As I type this on the flight, I cannot help wondering whether I am a Cynical Realist, a Pragmatist, a Practical Alarmist or a Regular Schizophrenic. It's not that I hear voices in my head or anything. I'm just alive to possibilities.
It's this ability of mine, this ability to see possibilities others cannot, that has proved so debilitating for my evident genius.
It derailed my chess career, for example. The problem is, I can see so far ahead that I am unable to continue after White's first move, when I am black. And when I am White, Black's response to my move will usually make me see irrefutable threats that my opponent might be oblivious to.
For instance consider my last ever chessgame. I was playing for my college team then, and my opponent was a sweaty, neurotic looking chap named Babu. The team wanted just a draw from me. I was sure I could manage it. After all, this Babu was a complete unknown anyway.
We set up the pieces. The arbiter checked our clocks and told us to start. And to my dismay, Babu played 1. e4.
You would doubtless recall Fischer V/s Petrosian, in which Fischer slowly strangled the former world champion, considered practically unbeatable until then, in a fashion that persuaded me there was no real defense. Well, Fischer had played 1.e4 in that game.
I thought hard for some 30 minutes and try as I might, I could see no way out. I could sense the expectant eyes of my captain and the other team-members upon me but my clinical mind told me there was no way out. I resigned.
The captain and the other team-members were unreasonably angry, I recall. Abusing me like that! “You frikking moron! How the frikking hell can you resign after the first frikking move?” I remember the captain screaming as he, for some reason, pulled out his hair. It hurt, believe me, especially when I realised that “frikking” is not an English word (I checked the Oxford dictionary). It is in some arcane tongue - I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be Basque or Inuit - and one can only speculate what ghastly meaning it has. When I asked him to apologise, he most rudely demanded I absent myself lest he be tempted to disembowel me. Boor! I had had enough. I resolved never to play chess again.
It is this rare ability which makes me fear flying so much. For instance, if you consider the universal desire of the soul to seek eternal truth, and the fact that airline pilots are, despite their funny way of talking, human beings,you cannot help being alarmed.
“Don't be silly, Naren” the missus says.
She is responding to my reasonable conjecture that if the pilot is a Sceptical Pragmatist, he would probably decide that there is no objective reason to suppose that any good will come out of taking off, and attempt to land the plane with a full tank of fuel. The tyres of course are not desinged to land with thiry tons of fuel weight. They will probably burst. The plane will careen out of control, tipping over and somersaulting like Olga Korbut (Nadia Comaneci, if you prefer) on cocaine.
And of course, we will be shredded into little pieces of DNA evidence in the crash report.
“Naren, the pilot is not a lunatic to cut throttle and land after going through all that trouble taking off. You heard him say “Close and arm all doors. Cross check and report”.
I chuckle at this.
“And why are you laughing now, my dear paranoid jellyfish?” she asks.
“Cross Check” I reply. “Further evidence of the pilot being non-compos mentis”
“Huh?” she goes, in her typical impatient tone. I have to explain EVERYTHING to some people!
“See, here's the pilot, building up speed, flying this eighty ton contraption at speeds approaching that of sound and all that he instructs his staff to do is ensure that the negotiable instrument is not left open payable to bearer.”
She takes a moment to digest this.
“Cross check means 'Verify again'. It does not mean put 'A/c Payee Only' on the corner of a cheque. That cheque is cheque. This check is check. Oh, darn it. You've got me gibbering now. If it scares you so much, just shut your eyes and pray, ok?”
I have logically established, quite conclusively if I may say so myslef, that God does not exist and hence prayer is useless, but I sense that this is not a good time to tell her. I hold her hand tightly and brace myself.
By some incredible stroke of luck, we land in one piece. I am still breathing.