This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 37; the thirty-seventh edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "Truth is stranger than fiction"
All right! Let us get this dissertation on ‘Truth is stranger than Fiction’ off the ground. Do we, in true dissertation style start the discussion by defining Truth and Fiction? I do not think that it will get us anywhere beyond a discussion of the definitions for the next 1000 pages or so – we may end up digressing into ‘absolute truth’ and ‘perceived truth’; may wander over to Mayavada and get lost in illusions and may even end up pinching ourselves to ensure that we are real. So, let us assume those words to mean whatever they mean in the context in which they are used and get on with the dissertation.
When it comes to Fiction, however, one does face a problem. Do we take Fiction to include fantasy? If so, we may have insuperable problems in proving that ‘Truth is stranger than Fiction’. I mean, we may think of our CEO as Sauron and the top management as the Nazgul but do we really think the CEO has ‘One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them’? Do we really think that the CFO can be killed only by a woman employee and the Chotu who gets us our tea? Fantasy, I am afraid, we shall have to leave out of this learned discourse.
There used to be a time when one started citing personal experience or individual incidents to prove a point the academics frowned on it and said scathing learned things like, “You are missing the wood for the trees” and the like. That was merely because the term ‘anecdotal evidence’ had not been invented then. Now, thanks to this wonder term, one can prove anything to be true by citing an individual instance that supports it. In the spirit of the times, I shall present some anecdotal evidence to prove that ‘Truth is stranger than Fiction’.
In childhood, one perceived textbooks as repositories of truth. You may doubt it and, in particular, choose to rail at history at least as being more fiction than fact. It is nevertheless true that fiction of the fairytale variety must necessarily have been less true than the texts. In childhood, thanks to the quaint ideas of my parents, I was expected to be spending a good portion of my time reading text-books. I must have amazed them with the dutifulness of my adherence to this irrational injunction, thanks to the fact that I had discovered that the Grimm’s fairy tales fitted in very nicely within the boundaries of an open textbook. So, Truth – as in the textbooks - was more a stranger to me than Fiction in my childhood days.
There are more anecdotes from childhood. Schools have this unnatural habit of holding monthly tests and, in my time, ranking kids on their performance. Thus, every month, I was in for something like six beatings - one each for my performance in each test and one when the monthly progress report came in. I may not have been the brightest star in the firmament but a native shrewdness was – shall we say – beaten into me. It is thus that I bravely lied about not receiving the corrected test notes till such time the progress report arrived. After all, what is the point in getting whacked up six times when some creative adjustments of the truth could cut it down to one? So, in yet another way the Truth was more a stranger to me than Fiction.
What did you say? Truth being a stranger to me is not the same as Truth being stranger than Fiction. You nit-picking people are the reason why no research ever gets off the ground. Oh! All right! All right! If that is what you insist upon.
Let me then tell you of the Suresh-Ramesh anecdote in my life. Well, actually, had it been Ramesh it would have been even better but, though I did have a Ramesh or two at school in Neyveli, it happened to be a
It was six years since we last met in school and I was at IIM-Bangalore in
those days. One day I was happily walking down MG Road
when who should pop out of an ice-cream shop but Ravi
from my school? We went through the obligatory Suresh-Ramesh, sorry,
Suresh-Ravi routine and caught up on what had transpired in our lives.
That was that. No e-mail, no FB, no Linked-in in those days and we lost touch with each other almost from the moment we parted that day. Three years later I was working in
Delhi and rooming with
an NTPC employee (Now this was a Ramesh but that does not count, does it?). One
day the two of us were walking out for dinner and he pointed at a house and
said that was the residence of a mutual acquaintance. I turned to see Ravi
standing near the boundary wall. Yes, the same Ravi of
my school and the Bangalore Suresh-Ravi episode. Our mutual acquaintance was
his sister’s husband.
Now tell me if I had written a novel called “Two States” hinging on two such accidental meetings – suitably changing
Ravi to Ravina,
of course, since one cannot do without the Romantic angle – do you think that
the reading populace would have taken me to their bosoms like another Chetan Bhagat
or would they have uttered snide comments like “What? Is this some
believe-in-10-impossible-things-before-breakfast business?” Truth is stranger
than fiction, Q.E.D.
WHAT? You oppose my conclusions? You say that if three brothers separated and in widely different locations can congregate in one hotel and unite by singing ‘Yaadon ki baarat nikli hai yaar…”, Fiction has proven stranger than truth? If a rupee note signed by the hero and heroine and transacted in Chennai can traverse the country and end up in the heroine’s hands in Kolkatta, Fiction has proven stranger than truth? That you have even seen a movie where the lead pair separates and then find themselves meeting each other in a country not even on the map and, so, how can Truth be considered stranger than fiction?
Oh! All right! I will amend the conclusion. Truth is stranger than non-Indian Fiction. There, now, are you satisfied?
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