The following article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended'in The New Indian Express.
RABID FANATICS FOUND IN VIRTUAL SPACE
I observed a curious phenomenon that I’d like to share in confidence. The normally shy, peaceful, taciturn fellow countrymen who surround us everyday, appear to have a secret side to them that’s highly vocal, communicative and articulate. To experience this development, there is no better place than the internet, where several of them seem to be lying in wait, itching to say something about everything. I discovered this development quite by accident when I read a nice article about a holiday resort and wanted to congratulate the author. My eye caught the first comment that said ‘Nice article’. I looked further below - there were nine pages of comments. So many? Wow. That’s expressive! That was when I saw the second comment.
‘These places are run by rotten people with lots of money and nothing to do,’ stated Angry112. ‘There is no hope for us as long as we have corrupt leaders.’ What’s this, I wondered. I scrolled down. ‘All lowly backward @@## like you deserve only such things,’ said Hotheaded271. To which Angry112 replied. ‘You worshippers of @@##. They should bomb you and your community off this planet so we never see your ##$$ faces again.’ To which guys from various parts of the world replied. ‘You son of a @@#$$ we will get you and your government for this. And the resort fellow as well.’ My head started spinning. Who were these people with these funny names?
A voice of reason rang out. ‘Please guys,’ pleaded Sanevoice76. ‘Can’t we discuss things normally? This is a harmless travel article’. I breathed a sigh of relief. Too soon! Redhot59 replied. ‘Bomb this @@##$ and his family as well.’ That caused Sanevoice76 to drag five generations of Redhot59’s family into the discussion, with special mention of their severely impaired mental abilities! Stiff911 appeared with great deals on Viagra and Loverboy69 sent links to amorous young ladies. Lovemyland116, who wanted a separate state for himself, inserted 25 emphatic slogans in capital letters. When Pagaldeewana451 asked if anyone knew his favorite heroine’s mobile number, Badrelation34 needlessly insinuated that these @@## actresses hitched themselves to the holiday resort guy types. The next comment was good enough to start World War III. It was complete mayhem.
Breathing heavily, I checked other articles. Articulate chaps were commenting voluminously on Obama’s visit (American conspiracy to enslave us), beautiful models (we know how these @@## get the job), cricketers (traitors), fashion (killing our culture). Any topic, and there were hundreds of anonymous people ready to tear it apart, kill one another or bomb one another. I logged off before someone tracked me and held me responsible for any of the things these guys might start - like initiating World War III, promoting communal hatred, illegal drugs and terrorist acts.
But who were these chatty chaps? No one I knew was like this. Warily, I tested random people in coffee shops and cyber cafes to gauge general reactions to holiday resorts and Obama. Everyone smiled and nodded, but no opinions came forth! Try as I did, I couldn’t get a single belligerent opinion; everyone went ‘good, good’. That confirmed my fears. We’re besieged by foul mouthed enemies provoking a war, or worse, we’re surrounded by a bunch of opinionated schizophrenics who parade as gentle souls in the real world but transform into rabid fanatics in virtual space! I am no psychologist but I’d wager that there is a lot of suppressed anger and concealed desire out there. It would be good if some brave soul wrote an article about it. And posted it on the net. (Anonymously, would be safer, I’d think.)