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Book Excerpt | Alphabetica: A satire on majoritarianism

Mini

One day at the Underwood, Ypsi, a perpetual first-bencher in Mrs Poet’s class, heard the Poet and His wife discuss the evolution of the English alphabet. Ypsi promptly gave it a spin and named it ‘The Birth of Alphabetica’ and began lecturing her Consonant mates with a superior air.

Book Excerpt | Alphabetica: A satire on majoritarianism
"WHY?"
It was a moonless night in Alphabetica. Sleepy swathes of silence rolled down the Westerloo mountain wall. Suddenly, a plaintive “Why?” destroyed the peace of this land. Delivered at Bianca Castafiore’s glass-shattering pitch, Ypsi (Y to her friends) hoped that her yeasty yelp would pierce Planet Typewriter’s stratosphere and several galaxies beyond. Predictably, it failed to have its desired impact. Her neighbours had turned stone deaf to her tiresome tantrums.
With her extra-long hands permanently raised, as if imploring her Benefactor, the petite Ypsi resembled the statuesque Clio. But lately, her piercing eyes looked frightfully frantic. She seemed more hypersensitive with her fuzzy hair permanently standing on end and hands flapping over her head like a dragonfly’s antennae. Forever asking “Why?”. If her earlier ‘whys’ suggested inquisitiveness, her recent ones reeked of bitterness.
From time immemorial, all Earthling acts of hatred have started with a misplaced ‘why’. Ypsi’s was no different – irrational, absurd, even childish. There was one other thing common. Hubris. The supercilious attitude of the majority, based on assumptions and arguments that are defunct but lethal enough to destroy peace and harmony. Portentously, Ypsi’s most recent “Why?” threatened catastrophic consequences for her fellow Alphabeticans and their peaceful Planet Typewriter.
Phoenicians
One day at the Underwood, Ypsi, a perpetual first-bencher in Mrs Poet’s class, heard the Poet and His wife discuss the evolution of the English alphabet. Ypsi promptly gave it a spin and named it ‘The Birth of Alphabetica’ and began lecturing her Consonant mates with a superior air.
Assuming the role of ‘Professor Whyness’, she claimed, “We Consonants are not only the majority, but we are also the direct descendants of the twenty-two Phoenician Consonants who gave birth to this land called Alphabetica. Don’t confuse us with minority Greek Vowels. Ours is a proud heritage and a rich culture that was in vogue during the early Iron Age, and we have been the guiding light of this land for over three thousand years.”
Xi and Zayin were indifferent backbenchers who slept through Mrs Poet’s classes. That made things easy for Ypsi in promoting her bizarre thesis. She wouldn’t dare try this in front of Camel, who was the most knowledgeable student. Ypsi clearly wanted to avoid revealing to her mates that the Phoenician writing system wasn’t the first, nor was it a true alphabet. It was an Abjad – comprising symbols or glyphs – which were borrowed from the West Semitic alphabet. Much of the Phoenician script was left to interpretation like all traditions, rituals and mores often are. It took the Romans several centuries to borrow from the Greeks and arrive at a more scientific Latin Alphabetic system that gave birth to the English alphabet that Ypsi was referring to.
After the glorification of the Consonants, the Professor went on to demolish the Vowels. “Our Phoenician forefathers were just twenty-two Consonants. Forget about being the minority – as they are today – the Vowels didn’t even exist at the start. They were like little dots and squiggles. All thanks to the Greeks, the Vowels surreptitiously infiltrated Alphabetica! Then, after the Romans granted them Latin citizenship, they usurped their compass and tricked them into reading the alphabet ‘left to right’ instead of ‘right to left’. The Phoenician way. In fact, this land was meant to be called ‘Phoenitica’, but the Greek Vowels blackmailed the Poet into changing it to Alphabetica! The Romans, what could they do? They just said ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’ and left us in a mess with a loud ‘Arrivederci’!”
