Kobi Guru had this figured out more than one hundred years ago.
Of all the words that start with the letter I, why do we assume naturally that in the contraction VIP, the third vowel of the English alphabet stands for “important”? In fact, such an inane postulation can create quite a bit of confusion.
The couple were sitting in front of an insurance man, who was filing up a family life insurance policy form. The husband, obviously, was answering most of the routine queries:
How many years of marriage? Aaaaa… (The wife looks at him sardonically) about twenty-three. Next month, our anniversary, he quickly adds.
Children? We have two sons and a daughter. They are studying. Not at all serious.
Is this house rented? No, it belongs to my wife. Her father's gift.
Any other property? Well, I bought a three-kata land in West Badda. The river is only three miles away.
“He could not take me there till now, no proper road,” the wife interrupts.
Any major operations? Naaah… not really, unless you want to consider my wife's caesareans, all three.
At this point, his wife blurted: My husband is a VIP. The insurer looked up from his pages, open-mouthed. Gulping some air, removing a droplet of perspiration from his forehead with his index finger, he gasped, “Madam, you should have said this at the very beginning. We have a special package.”
They both sensed, the mister and the missus that is, that from there on, things could go haywire. So the husband quickly put it, “Please don't take her words at face value.”
The wife was not to be negated. Sniggered the lady, “Was it necessary to mention how our children were born? You are totally imbalanced.” Ah! The VIP. The interview was over.
There was this sly village ghatak, who introduced his candidate as a VIP with all sincerity (?), as they usually do. The girl's family went bakbakoom, and were ready to consent to the wedding proposal right away, until the girl smelt a rat in the room, and it was not the matchmaker. Her school education about child marriage and unscrupulous suitors came into play, and she prodded and pleaded with her parents to probe.
A few queries were made in this village and the next. It soon emerged that the boy in the offing was important, monetarily that is, but the “I” stood for quite the contrary.
The matchmaker tried to broker his marriage several times before and had brought him face to face with several girls, but each time the manmade lame excuses dropped out, most typically after the girl's family had given their consent, and with devastating effects on the girls. He was also caught by the matchmaker double-timing prospective brides. To him, the guy was totally insincere.
In his effort to impress (or so he thought) his probable in-laws, a young man was overdriving his politeness. He was overdressed for the occasion, his first meeting with his month-long steady's parents. On a warm April afternoon, not only was he suited, booted and tied at the gullet, his hair was calmed down by so much oil that a trickle seemed to find a trail along his right sideburns. Or was it sweat!
“Sleemalaikum Aunty, your curtains are so beautiful,” he said, as he synchronised his slight bowing with his upturned fingers meeting his forehead.
“Wa Alaaikum As-salaam!”
“Sleeemalaikum, Uncle, you must visit our five-storied building with fifteen bedrooms. (Pause) Of course, I only sleep in one, ha ha… hee.”
“Sleeeemalaikum, Aunty, can I call you Ammu?”
That's when the girl tugged at his coat and took him out of harm's way.
Quiet all this while, lifting his head from the newspaper, the girl's dad finally made his point, “I see he is a VIP. What an irritating soul!”
The kitty party was becoming rather noisy. Above the din of cutlery and china, babbles and giggles, one woman was heard saying while batting her eyelids:
“He, na, goes abroad every month.”
“Are you sure he doesn't have another wife?” asked another, sniggering.
“Na re, he does not have that much courage.”
“They are difficult to tell,” added a third lady, “One of my friends found out after three years.”
“Thankfully, my husband is doing it for only a year.” Giggles. “Actually, he is a VIP,” she almost has to shout.
“Not at all, he is international.”
The boss was particularly livid that morning. “How could you be so irresponsible?” he blared.
Shifting feet, scratching his head, he muttered, “But Sir, my bhaigna was supposed to drop the packet on his way to the airport.”
“And, at this moment it is on its way to Langkawi!” he growled.
“Sir, he is coming back in four days.”
“Do you think they will wait that long?”
“Sir, I can tell him to scan everything...”
“These are confidential papers!”
“But Sir, I share everything with him. He even helps me with my work.”
“How could you let an outsider know our office matters? You have been irresponsible beyond my belief!”
The acronym VIP was hovering in the employee's mind like a ceiling fan in heat.
And now in this city of infamous jams, we are about to have VIP lanes in a two-lane road, or even a single. Since when were ambulance occupants, dead bodies, schoolchildren, examinees, interviewees, bridal parties, women in labour, and passengers scurrying to catch a train, launch or flight considered important? Or are they less imbalanced, insincere, irritating, international, and irresponsible?
True, if we are not VIPs ourselves, on what right shall we embrace the real VIPs in their lane or ours? Salaam, Guru!
Dr Nizamuddin Ahmed is an architect, a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.