As in most things in life, I had a very mistaken impression about these 'Open Letters'. (Yeah! I know - You think I am the world's leading exponent of misunderstanding everything. But, then, I do not persist in hugging those impressions to my chest nor do I refuse to let go of them, no matter what evidence I see to the contrary). You see, whenever I saw that someone wrote an 'Open Letter' to someone else, I used to be awed by that person - not only was he in correspondence with exalted people but he was also so important that the world would be interested in what he had to say to that other person.
Much later, it dawned on me that these 'Open Letters' were written precisely because any private letters by the said person would not even get past the secretary to the third secretary to the Executive Assistant of the person to whom they are purportedly addressed. I use the word 'purportedly', advisedly. It is the world at large to whom the message is directed and the 'Open Letter' is less TO the addressee and more ABOUT him. Quite naturally, it is very seldom laudatory - after all, when is the last time you ever heard anybody praise anybody else in public (other than, of course, 'dear Rocky who, from the time I gave birth to him, showed that he started from where Einstein left off')? If you did, quickly apply for the 'Guinness Book of World Records'. AND do not get misled by the fact that the letter may start being laudatory - there is always a 'but' lurking around the corner.
Whether or not YOU are an important person may or may not be relevant to the popularity of your 'Open Letter'. What is important is that the addressee of your 'open letter' HAS to be important. There is no point in writing an open letter like
Dear Padoswali Daiyan,
Do you think that throwing your garbage over the wall transports it miraculously to the municipal waste dump, instead of into my backyard? Or do you think that what you can do, I cannot do better? Next time you throw the garbage, I will show that I can generate and throw four times the garbage, six times a day onto your flower-bed.
With a million curses on your sewage-filled head.
Your irate padosi.
THIS may certainly ease your wrath-filled heart but if you expect people to queue up to read it, you have a far more active imagination that I have ever seen before.
On the other hand, though, you could write a letter like this
Dear Arvind Kejriwal,
I see that you are taking strong steps to ensure that you are in charge of the government of Delhi. In pursuit of ensuring that the LG does not keep interfering with your governance, I am sure that you shall also take strict action against the person who typed the order for acting Chief Secretary as well as the attender who delivered the orders. No doubt you have already ensured that the air is let out of their two-wheeler tires and you shall, further, hold a meeting in the slums of Govindpuri to tell the world about how the duo conspired in the past to ensure that the infrastructure of Delhi came to an absolute standstill. Of course, nobody can question you on why no action was taken WHEN they so conspired (we all understand that).
Now THAT has the potential to draw people like flies to honey. All the more if there is controversy about it. After all, YOU may have intended only to say that the vendetta against the bureaucrats, who may have only been carrying out orders, seems illogical OR going public with accusations and allegations about your officers is immature BUT if you think that THAT is what people will understand, you have no business writing 'open letters'. There will be people who will call you a candle-bearer of the corrupt, people who will explain the constitution to you and decry your siding with the LG, people who will just call you a BJP- chamcha OR a AK-basher - in short, there will be a lot of people who have the ability to make the 'open letter' go viral.
See what I mean? A successful 'Open Letter' has to (a) be written to an important person (b) should be provocative enough to get people to call you names, (c) should be timely - you can hardly expect anyone to read a 'open letter' to Indira Gandhi about the imposition of the Emergency and share the glad news with family, friends and facebook friends, and (d) gather at least a few who will abuse those who abuse you. (Have you not heard? It takes two to tango and, unless there are people shouting from your side of the fence, how can you get a good yelling match going? Without that, how will the letter traverse the length and breadth of the Internet?)
There you are - I am quite the expert at getting publicity for 'open letters', aren't I? What can I do - I had to gain the expertise. Nobody - family or friends - bothers to read my private mail, so I am reduced to communicating through 'open letters' OR to use the Facebook equivalent - Status Messages - to communicate. Though, to be sure, both these options ensure that everyone, except the addressee, reads the message so I do not know what help they are.
If someone somewhere has written a post on 'How to get private messages read', please let me know. I will write an 'open letter' thanking you for it. AND you can get into the Guinness as the first person to have been the addressee of a laudatory 'open letter'!
There - THAT's an offer you cannot refuse!
There - THAT's an offer you cannot refuse!
(A post by the hilarious Debajyoti Ghosh was the inspiration for this post and I may have even been guilty of filching a few of his ideas)