Ypsi looked sharply at her two dumbstruck mates and continued: “And now the Vowels happily use the article ‘an’ like their regal toga. But do you realize the harm they’ve done to us?” Ypsi provoked them a little more. “Not only do we have to live at the bottom of the Westerloo Wall, but our house also has the most insulting name – ‘The End’! If we were to be read the Phoenician way – right to left – Earthling children would be taught to call us ‘ZYX’ and not ‘ABC’! And do guess, what would have been the name of our house?”
Xi decided to sound intelligent. “Tail enders!” he roared. “Meaning, we’d put an end to us being the tail.”
Ypsi screamed, “My single left foot! It would be ‘The First’! And, as three blue-blooded Phoenician Consonants, we would get to decide everything first. Including the use of the article ‘an’!”
Her mates applauded loudly without understanding her angst, as was the norm. Unknown to them, Ypsi held back vital information that could puncture her pompous posturing.
Ypsi’s behaviour soon took a turn for the worse. Now she felt the Consonants were not just in the majority, but a superior race. She grabbed a ‘social fly’ to post an anonymous ‘Insectagram’ on Alphabetica’s social media. She felt the Consonant Majority needed to be made aware of their superior status. She abandoned her Insectagram and said to herself with frustration, “What’s the point? Some ignorant Consonants have polluted their homes by sharing them with the Vowel Minority!”
The vexed Ypsi declared to her confused mates: “Enough of this appeasement policy for the Vowel Minority. Even as a Consonant, I can form words without Vowels. Article ‘an’ will be mine!” After a brief pause, she added, “And for every Consonant. One nation, one law!”
Both her mates nodded their heads vigorously, and Xi added: “For you, we’ll make it article ‘can’ – ‘What Y can, no one can’!”
Transformation
Meanwhile, Ypsi became Mrs Poet’s most attentive student surpassing Camel’s level of dedication and diligence. Her troubled mind was constantly barbequed by Mrs Poet’s discussions with the Poet on socio-political matters, like, rise and fall of dynasties, wars, revolutions, slavery, bigotry, holocaust, and more. Then she tried to learn about democracy, dictatorship, elections, coups, the essential lessons for a leader. Nothing made much sense, but she was like a sponge soaking in all the information she could gather.
One day her assumptions about the might of the majority were shattered when she heard of Minority Regimes ruling some parts of Planet Africana. Ypsi was worried sleepless. It seemed like a warning that the Minority Vowels would soon gain control over Alphabetica. Such thoughts made her fuzzy hair permanently stand on end. She felt these were exclusive messages for her. After all, she was destined to be ‘Ypsi, The Chosen One’!
Finally, one day, her prayers were answered. She discovered an enigmatic leader who promised her the “Sun of Liberty” at the end of her depressingly dark and long tunnel. That was the day Ypsi got to hear about a ‘Great Dictator’. He seemed like a successful leader among Earthlings. Like Ypsi, he too was proud of his blueblooded lineage and was ruthless when it came to tackling the evil minority who had threatened to ruin his planet. He appeared to have risen democratically in his journey to absolute dictatorship, single-handedly crushing the impure minority.
Significantly, the Great Dictator suffered the humiliation of being denied his grandfather’s family name. He had struggled to rise from the lowest rungs as a stateless soldier to become the ruler of his aspirational fatherland. Her own insecurities about her past seemed to draw her even closer to the Great Dictator. While writing her own memoir, Ypsi became his diehard worshipper. She concluded that she, too, needed to be democratically elected by the majority. Like the Great Dictator, she too would have to rise, by hook or by crook. Once elected, she could become the tyrant dictator forever! The majority would always love the dominating dictator, and the minority would live in fear.
Unfortunately, Ypsi’s Underwood schooling was a classic case of dangerously selective knowledge. Significantly, her thesis was based on the Great Dictator’s rise, but not his fall.
. eBook 99, paper back 299, hard cover 549
Excerpted with permission from Alphabetica: A satire on majoritarianism by Notion Press. Authored by: Roy Phoenix. Price: eBook Rs 99, paper back Rs 299 and hard cover Rs 549.
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