I recently got a ‘Forward as Received’ message on a WhatsApp group warning me of a terror plot involving a white Toyota Corolla with 120kg of explosives targeting Dolmen Mall. As it happened, I was heading to Dolmen Mall while I read this, in a white Toyota Corolla with at least 120kg of ordnance just in the form of the Careem driver. I have, of course, learned to ignore these spurious messages but for a second it did feel like the trunk was dragging.

Many of us don’t ignore these messages, which is why I get mine from relatives, acquaintances and journalist/media groups.

I remember my father coming home one day looking perturbed and he asked me to read something on his WhatsApp. It was a message that said if your car’s been standing in the heat and you start the air conditioner right after getting in, all the hot plastic surfaces inside release something called benzene which gives you immediate cancer. You would die on the wheel before the ride was even over.


####Some can be remarkably detailed such as the tragic account of the finance secretary of the Islamabad Gun Club who was savagely beaten by an MNA because the polite young man simply asked the politician to pay his club dues. Tragic, because he was beaten at the Gun Club when he should have more appropriately been shot.

The message then went on to advise the readers to roll down all the windows and air out the benzene before starting the air conditioner. My father then beamed with pride at the fact that he already does this. Aside from the fact that the story simply isn’t true, nobody who gets into a boiling hot car does anything but jump back out and leave the door open while rubbing their behinds. It’s impossible to touch the steering wheel for a good 10 minutes, let alone the air conditioner.

One forwarded message warned me about the signs of the end times. A great power was rising in the East, Daesh, warring against the infidels of the West, the third world war was about to take place, and Pakistan’s role in it as an atomic Muslim power would be crucial, which was also why an extension for Raheel Sharif was necessary at this delicate juncture in history. Full marks for inventiveness; beats the posters in Karachi asking him to stay on as army chief.

Some can be remarkably detailed such as the tragic account of the finance secretary of the Islamabad Gun Club who was savagely beaten by an MNA because the polite young man simply asked the politician to pay his club dues. Tragic, because he was beaten at the Gun Club when he should have more appropriately been shot.

Some can be helpful. One warned of a fatal disease called Chikungunya spread by the bite of a mosquito which could only be cured by putting salt in lukewarm water. It didn’t say whether to drink that water, just leave it next to your pillow or have the mosquito have a sip of it. Chikungunya, of course, is also a severe problem at dinners and luncheons. ‘Chikungunya some left?’

Others still throw a light on old mysteries. Like why did K-Electric replace its electricity wires? Because the former president Zardari was a stakeholder in the consortium that took over the KESC and sold all the copper wires in Karachi and replaced them with cheaper silver ones making gazillions off the fraud. This is why he was now in Dubai where he sold all the copper wires at a premium and became the second richest man in the world, behind himself in first place.

Still another insisted that the hospital Nawaz Sharif went to in England didn’t even have a cardiac ward and he was just getting some minor knee surgery done. Which is why he had to walk around every day like that video showed, because everyone knows that a heart bypass takes a week to complete and patients aren’t able to walk till years later and why couldn’t he show some proof anyway. And by the way he stayed at that flat in London which is Maryam’s but used to be Hussain’s when it was gifted to him by a Qatari houbara bustard-shooting shaikh.

Then there was the warning of a WhatsApp virus sent by Indian hackers spread through some video that people were sharing. As soon as you saw the video all your personal and financial details went to the Indian hackers, you lost your Gmail and Facebook accounts, you lost your job, your house and your clothes would catch fire.

One message exposed in intricate detail the corruption and nepotism behind the appointment of the new principal of NCA. The entire world was involved in the conspiracy to hold back someone who merited the post, in favour of someone whose only knowledge of painting was what colours he wanted his walls to be done next winter.

One warned of a car snatching scheme whereby the felons take off your car’s number plate while it is parked, wait for you to leave, overtake you on the road showing you the ‘fallen’ number plate, and when you stop to take it back and thank them, they take your car. It doesn’t explain why they don’t take your car to begin with since they have enough time to unscrew a number plate. My mechanic has broken into my car quicker than it takes me to blink, every time I’ve locked the keys inside.

Men’s sexual health is an especially popular ‘forward-as-received’ issue. Too much citrus reduces your sex drive, too much stress reduces your sex drive, too much alcohol reduces your sex drive, too much television reduces your sex drive ... I’m just surprised now that any man has sex at all in this country.

Published in Dawn, EOS, February 26th, 2017

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