Apocalypse when?

The only other time I had felt so frightful was ahead of my first confession.

‘So the world will end on 21st December?,’ hollered my house-help Ratna, her voice rising above the clatter of cutlery and dishes in the kitchen sink. ‘Huh? Who told you that?’

I hollered back. ‘TV,’ she said. Her statement, that sounded both like a query and an eerie pronouncement, took me hurtling back in time to the years between 1969 and 1971 and the impending end of the world in 1977 as predicted to me by a girl called Arlette Saldanha.

She was my classmate in a school perched right atop a hill in Caranzalem, Goa that afforded us a spectacular view of the Arabian Sea dotted with anchored ships and moving barges. I remember Arlette as being a very attractive girl with light eyes and brownish, straight hair. Her family owned a restaurant called Cha Cha Cha and so it was no surprise that the contents of her snack box were always mouthwatering, like meat and curry puffs and chorizo stuffed inside a pocket bread that smelled and tasted equally divine.

Ignorant at that age about a certain Latino dance and its sensuous moves that I’m still trying in vain to perfect with my two left feet, I could be forgiven the presumption that their restaurant was named after tea, or cha in Konkani, a widely-spoken dialect in Goa.
‘The world is going to end in 1977,’ she pronounced gravely one day, completely succeeding in putting the fear of God in me like no one else could. It was like sounding a death knell with a veiled warning that I had better mend my ways before the apocalypse.

The only other time I had felt so frightful was ahead of my first confession, a Catholic rite, two years before at the tender age of six. As the years rolled by and we moved places, Arlette’s doomsday prophecy remained embedded in the back my head like a piece of harmless shrapnel. By mid-1977, I found myself in a college in Tambaram, a suburb of a city I still fondly and stubbornly refer to as Madras. And when 1977 did come and go rather uneventfully, I thought ruefully of Arlette and a word called ‘hogwash’ that I had learnt along the way.

And now, the Mayan prediction, rife on social networking websites and media since the past year, is akin to that of a murdered astrologer who had predicted everyone else’s future but his own. It has spawned a variety of reactions, mostly funny. One cheekily urged believers in the prediction to kindly deposit their valuables at her place latest by December 20.

“The world will end only in 3012. So don’t worry, be happy,” said a happy-go-lucky type. Yet another suggested that we were likely looking at a digitised 5015 held upside down so that it looked like 2012.

Upside or down, I have upgraded my geographical knowledge a mite by learning about the existence of a tiny mountain village called Bugarach in France, which doomsayers claim will be the only place that will be spared when our world ends abruptly today.
Coming back to Ratna’s query, I offered her a simple and straightforward answer, no more morbid than the predictions. ‘Our worlds will end only when we finally close our eyes,’ I said solemnly. ‘That is correct, no?’ said Ratna.

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