SO SUE-HAPPY

Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is

Friday - - Humour -

There is some­thing pa­thetic about com­ing to a city for a hol­i­day and be­ing forced to sit in­doors be­cause of the weather. The city in ques­tion, New York, is hot – lo­cals en­joy the sun and the heat and talk of ‘mar­velous weather’, while we in­hab­i­tants of a coun­try where, by New York stan­dards, the weather is ‘mar­velous’ the year round, call it ‘un­bear­able’.

We left Ben­galuru, which was hav­ing a rare heat­wave, to find so­lace in New York, and to the naked eye there is no dif­fer­ence in tem­per­a­ture at all. The ques­tion is: whom do I sue?

Funny, isn’t it, how one be­gins to talk like a na­tive within days of ar­rival?

Su­ing is the na­tional sport here. Peo­ple sue if the cof­fee is too hot, not hot enough, does not con­tain caf­feine, con­tains caf­feine. It’s a won­der any­thing gets done at all. Which brings me to the plethora of med­i­cal ads on TV – which one is forced to watch be­cause it’s too hot out­side and one is be­tween read­ing books or writ­ing.

How healthy is Amer­ica? Not very, go­ing by the ads. Those who don’t suf­fer from chronic stom­ach prob­lems tend to have chronic mi­graines, and those who have es­caped ei­ther come up against skin­care prob­lems that aren’t cos­metic. Of the lesser spo­ken ac­tiv­i­ties of the hu­man body, the lesser spo­ken the bet­ter. But all ads have a com­mon theme: we will cure you, un­less, of course, we don’t cure you. That is the essence of the mes­sage, al­though it is put across in myr­iad ways.

Take a tablet – not lit­er­ally, but take a tablet for ex­am­ple. ‘X’, it says (it doesn’t ac­tu­ally – but you can fill in the name of the tablet) is ter­rific on mi­graines. Take one (and only one) and you can hug your child again, read the book you want and lead a happy, con­tented life. So far so good. And then comes the ‘but don’t sue us’ dis­claimer. It will cure you, says the ad, un­less you have this, this, that or the other. Plus there could be side-ef­fects

SU­ING is the na­tional SPORT in AMER­ICA. Peo­ple sue if the COF­FEE is TOO hot, NOT hot enough, does not con­tain caf­feine, con­tains caf­feine. It’s a WON­DER ANY­THING gets DONE at all

rang­ing from itch­ing, pain in the lower back, night­mares, con­stant cough­ing on Wed­nes­days, and oc­ca­sion­ally even death. This phi­los­o­phy of treat­ing death as a side-ef­fect is quite pro­found. Or silly. Take your pick.

Some­times the dis­claimers are longer than the claimer. Af­ter all it is eas­ier to say what some­thing will do (‘cure cough’) than to say what it won’t do (‘en­able bet­ter hear­ing’, ‘write your tax forms for you’, ‘sing’).

And since I am writ­ing this from Amer­ica, let me add: this col­umn is not guar­an­teed to make you think, laugh, cry, or pull out your teeth. So sue me.

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