Published in The Tribune on March 23
Of all the human traits on view in our world, the most comical one is the tendency to mistake one particular individual for another. My wife is particularly prolific in this respect. She mistakes sundry people like uncles, bosses and friends for others on a regular basis.
At an official dinner some years ago she mistook my boss for a junior of mine and spoke condescendingly to him for a while before realising her folly. Imagine the plight of my boss when he had to explain the finer points of the official hierarchy to her. And imagine my fate when that boss met me later!
Another howler that she all but committed (this time as a newly-wed) was when she almost touched the feet of a colleague of mine; erroneously thinking that he was my Uncle. On an impulse she decided to confirm with me if she had correctly recognised him. That saved the day for sure. I told her with a look of unabashed horror on my face that I would have resigned from service had she touched that chap’s feet!
Another set of errors typically occurs when twins are involved. William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, which inspired the delightful film Chupke Chupke, being a case in point. I have been lucky to witness the phenomenon in real life too, since my sisters are identical twins.
One of them was on a date with her fiancé at a restaurant one day when an elderly relative spotted the two. The other twin had recently got married and the old lady thought that she was the one having fun with someone other than her new hubby. Needless to say, the news about the scandal that never existed spread like wildfire!
Another incident dates back to the time when the twins were toddlers. Our maid made one of them eat and then tried to make the same one eat all over again. One wailed since she was very hungry and the other because her tummy was already bursting!
I too am prone to this syndrome. When I get a call from someone who states emphatically that he is Ajay or Sanjay, I keep wondering which Ajay or Sanjay I have the pleasure of conversing with. Invariably I end up making the wrong guess.
My wife is the undisputed President of the mistaken-identity club though. Recently she called up one Anil, thinking that he was our new driver.
‘Please pick up the kids from school at 12 noon, Anil!’
‘Ok Maam, I will do so. My kids study at the same school’ responded the other.
Despite being surprised by that bit of information, my wife continued with the instructions. ‘And also bring along some eggs and a loaf of wheat bread, Anil!
It was then that the other realised that something was amiss.
‘Maam, I’m Anil from so-and-so bank, your account manager!’
The series of apologies that she has had to proffer continues till today.