We still have our ears ringing with pre-poll promises. Jobs are going to materialise out of nowhere, ‘outsiders’ are going to be kicked out with nothing but the clothes on their backs, corrupt officials are going to be kicked out with nothing but their crores in tax havens, roads are going to be paved before you can say ‘pothole’, an airport will come up there, and a factory here. I don’t know about you but all of this is music to my ears. The taller the claim, the more I admire the claimant, the bigger and more extravagant the promise, the more I applaud the neta making it. This drab, dreary world of ours needs perking up, and the only ones who can do it are bluffers, braggarts, ‘fekus’ and what-have-yous.
Politics is generally seen as having the biggest braggarts but other fields are not far behind. At home, there is always the cousin who regales the family with his feats in far-away lands. Or the aunt who brags about her old prawn pickle that had men literally eating out of her hands. At work, there are ambitious executives whose descriptions of their own accomplishments during self-appraisal read like pages from an epic. And then, there are management consultants! They remind me of Mark Twain talking about a hen which after laying just an egg, cackles as if it has laid an asteroid. But wherever they are and whatever they say, every bluffer is doing society a service, viz., adding to the gaiety of public discourse.
Imagine if your WhatsApp group was populated entirely by Raja Harishchandras (aiyyo!) and the odd George Washington (yawn!). Can you imagine scrolling down reams and reams of dull posts on the plight of the world! It won’t be long before you leave the group and look for an alternative whose members are—how do I put it—a bit more adventurous with the truth?
Tall talkers see the world not as it is, but as it might have been—had inconvenient circumstances not interfered. I, for instance, might well have been putting up at the toniest part of Mumbai had Andheri not usurped its place. I might have been owning a Mercedes-S Coupe, had an endless succession of ‘Share-Taxis’ and autorickshaws not got here first. By now, I might have been a best-selling humourist had the public’s adamant refusal to find my writings funny not nipped my plans in the bud. I might have… the list goes on. Are such illusions the approaching signs of getting loony? Well, I will go with the immortal words of the man of La Mancha—Don Quixote: ‘Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams is madness. Too much sanity is madness—and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!’
The way life pans out, reality almost always falls short of the ideal. Seeing this, lesser mortals will wring their hands in despair, sulk or blame their wives and the government. But we bluffers make up the shortfall with a generous scoop of imagination. The trouble starts because there are people around who do not possess our level of imagination. These spoilsports point a finger at flaws and deficiencies and complain, for instance, that the din are not as acche as somebody had said they would be. Use your imagination, guys! Remember what Albert Einstein had told us – ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’? And if you want corroboration from a more recent and far superior physicist, log in to the orange-robed Swami Nithyananda who mixes science and bunkum with such aplomb that you won’t know which is which.
Truth is noble and nice but it can get trite. Similarly, humility is a wonderful virtue but you shouldn’t go overboard with it. Or blame someone for not playing by your rules. Does it really matter if someone likes the sonorous blast of his own trumpet? I would go in the opposite direction. If a man persists with his humility and refuses to blow his own trumpet, I will doubt not just his lung power but the value of his accomplishments. As Winston Churchill said of the hapless Atlee, ‘he is a modest man – with much to be modest about’.
And finally, I wish the world would be more appreciative of the efforts we bluffers put into our roles. Telling the truth is a relatively simpler job. It takes guts, of course, and that’s about it. On the other hand, camouflaging the truth, and keeping the game going for any length of time calls for craft and a calculating mind of the highest order. India’s mercurial diplomat and ill-starred defence minister Krishna Menon is supposed to have said that it takes intelligence to be able to tell a good lie. Well, this bit of information comes from the illustrious editor of the Illustrated Weekly—the late Khushwant Singh. So, I leave it to you to answer the question—who’s bluffing whom!
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.