolated anecdote. The story goes that RSP leader Baby John once felt an irritating tail behind him. While walking along the corridor, he suddenly decided to take a U-turn, his towering figure dwarfing the shadow. As they were face to face, the stupefied sleuth struck an attention pose and saluted. Baby John sent him away with a word of caution to be discreet while carrying out intelligence assignments.
Back to the forgettable goof up at the airport, duly guided by a disgruntled section in the intelligence apparatus, my onslaught was executed. Lavishing my acerbic vocabulary on it, I wrote out a story rhetorically titled “Special Branch for Bloomers.” I enjoyed watching through my mind’s eye how it hurt its makers and their newly appointed inspector general(intelligence). That a heavy dose of my own medicine was likely to be administered to me, that nemesis would overtake me one of these days, never occurred to me. When it hit me, I went into hiding--from myself.
There was no question of acting busy when a former colleague told me he was dropping by with an English professor of politics for a freewheeling chat on what we may call leftism, rightism and left-rightism. Before his call ended, they were at my doorstep, the learned professor announcing he had no specific questions. Nor had I specific answers. Through the next sixty minutes we surveyed life in the world and beyond. Whether he felt it was a lot of hot air that he was leaving behind, I don’t know.
When he was gone, I lapsed into instant research and came up with references to some of his unusual papers. I felt good, learning a new thing or two. Then it happened like a mental explosion. The guy who talked to me with overarching erudition was not the guy I thought he was, his unusual paper I ferreted out was not his paper. It was an agonizing realization that what one saw was really not what one saw. It was a comprehensive embarrassment; it was a nemesis. Nemesis knows its way. I bolted out of me in shame and stupidity.
A goof up I saw in the Kerala assembly was covered up with expertise. An old member from Kodungallur, who was known by the name Aboobacker, had died. The inevitable obituary followed.When P M Aboobacker returned to the house, he declared he was not yet dead; a name-sake of his was still alive, though not kicking. The shape of the member in question was shrouded in the garb of death. The speaker was not a little annoyed but he managed to keep the goof up out of the press.
V Viswanatha Menon did nothing of the kind. His maiden budget was full of bloomers. From the moment of its presentation, bloomers, elementary errors of arithmatic, were detected one by one on a daily basis. The finance secretary washed his hands off. The errors were the contribution of some budget enthusiast comrade who went round incognito, leaving his howlers to be owned and disowned by the finance minister. A warm man who found many things in life to laugh about, Viswanatha Menon was disaffected too. For so much as reporting his serial goof up, he was cross with me too, shaking up an old friendship.
No one knows if Morarji Desai hit the ceiling and broke his skull after he gave an obituary address in Parliament for Jayaprakash Narayan who was yet not dead. How word came to the prime minister about the Lok Nayak’s death which had not happened will ever remain an ugly official secret. It was like a morbid epiphany, not only to Desai but ministers of his council and opposition stalwarts. As their speeches studded with customary shock and sorrow echoed around the Raisina HIll, message from Mumbai rolled again that the prophet of Total Revolution was not dead, not yet.
When I had to be off Facebook for a few days for allegedly being unable to conform to certain communityh standards, I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what I had goofed up, where. I passed through a metamorphosis, becoming a Kafkaesque character who was facing trial for an unknown crime. I felt like despondent Louis MacNeice, praying for an unborn son, forgiveness for sins uncommitted. “I am not yet born, forgive me for the sins that in me the world shall commit.” One feels relief at long last that there was no goof up. The discovery of the non-existent goof up was the goof up!