By Arjun Surendra Aug. 01, 2016
I’m fairly sure that somewhere in a major city in India, a nondescript building houses an office where all WhatsApp forwards come from.
Idon’t know about you, but I’m tired of rushing to my phone every time it beeps only to meet a wall of text on WhatsApp telling me that a vada pav has libido enhancing qualities. Or that cancer was secretly cured in ancient India.
These are the times when the urge to throw my phone at the nearest wall overcomes the astronomical amount I’ve paid for it. I have been subjected to messages that list out misinformation, scams, pseudoscience, salacious gossip, statistics and propaganda that end with the dire instruction to immediately forward the message to 10,000 people, failing which “your underwear will turn carnivorous and devour your genitalia.”
Who are these people who create this stuff? And how do they come up with it? After all, pulling random numbers out your arse and presenting them as gospel truth is not an easy job. You need special training for that.
I’m fairly sure that somewhere in a major city in India, a nondescript building houses the offices of Amarchand, Unmuktchand and Dukhiram Industries Pvt Ltd (henceforth referred to as AUDI). Now AUDI, despite calling itself a wholesale manufacturer, does not really make a physical product. What it makes are WhatsApp forwards. In order to cater to the demands of millions of eager WhatsApp users and drive them to the edge every day, AUDI, showing remarkable perspicacity, has structured itself rather well.
The Department of Motivation and Encouragement (DOME) comes into work first. They are in charge of those “inspiring” forwards that wish you a good morning. These “greetings” are typically followed by a thousand hieroglyphs, which look suspiciously like the directions to King Tutankhamun’s tomb.
The guys at DOME work closely with the Department of Indian Religious Experiences (DIRE). DIRE’s goal is to create inspirational and miraculous content focused on religion and spirituality. I once got an interesting forward that gave me great insight into the intricacies of electromagnetism. It completely blew everything I had learned in school about physics out of the water. It told me about how holy grass (darbha, or darbham) could effectively absorb X-rays and reorient magnetic fields. It went on to use that as an explanation for why it is used in religious ceremonies and during eclipses. Naturally credibility was added by attributing the findings to *insert white person’s name here*. The DIRE, incidentally, is also responsible for sending us images of religious miracles and vegetables that look like Lord Ganesha.
Have you ever wanted to get your agenda across but didn’t have the statistics to prove it? The Proper Gandu department is your best friend here.
AUDI understands, and views as a great pity, that several Indians are not religiously inclined. So they also create content on other issues, such as health. The Public Health and Ancient Research Techniques Department (PHART) is where specious remedies and dubious research involving traditional ingredients or household objects are disseminated.
PHART plays well on the insecurity ingrained in all of us that we are soon going to die a traumatic death, and thus dedicates itself to bringing you miracle cures mainly involving turmeric, lemon juice, karela juice and kiwifruit. This follows a common formula of using one likeable ingredient, one unappealing ingredient, one exotic ingredient, and always, turmeric. This is sometimes combined with innovative administration techniques such as grinding into paste and using as suppository, or leaving it outside during the full moon to absorb “beneficial rays”.
PHART also issues old-fashioned advisories about getting random diseases. Sometimes it will warn you against drinking pineapple juice/eating pani-puri because someone cut his or her finger and bled into it, so it’ll probably give you AIDS. Not HIV… Full-blown AIDS.
This sort of scaremongering overlaps with the work of the Department of Misinformation Broadcasting and Propaganda, known within the organisation as the “Proper Gandu” department. Have you ever wanted to get your agenda across but didn’t have the statistics to prove it? The Proper Gandu department is your best friend here. It is gender blind, race blind, and addresses issues across the political spectrum. For instance, it spread the wonderful news that India’s national anthem was adjudged the “Best National Anthem EVA” by UNESCO thanks to the efforts of *insert political party*.
They’re also the guys responsible for the forward that enumerates the number of Brahmins in every single state and sphere of life:
“Whatapp group is managed by 59% Brahmins,
FB is managed by 50% Brahmins,
80% of world’s top 500 Companies are managed by Brahmins,
Be proud of a Brahmin”
Such community-specific “feel pr0d of” misinformation moments are often custom-made to their target audience, be it ex-Armymen, railway employees, North Indians, South Indians, West Indians (not DJ Bravo), Tamilians, communists, capitalists, cartoonists, Ola cab drivers and so on. The department also addresses small-scale pride, for those who happen to be proud of being from Goregaon, Gurgaon or Gummidipundi.
Misinformation often leads to panic. So to capitalise, AUDI has a specialised Panic Room. If you have ever had the feeling that the world was going to hell in a handbasket, I can almost guarantee that you have been touched by the work of the assiduous folk at the Panic Room. The Panic Room deals with the dark arts and the fine talent of rumour mongering. It creates fake riots, curfews, terrorist confessions, and warnings about how Martians could be hiding in plain sight disguised as bearded, jhola-toting hipsters.
Together the five departments work seamlessly to ensure that one day we will collectively smash our phones into the nearest brick wall. Then we can all go out and buy new expensive phones that we did not need in the first place. Perhaps this is who AUDI’s backers are – phone manufacturers who want you to upgrade to the latest version of their overly expensive products. At least that was what I read on a WhatsApp forward, so it must be true, no?
Arjun has been referred to as “Jack of all trades, Master of Science”. He has worked in the environment and development sectors. He enjoys reading, eating, armchair birdwatching, armchair cricket, and anything else that involves his remaining seated.