Monday, May 25, 2015

Open Letters

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).

Concerned Citizen

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!

(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)

24 comments:

  1. You truly are a great teacher, Suresh! You explain so well, or should I say, 'demystify' sme of these important tools we have in our great democratic setup. After all, where would all the Indian free speech folks be without this thing called Open Letter? :) Your explanation for how to write an effective open letter is on the dot! I wonder if I can now begin to write one after reading this. Just concerned about the fourth prerequisite - not sure if I will ever get enough people to abuse me, I mean, my open letter :D

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    1. Ye Gods! Me - a teacher? Everyone who ever sought to learn from me has acquired a whole new appreciation of all the other teachers he had :)

      That, I would have thought, is the easiest :) As in open letters, so in Society at large - people are ALWAYS more willing to abuse than praise :)

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    2. ** raises eyebrow **slowly chuckles!

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  2. Haven't written an open letter before, don't have plans of writing one any time either, but that was a nice take on them for sure :D especially the one to the padosi :P and will return to the post if I ever have to write one.

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    1. Hahaha! Now my blog becomes a guidebook, huh? :)

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    2. Yes ;) Life is like that, CS :D

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  3. I assume you know my reasons for writing a few open letters to SRK too well and you've spilled them out here. Loved this post :)

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    1. Akanksha! I do not believe it - that you will write anything that is not laudatory of SRK :)

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    2. Ofcourse not!

      1- He's Famous.
      2- I want to be in limelight and tell the world how much I love him
      3- I can't send a letter to him that will go past his security.

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    3. yes - all that is true! Your letter will belong in the Guinness Book of World Records as the unique laudatory Open Letter :)

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  4. I am sure, no one would write an open letter after reading your post :). you have explained the whole process in your inimitable style. absolutely hilarious and profound.

    And by the way, you don't need ideas to write posts. You just need a word :). I cannot even think of writing a post like this. and thank you for sending visitors to my blog :D

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    1. Debs! if I truly sent some traffic your way, I am happy - I did my readers a favor :)

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  5. I quite understand that I did not understand the purpose behind these open letters.... until now.

    Just say it... oh wait! If I call it an Open Letter, someone may actually read it? is that what I should take away from this?

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    1. One thing I have learnt - I never interfere with what the reader takes away from anything I write :)

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  6. The art of writing open letters. I 'm trying to imagine those famous faces of 'open-letter' authors if they read this one. :-D :-P You have an inimitable style, indeed.

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    1. Thanks Maniparna! AND I thought I was training people to join that tribe :)

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  7. pados wali daayan!! LOL!

    ah! so now I know why no one writes me any open (or even closed) letters! tch tch... now pray tell me how to become famous enough to be the recipient of at least one such letter.

    and padoswali daayan... Hahaha still LOL ing!

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    1. Well - One way is to start writing open letters :P

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  8. This was hilarious and spot on. I cannot agree more. I find the concept of writing Open Letters well ridiculous. But then like you pointed out, write it to a celeb with doses of controversy and wait for people to lap it up.

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    1. And, why people lap it up also beats me, Rachna! :)

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  9. These "open" letters were right on mark ! Controversies perk up otherwise boring lives..and controversial open letters are always so welcome :) For a long while, I used to wonder about why people would want to use FB statuses, which was rather akin to shouting stuff standing at the roof..but not anymore, now I am wiser. Soon, I will master the art of writing open letters too under your guidance. let me know if you have some suggestions for interesting and controversial ppl :)

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    1. Yeh Lo :) Now I may have to start a school :)

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