On Chain Mails

I was going to tell you about an incident that happened to me a long time ago. I think I was 4th or 5th standard (grade) at that time. And I have always been god fearing (or at least god respecting, as now). I was more so then. One evening (we were in Calcutta then) I had gone to the local market with my parents. As I was standing on the pavement, a short ragged looking man with pock marked face and brownish dry curly hair came upto me and handed me over a leaflet, a single thin page of printed matter on one side only. I took it expecting some sort of advertising material or SALE announcement. I started reading it. It was a yellowish paper with black broken lettering in Hindi. It started with a logo featuring a well-known Baba. As I proceeded with the reading, it explained the greatness of the Baba and his miracles. Then it requested the reader to pass on the message by printing hundred new leaflets and distributing it to hundred new people. Then it went on to list the immense fortunes that accrued to the people who did exactly as told. Till that point I was happy for the people who got so much in return for spreading the Baba\’s word and so on. But then came the clincher. The leaflet went into a totally different zone, a different galaxy, warning of untold damage and misfortune to the people who failed to do the bidding of redistributing the leaflet. Men who lost their businesses, children dying, wife going mad, cyclones ripping apart homes, money turning to ash, blood vomits and all sort of graphic violence you can imagine. When I was finished with the reading, I was numb. I was having pins and needles all over my body. I was scared to death. I knew I could not do what was written in it. I didn\’t have that kind of money. If I told my parents, they would scold me for taking that thing from a stranger. I didn\’t want all those bad things happening to my family. Yes I was more concerned about my parents and brother than myself. It is natural for me to love them more than I love myself. And at that time, my whole existence depended on them. I was seriously freaked out. I folded up the leaflet and we returned home. After a few hours and after considering a lot, I went to my mom and showed it to her. She took it calmly and asked me to keep it near god\’s pictures in our wooden temple and pray for forgiveness. I pushed the leaflet deep inside the drawer of the temple and prayed hard. \”Please god and Baba, forgive me and do nothing to my family.” After a year or so after considerable sobering up, one day I found that leaflet while cleaning the drawers of the temple. I promptly tore it up into minute pieces and threw it in the trash bin. Nothing had happened so far. So gods must have forgotten the whole thing. But I still believed in that mechanism and was generally afraid of getting another one of that by mistake. By the time I was sixteen or seventeen, I had matured enough to understand the conning effect behind those chain mails. Most of the pseudo-religious chain mails in India and across the world derive their momentum from fear rather than the love of god or temptation for money. Fear is more powerful than moolah. We still get chain mails by post occasionally. Rich, powerful, educated, men and women indulge in it. Maybe because they are superstitious or immature or plain stupid. But fear still is the driving factor. Most of these postal chain mails are anonymous and don\’t have a \”reply to\” address. People forwarding them know that the receiver wouldn\’t like it. The receiver will surely hate the sender for setting him up. Since quite many years, I\’ve made it a principal not to forward chain mails. And I stick to it. The ones I forward do not have intimidation or baseless lures or false claims. And are e-mails only. Nowadays whenever we receive a chain mail by post, I read it slowly and surely and completely, like one would read a humour piece. Then I smile. And then I laugh out loud, pitying the person who sent it. Then I enjoy great ecstasy in shredding the mail into smithereens. Then I get back to work. Chain Mails = Bullshit!

Published by Anupam Choudhury

I'm a writer, editor, and blogger from New Delhi, India.

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