(This is one of my hostel wall magazine write-ups when I (dis)graced the portals of IIM-Bangalore with my presence in 1986-88.)
This is not a tale of guns and gore, of karate and ninjutsu or of cabbages and kings. This is simply a conversation between a spy and his control (for the uninitiated, a control is a person who sends the spy out to do or die – mostly die, if you go by the best-selling espionage novels) at Headquarters.
The spy – codenamed Pepsi – meets his control – codename Coke – in his office.
Pepsi:- Say, what is all this rot! Never had such stupid codenames before! Every time someone calls me Pepsi I feel like a bloody vending machine.
Coke:- The powers-that-be have decided. Besides, these companies are paying hefty sums from their advertising budgets to use these as code-names. It seems that repeated contact with a product name creates what they call Top-of-mind-awareness! You end up feeling like buying it. Strangely, I am practically drowning in Cocacola since I was saddled with this codename.
Pepsi:- Same here! I have Pepsi coming out of my nostrils! What is worse, every time I ask for a Pepsi, I feel guilty of divulging my code name.
Coke:- Here is the report from our consultants. They describe what a non-descript man is supposed to wear. Please adhere to this dress code in future.
(Pepsi reads the report with a fury slowly building up in him till he flings the report on the desk)
Pepsi:- What is that crap? Dressed in this psychedelic apparel with a straw hat and rope sandals, I will be about as non-descript as a rogue elephant. Not only that! I shall probably freeze to death.
Coke:- You think you have problems! How about our lady spooks? They are required to wear a string bikini in order to remain nondescript.
Pepsi:- My God! Where did this guy do his market research?
Honolulu, Hawaii Miami or Mars?
Coke:- Wherever he did it, it has passed the chi-square test. So you better wear it, unless you want to be TWEPped (Terminated With Extreme Prejudice – euphemism for killed…something like collateral damage)
(Pepsi is visibly shaken. A choice between gunned down by the opposition in a straw hat or killed by his own side in a conservative suit is presented to him. He inclines towards the latter option. Only the fact that they may bury him dressed in that straw hat, in order to comply with departmental regulations, prevents him from rebelling)
Coke:- (in order to lighten the atmosphere) Have you heard of this businessman who took out a three column ad in all leading dailies offering his services as a mail-drop for spooks? He just could not understand why good publicity was bad for the spook business!
(The frown on Pepsi’s face remains intact. Coke shrugs and becomes businesslike)
Coke:- In future, when identification is required, you will hold a cake of Dove soap in your left hand. For identification phrases, you will say “What is good for the baby is good for the mother” and the reply should be “Johnson and Johnson”. Got it?
Pepsi:- (outrage unzipping his lips) Don’t tell me! Every time I meet someone, I buy Dove – sales of about twenty cakes a month. And the identification phrase is supposed to boost J&J’s sales!
Coke:- (approvingly) Right! I knew there was the makings of a businessman somewhere in you. Now, give me the report on ‘Operation Competition’.
Pepsi:- Here you are! I hope it is not too confidential for me to know why I risked my life to get this file?
Coke:- Not at all! A client wanted to get the formula for Colgate’s latest toothpaste. Now that you have carried out that task, we have the next assignment – Operation Perfect Competition.
Pepsi:- And what is that?
Coke:- Colgate wants you to get this report back!
Pepsi:- What is this place – the CIA or some backwoods detective agency?
Coke:- Pepsi! You know that the federal appropriations are pitifully low thanks to a malfunctioning economy. All Americans are supposed to earn their way and that applies to the CIA as well. This is the American way!
Pepsi:- (convinced) Oh! All right! All right!
Coke:- I have an appointment at safe house 16. We are recruiting Harvard management graduates to market our services. Goodbye!
Coke empties three cans of Cocacola after Pepsi leaves. Pepsi drowns his sorrows in Pepsi and wonders about where to buy beachwear in the depths of
winter. A bikini-clad girl, shivering miserably, and clutching a cake of Dove
in her left hand passes by. A whole train of KGB, GRU, Mossad and assorted
agents embedded in a crowd of rubberneckers follows her to the tune of
wolf-whistles. Pepsi groans and totters away.
Disclaimer: In these non-humorous times it is necessary to mention that the above is intended as a spoof and specifically disclaims any idea of being a realistic account of the activities of any extant organisations mentioned in the post!