#India #Politics Staff Picks - Archived

What comes between a “decade” and a “century”?

Experts gather to coin a new word for what comes between a "decade" and a "century"

It all began with a question: “What comes between a decade and a century?” A troublesome one, at that. Since times immemorial, amateur litterateurs have tried to fill the gap with phrases like “a score of years”, “a few decades”, “three generations” and so on. Meanwhile, professionals, bound by their strict moral code and their devotion to the art, simply called it “half-a-century”. (Then they were forced to add, “give or take a few years”, in case the number wasn’t really half-a-century.)

But it rankled. It rankled the pro and the rookie, it caused unrest among the Pope and the pauper; for at the end of the day, there was this one question above all, “What comes between a decade and a century?” Nobody knew.

It would have been so, for what cannot be cured must be endured, until the advent of Twitter, a micro-blogging platform that promoted efficacy with words (it called for some “character”). 140 of  ’em—no more. You cannot, just cannot, make a point on Twitter when 14 characters go off in specifying a fifty-year time period (give or take a few, mind). You can try “48 yrs” but there is no feel to it—no vibe, no real literary genius, no chutzpah, no… well, you get it. And what can you do, if you cannot make a point on Twitter? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

What comes between a decade and a century?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the World Literary Association convened in secret (for a language that has at least a hundred ways of defining every three letter word, this was a veritable embarrassment). The gathering was fairly representative, open to radical ideas; it followed the latest labour laws, and of course, included learned women. Their mission: to provide an answer to the question “What comes between a decade and a century?” i.e. to boldly attempt what no one has done before.

Finally, the Solution: After much dissertation and deliberation, and not a little of justified brouhaha, the committee achieved the pinnacle of human thought (transcending the obvious difficulties with which they had been saddled in their very formation). The outcome was a three letter word of supreme beauty: “goi”. The Twitterati laughed and cried, hysterical with joy; litterateurs went about with puffed chest and swollen pride; India TV suspended all its programs for a twenty-four hour “breaking news” marathon. Disaster had been met and treated like an imposter.

A closer look found that for the purposes of laymen, “goi” had been defined thus: “a period of 50 years, give or take a few but definitely not more than 66, where nothing much has happened except an increase in population and inconsequential changes in state lines while following democratic rule; a continued period of nothing-muchness for more than, or about, 50 years; a minimum period of 50 years where the State serves as the prime example of Democracy and/or Idiocracy etc.” “Goi” was not only an emphatic answer to the perpetual question of “What comes between a decade and a century?”, it also managed to convey, in its simple three letter awesomeness, the time period, the demo-graphical situation, and the geo-political situation of any place. This, was so much better. So much smarter.

After the thing was all over, when peril had ceased to loom and happy endings had been distributed in heaping handfuls, this NTMN reporter managed to corner the typist responsible for taking the MoMs at the just-finished conference. But why “goi”? Why not anything else? (a burning question in my mind, which had replaced “What comes between a decade and a century?”) She turns all coy, this typist (who is also a student of neo-classical literature); she does, and tells me, “Well, what is art but a reflection of society? Every time man has faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge, he has looked to his surroundings for inspiration. This time was no different.”

I cannot deny the wisdom in her words, but the question remains un-answered. “And goi is…” “Why it’s an abbreviation! Well, actually when we thought of it, it was. Now it’s a word all by itself, but it stands, or stood—” (she corrects herself) “—for ‘Government of India’. I guess it still stands for it,” she laughs. “But why 66 then?” and pat came the reply: “Who can predict the future, silly!”

Ergo, between a decade and a century, there is just “goi”. Pure genius, I must say.

About the author


To be, or not to be: that's the question

Leave a Reply