By Ratna Manucha
So yesterday evening I’m sitting in my verandah, admiring the rapidly ripening litchis on my lone litchi tree, listening to the thunder rumbling in the distance. I’m being lulled into a kind of happy, lazy stupor. It was the kind of day that had gone well so far with a promise to be better in the evening.
I picked up my phone to make a quick call to the children, when I noticed the icon of Facebook messenger flashing, indicating that there was a message for me. Since such an occurance is almost non existent in my life, I decided to read it . It was somebody who was connected to me on Facebook by virtue of her supposedly being a writer, but whom I did not know personally. She started off by giving the name of some random organization which was ‘very reputed’ ( her words, not mine).
They apparently conducted author interviews over Zoom which were attended by students from various colleges and Universities. And now I quote, ‘It is a reputable platform and not every author can be referred. Their team is very selective. I have been following you on Facebook and I thought you were perfect for this platform .’
On my questioning her further that what exactly were they getting out of it, she replied that she wasn’t quite sure of all the details, but she could connect me with the founder of this organization over a conference call and we could take it from there.
Before one could say ‘ Jack Robinson’ I was connected on call to this man. Pompous, obnoxious, imperious and overbearing were the words that popped into my head as I listened to his ramblings. As soon as I could get words in advise, I said I would like to watch one of his author interviews, to which he replied that it wasn’t possible as one had to subscribe to his channel to watch! Curiouser and curiouser.
If I agreed to come on board I would have to send him a picture and a write up about myself.
‘ So which date do you have in mind?’ I asked Mr. Smarty Pants.
‘Well, this week is booked but I will check and let you know. But before that one little issue needs to be sorted out…has my colleague told you…mumble,mumble,mumble….’ And he petered off.
But you know me. Not one to give up easily, I said that I couldn’t hear him so would he please speak up?
‘ There is a little remuneration,’ he mumbled and then added ‘ money to be paid’.
‘Who has to pay whom?’ I asked pigheadedly.
‘ You have to pay me’, came the reply , a tad irritably.
‘ Why would I want to pay you?’
‘ Because I am worth this much. I am going to give you publicity and I am very selective. You are lucky that I have selected your name!’
At this point I am about to burst into laughter but I get a hold on myself and retort, ‘ I don’t think I need any publicity from you, thank you. I’m doing quite well on my own.’
At this point I hear a sudden click and our knight in shining armour has hung up. Now it’s the lady’s turn. The one who had connected us and was listening quietly all along.
She said that the connection seemed to have been lost and she would put him back on the line and then call me.
Seriously? Whom was she kidding??
Later that night, it got me thinking. What is it with this constant sense of validation that we need constantly? Why do we need total strangers to give us a sense of our own self worth?
I’m sure many of us have fallen prey to the letters that we receive saying that a random organization wishes to award us and would we please send our details? Once that step is completed, the next missive states that we need to deposit a certain amount of money to help with their overheads! Yet, many do send the money, attend the ceremony , receive the award and then dutifully post a smiling , self effacing picture of themselves on social media, holding the framed piece of paper in their hands!
Surely you know that we know that it was paid for!
My question is, does it still give you a feel good feeling?
Don’t you think it is the other way around?
And why on earth would I let anyone get publicity or make money out of my hard work?
(Ratna Manucha is an author and educationist)