Mind is often referred to as the Master of the universe, the worst Enemy of man, a Devil’s workshop, listen to Body and not Mind, when it comes to eating…, and ever so many other things. Accolades or accusations regardless, mind does feed us 24×7 with thoughts good, bad, or indifferent that keep us floating.

Luckily, this time around my mind did bring some lighter instances to the fore that brightened up my chehra with occasional muskurahat – the likes of mishearing, typo errors, or gaps in communication. And what can be more satisfying than sharing with readers before these vanish into thin air like a dream the morning after. Mil baant kar khayein, they say.

Mishearing is a common ailment. One hot afternoon a stenographer was called in for dictation. The cool air-conditioning in the office, coupled with the heavy restaurant-lunch that he just had, made him feel sleepy as he was taking dictation. However, he did manage to take notes, and the letters that he typed had sentences like this. “He announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh with the powers wasted (vested) in him”: “The expenses incurred on fried egg (Friday) were met by the Organization”: “We shall send you a keep (jeep) for the duration of your stay in Circuit House”. “On an average he deceived (received) Rs 3 lakhs per month.”

Someone read yesterday morning’s headline, ‘underwater protest’ in Lakshadweep as ‘underwear protest’, and danga fazad as Ganga Prasad.

Printer’s devil also plays a genial host to many a humorous situation. The other day it made the External Affairs Minister an Eternal Affairs Minister. The word ‘immortal’ became ‘immoral’ passing through several hands in the printing press. The considerate compositor conferred on the ‘population’ expert the status of a ‘copulation’ expert. We all know how the ‘battle-scarred’ General was reduced to a ‘battle-scared’ General and, on protest to the newspaper office, a correction was issued which made him a ‘bottle-scarred’ General. A missing girl’s father’s request to the police ‘to trace’ his daughter got in as ‘to trade’ his daughter and opened new vistas to the Police force.

Be brief while communicating is welcome, but if overdone, it may have the reverse effect. A beginner in journalism sent a cable to his main office: “Can I send a piece on an accident-death?” The answer arrived promptly. “Send in 500 words.” The reporter wrote back. “Can’t be told in less than 1000 words.” The Head Office cabled back: “Story of creation of world told in 500. Try it.” He kept this sarcastic comment in mind and filed a death story thus: “Mr ____looked up the elevator shaft to see if the lift was on its way down. It was. Age 45.”

Apart from being humorous, sometimes the gap in communication can also be disastrous. “Hang him not, spare him” came a cable from the King, on the day of execution, granting clemency. The Jail Superintendent read it as “Hang him, not spare him,” and promptly executed the convict.

These instances are okay for record. But, in the 1970s when in Delhi, I became an affected party myself to one such communication gap, maybe deliberate. We attended an ‘express delivery’ wedding arranged through one of those brokers whose writings on the wall decorated the capital those days – Dulhan wahi jo Banwarilalji (name changed) Dilaye. (Yes, in those days Rajshri Productions’ Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaye was running to packed houses, and the broker capitalized on the catchy words.) The boy, we were told, was one langda Lal Singh’s son. As the bridegroom got down from the mare, he limped his way to the mandap. Seeing this, the girl’s father got furious and stared at the broker who replied coolldy: “Yes sir, I told you, the boy was langda, Lal Singh’s son.”

To cut matters short, in the free-for-all scuffle that followed, we missed a delicious Punjabi dinner that we looked forward to.

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Sundaram Venkatesh

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