Years ago, I worked as a botany lecturer at the Kohima Science College, Nagaland. And in the course of being immersed in science and particularly botany, I hatched an April Fool’s day prank. My target was Mrs Renu Suri, my colleague at work. She was part of the anthropology department. Her husband, Mr Suri, was head of the zoology department.
Now this was an era when phone calls were few and far between. And a trunk call from family back home was a most looked forward to event. Mrs Suri was from Delhi. Therefore, it did not take much thought to figure how my plot would unfold. To my advantage, we had a telephone in our house, an otherwise rare commodity.
My eldest brother, Dr Ikram Ahmed, was the Vice Principal of the college. I lived with him and my sister-in-law, Latifa. To digress a little here, Dr Ahmed is the eldest of 10 children. Meanwhile, I am the youngest. Between us, we are a whole eighteen years apart.
The plot is hatched
Now for any ‘conspiracy’ to play out successfully, fellow conspirators are needed. In my case, the key person was Dr Ahmed’s peon called Jameen. His quarters were adjacent to the house we lived in. So, on the morning of 01 April 1978, I instructed Jameen to go across to Mrs Suri’s bungalow. Their place was next to ours. My other conspirator was Wasbir Hussain, a student who lived with us.
Jameen was to go with a sense of great urgency and tell Mrs Suri that her father had called. To express further haste, I told him he must also add that the receiver was kept aside from the phone cradle. Trunk calls were expensive in those days and so if it was said that her father was holding the line, she would possibly drop whatever she was doing and rush over to ours.
Well, rush she did. When I caught sight of Mrs Suri walking over, she was still fastening the knot on her pyjamas. She rushed in, dashed up the stairs and was quite out of breath by the time she reached the phone. Immediately, she held the receiver and cried “Hello!” “Hello, Daddy!” “Sunai nahi de raha hai.” (I cannot hear you)
She increased her volume further in a desperate attempt to try and make contact with Daddy. But Daddy wasn’t there on the other end of the line. Following a few more “hellos”, she caught sight of a little piece of paper that had been kept in a ‘blink-and-you-miss’ kind of way. The note was duly placed by Wasbir and it read “Happy April Fool’s day”.
Mrs Suri was furious when she realised she’d been pranked. She immediately called out for my mother who was visiting Kohima at the time.
“Ma,” Mrs Suri called out and then continued with her outburst. “Aap apne nalayak beti ko wapas le jaiye!” (take your hopeless daughter away). “Iska koi zarurat nahi yaha kaam karne ka.” (there is no need for her to work here). She was genuinely outraged.
Immediate damage control measures
The ‘raging fire’ had to be doused. So, I quickly prepared some tea and served it with coconut barfis that Mum had brought for us. She was probably just waking up when Jameen had gone over. Fortunately, she agreed but not before a little taunt was thrown my way.
“Abhi barfi khilane aati ho?” she said still fuming. (now you want to serve barfis after pranking me?)
As she sipped her tea, she chuckled. And in her typical child-like way, she let out a little secret. Mrs Suri said she’d been thinking the day before about she would prank me. Unfortunately for her, I beat her to it. This probably explained why she was even more angry. But she left after tea in high spirits, as her usual cheerful self.
Mrs Suri now lives in Gurgaon in the NCR. Wasbir is a well know media personality in the Northeast. Jameen, unfortunately, I have no clue about. And in the years since, I have been able to successfully prank several others on April Fool’s day. I suggest you try too!