The thing is, it is only logical to assume that until I write something, no reader will be able to read it. And by the time a reader reads something I do write, it could be too late. Readers could be upset, outraged, shaking with disgust – there are so many variations of finding my column offensive that I would be out of my head trying to tackle each complaint. It would be like trying to delouse a monkey sitting on a lousy place. Perhaps the problem could have been the subject I was planning to write on. Perhaps it could have been my opinion on the subject. Many times, for readers, both can mean the same thing. It could also well have been certain words – in other words, how I would have written my aborted column – that could trigger a firestorm. And spreading firestorms I don’t like; sharing sniggers I do.
The words could well have included ‘suo motu,’ (with its hint of bodyshaming) ‘indubitably,’ (too elite) ‘Bengaluru’ (the ‘luru’ at the end vaguely suggesting a scary place) and ‘is’ (loaded with liberal entitlement). Or it could have been the order in which I would have put some words, ‘gung ho’ and ‘ho gung’ understandably eliciting two very different reactions. So, did anyone complain? As I said, without writing the column, how could anyone? But I thought it best to pre-empt anyone’s complaint. I’m not a controversial figure. But I don’t want to start being one. I have had complaints from readers after they’ve read some pieces I had written, some even insisting that I tell the editors in the publications past and present I have worked in that I be stopped from writing. I must admit, I did not bring those requests to the notice of my editors past or present. This, in that sense, is a world premiere.
But more than any irrational fear of being forbidden from writing because of crowdsourced pressure, it is the growing presence of precogs that has made me be cautious. Precogs, or precognitives, were first ‘spotted’ by Philip K Dick, who centred a whole novella, ‘The Minority Report,’ way back in 1956 around them. The fact that Dick had described a class of people who were mutants, and who were identified and then further trained in a US government-run training institution, did not worry me earlier. After all, precogs – people who could foresee crimes before they took place – were fictional, and that too set in a fictional 2050s America. Also, Dick was a heavy amphetamine user.
But here’s the thing. Precogs, used in Dick’s story by cops to stop specific crimes before they occur – an effective and extreme preventive law and order mechanism – are also described as having the brain condition, hydrocephalus. In this condition, cerebrospinal fluid gathers in the frontal area of the brain causing, among other things, personality changes, double vision, poor balance, and mental ailment. But on the flip side, it makes for top-class precognition. So, without hurting any precog sensibilities, precogs are idiots who can see future misdeeds and transgressions.
So, not to be tripped up by some precog who may find me planning to write a column that, if written, will as sure as day cause chaos, disturb peace and harmony, and create a law and order problem, I’ve taken to nipping problematic columns in the bud. The frequently offensive but never-shut down Ahmednagar-born comedian Spike Milligan once told his audience standing up in a show, ‘I had a dream that all the babies stopped by the Pill showed up.’ The horror of the line was met with laughs. (It was an Australian, not an American or Irish, crowd.) Perhaps I will soon be dreaming of all the columns I nixed to avoid public disturbance. But at least I shall sleep peacefully, wearing a Covid mask, knowing that not only did I stop a precog from setting the cops on me, but also that I precogged the precogs by writing a non-contentious column in a safe, law-abiding way.