I learned the ABCs of sarcasm from the twelve-year-old Krishnapriya. But, I have always known that the concept of sarcasm has a long history behind it. Machiavelli says that in ancient Florence, “he who could wound others the most cleverly was thought the wisest”. It pains me, because I am a sentimentalist. But, things can go either way. Sarcasm hurts because it is often a form of truth. Man’s history is full of men and women who were butchered because they were sarcastic-Like Kondraty Ryleyev.
Kondraty Ryleyev was a man who lived in the 19th Century Russia. When the new Czar Nicholas I ascended the throne, he became a big revolutionary leader and everything. Not surprisingly, it would not take long for Nicholas I to sentence him to death. But, when the trapdoor opened, the rope broke and Ryleyev fell on the ground. Ryleyev woke up and said cheerfully to the crowd, “You know, in Russia, they do not know how to do anything properly, not even how to make a rope!”
When Nicholas I was signing the pardon, he wanted to know what Mr. Ryleyev thinks about this miracle. Nicholas’ minion said: “Sire, he said that in Russia they don’t even know how to make a rope.” Nicholas I said with a clever smile, “Let us prove the contrary.” This time, the Russian rope did not break. Ryeleyev was soon taken to the graveyard, in a beautiful coffin—All because he said what was more than necessary.
To put it short, I know the pros and cons of sarcasm. Perhaps this explains my ambivalent attitude towards such undefended virtues. It is very painful for me to look at someone’s face and say something sarcastic. I also feel very shy while doing that. This is why I have not used it on anyone till I started working in this city—till I started seeing clever men who send in their employees to their wife in the night.
This happened when I was working with a small “think-tank” in Dwarka — Liberty Institute. It was a beautiful place. You cannot see people even if you walk down a road for long. Once in a while, you would see a bird flying past you. I could walk for long, hatching plans for my next blog post, without being interrupted by people—or even vehicles.
Things went well for a while, though I was a bit sarcastic to the dude(Barun Mitra) who ran the “think-tank”. Now, this was a guy who perfectly fits the stereotype of the useless high IQ Bengali male who lived off his wife for long. I am sure that she must have kicked his ass a lot.
One day he sent me a check written in the name of a Democracy project. I noticed it only because the word democracy has the effect of a red flag on a bull on me. I sent an email to him, saying that he should explain this because I never worked on it. There was no reply.
The next day, he said with a hand-waiving dismissal that it was the money he had long owed me—for their blog. When I went back, the office boy was there waiting for me, smiling. I made some quick calculations in my mind and signed it, asking him to give me a photocopy of that document. He was an idiot. So, I estimated that he might hesitate if there was something wrong. But, he photocopied it in a moment and gave it to me, cheerfully. Soon, I forgot about it.
Then I noticed that I did not really see my boss for long. He did not seem really interested in paying me either. One afternoon, I heard from a contractor that he is a bit “hesitant” to pay his bills. I did not fully believe the contractor because he had some beef with this guy. The same day evening, there was a severe pain in my tongue, and I was misdiagnosed with Cancer.
The next day when I went to his home, this dude was talking on the phone for hours. He looked very happy. He soon sent his minion to ask me to finish off my work as soon as possible. But, for strategic reasons, he said that he will come with me to the hospital that evening. I gathered that there is something wrong in the document I had signed.
That evening I thoroughly humiliated him in front of the girls in my office. The girls were struggling to suppress their laughter. In the end, I asked, “Are you coming with me to the hospital?” He walked silently. After walking for long, he said, “With this kind of attitude, all your knowledge and rationality will come to a naught.” It meant that he could not get over me yelling at him in front of giggling female colleagues. And there was a smug smile on my face.
The next day evening, he started flooding my mailbox with silly work related emails. I sent an email: “Please”, and then this he stayed up the whole night to send me emails. Hehe.
The next day, I sent a birthday card to him: “This boy does not merely hope that there must be justice somewhere in the world somehow to be delivered.” I do not think he understood what I had meant.
I said that it is time for him to settle the accounts, and he suddenly wrote a check and gave it to me. But, he was very clever. He said, “I know why you are tired. I sent you emails only because I did not want you to get sucked into it. My mother died when I was just twenty four because we did not have the money to treat her. I am still not over it. My wife’s father is a doctor. He will give you some Gyan (Wisdom) if you come in the night. I will not be here.”
His wife (Madhumita Mitra) was a smarty who used to stalk me on Facebook. When she used to repeatedly hint at my updates, I understood that she stalks me on Facebook. “So, she must have also seen me kicking his ass ten times an hour on Facebook. That is nice.”, I thought. That evening, when I went there, I did not hear anything about her father. I did not know that he uses her for his purposes. I was very young then, half her age.
From the way I speak, she gathered that things are going beyond their control. She started helping me out with the phone numbers of doctors. I thought, “The day of whipping will come. Just wait.” 😛
The biopsy report would take seven days. The doctors had said that this saint who has never smoked, never used any tobacco product, never tasted alcohol, never had sex, hasn’t crossed his twenties or even exposed himself to sun excessively is going to die, and die painfully. One mediocre writer I had once kicked out saying that she is a “rascal” not worthy of my friendship sent me a sweet message: “Rest In Peace!”.An Objectivist friend wanted to prove that he is more of an Objectivist than me by asking me to record my voice as much as possible.
But, when the biopsy report came, it was just an inflammation. I smiled when I saw the biopsy report, and it was a happy smile. My boss sobbed along with his wife. He sent me a message after I got the biopsy report: “Now I can hope to profit from your life”. His wife asked me whether I feel like going home and taking rest for a while. When I said “No”, she was embarrassed and turned silent. I wondered why she was embarrassed, and what she feared.
The next day when I went to his home, I heard this guy screaming in his shrill voice: “I am sorry that you did not die. You put both of us through hell. The anger, the fluster, the madness.”
The next week, when I got two blank documents to sign, I again made some quick calculations in my head and signed it, smiling at the office boy. A few days later, I walked into the office and said that I want to see what was later written in those documents. Surprisingly, there was nothing wrong. But, when I sifted through the funding documents, I noticed a clear mismatch. I took them and rushed to his home.
He was there. I felt that he had seen this coming. When I said, “I want to kick some people out.”, he clasped the sofa with one hand and leaned forward, his eyes bulging out. He understood that I was hinting at his wife. Much later, he said trembling, “But, when you say things like I will kick you out…” and I chuckled, thinking “So, you hadn’t missed what I had said. You were just pretending not to hear me.”
Later I would tell his wife: “If a man listens to me silently when I am ranting and raving against his wife, he must either be a saint or a—–but I must hold my tongue!”, and she was silent. 🙂
I said, “I am leaving the job, and the reason is this”, taking out the documents from my bag. He said, “Oh. But, there is nothing spectacular in these documents. If there is some financial mishandling going on here, I would not have kept those documents in the shelf for everyone to see.” I calmed down a bit. Then he said, “I might stand this behavior of yours because of my financial self interest. Others might not. I will not take that decision to ask you to leave.” That evening, he started sending me many work related emails. I felt that he was begging.
The next day when I went to office, I was delighted to see some documents related to popularizing an essay contest on Ayn Rand’s novels in India on my desk. Yes, my favorite novelist-philosopher. I also saw a pamphlet on the political party of an economist I used to debate with. Is this all to keep this innocent boy happy-to grease his pure little palms?
Soon, I got a phone call which was unprecedented. I heard an uncharacteristically friendly voice from the other side, and a laugh. I had shouted the previous day that I wanted to kick out his wife. I asked: “Barun, I saw all these documents when I reached the office today. It knocked me out a little. I am, shall I say, a bit too happy. What is it all about?” He was slightly embarrassed: “Oh, It is nothing. I sent that Pamphlet on his political party only because you both are friends.”
I thought, “It is well and good to howl and yelp, but please do not forget to wag your tail! I would really appreciate that!”
That evening, I conned his wife in to an email conversation in which I said, “There are things which go unmentioned because it is beneath me to say it. Given my kindness and compassion, the last thing I want is to hurt another person’s sentiments. Sometimes, I feel that I should have laughed at their faces, or at least slapped, but it all goes unrewarded.” I meant that he was not “man enough” to pay me on time.
He found it difficult to speak after I had insulted his wife. But, when I left the office early the next day, he came after me asking why I was leaving so early. He knew that I had left the job. All he could do was to keep his fingers crossed. The next day, he asked everyone in the office where I had gone. He expressed surprise over what had happened. He also sent me an email expressing surprise. He was being lame.
One evening, I called up his wife and asked whether she had read my sweet email. She said, “Shanu, I am traveling. I will read it when I am back.” I felt that honey was dripping from her voice, and that she was crawling, asking me to spare him. I said that I didn’t miss the purpose behind him sending me to her, asking her whether it is even true that her father is a doctor. Later she would call up my father and weep saying that I said things that would destroy the sanctity of her family. Ah, the sanctity of her family!
A few days after I left the job, I got a call from our accountant. He claimed that they owed me some money and that I deserve to get it good and hard. I had seen this coming. I said that it is not at all true. Perhaps a mistake? You know, these are days when people can’t even add two and two. But, he was persistent. I went to see things for myself. I even took my bag. When I looked into the sheet, I was fooled for a while. Then I noticed that the biggest payment made to me was missing from that piece of paper. That was an attempt to bribe me.
The accountant came to my apartment to beg that he should be spared. He said that he had no idea of all this. I heard that my detractor and his wife had called up my parents to threaten them. The old, washed up woman felt that a boy who is always on Facebook cannot be normal.
I told the accountant that I should drag her in front of him and slap her hard across her face. The accountant looked at the floor, with a shudder on his face. Later, I would send an a mail to this dude, marking his wife and the funding organization (Friedrich Naumann Foundation) saying that if he or she ever calls up my parents, I will come over there and break her leg. There was no response because a bloke at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation had covered up the corruption. He stood silently when she was being publicly whipped. I often wonder how middle aged women stand such public humiliation. 🙂
Later, when he forwarded an email on the sanctity of private property rights to me, I sent an email, marking her, “Thank You. But, Barun, what about the sanctity of your own private property?”