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Sunday, November 29, 2020

The End of the World

The apocalypse, when it comes, will be livestreamed. Like a Hindi film release or Chetan Bhagat’s next book tour, it will have its own devoted publicist. Make sure to sign up for an unlimited data plan.

Written by Zac O'Yeah | Updated: January 1, 2017 12:01:39 am
Illustration by Manali Ghosh. Illustration by Manali Ghosh.

Several reliable authorities have predicted the end of the world: the Bible, the Incas, the Vikings, Nostradamus, Oswald Spengler, sci-fi literature, Hollywood, Samuel P Huntington, more or less anybody who regularly frequents the Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park, and many of the contributors to the op-ed pages come to mind. It has been visualised in opera classics such as the ‘Twilight of the Gods’, which is part of the massive 15-hour Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner, a production so complex it required a custom-built theatre when it was first staged in 1876. Some, like the Romans and the Dodos, have already gone through the end and experienced its traumas, but the rest of us have yet to deal with it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you make the most of it:

How to recognise the beginning of the end?
You may want to do some research on Wikipedia, which will make you appreciate that Wikipedia itself may possibly be the harbinger of its imminent arrival: a public forum where truth stopped being factual truth but, instead, consists of whatever random claims anybody wants to put up online. Subsequently, Facebook and Twitter have invested heavily in the same business idea, with many other multinational corporations following suit. Therefore, these apocalyptic developments cannot be reversed except at a great loss to the stock market. For those who doubt this new reality, please note that the word of the year 2016, selected by the publishers of the Oxford Dictionary, is “post-truth”, meaning “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

When and how will it happen?
Due to commercial considerations, it is going to happen during American daylight hours so that US citizens can take selfies before it, to share on WhatsApp, and it can, thus, also be broadcast on the evening news with the maximum number of viewers, which will generate significant advertisement revenue. This means that it will almost certainly happen before 7am Indian Standard Time, so set your alarm clocks accordingly.

Tentatively, the main event will be hosted in the “Pub City of India” to allow people to celebrate it properly. The party will start at 6.30 the night before at the open-air theatre of UB City down the road from Bangalore Club. There will be stalls serving cocktail nibbles such as disco samosas, chilly chicken and churmuri sponsored by the pub owners’ association, and the bar will have a special licence to stay open until 4 am, when the pre-dawn show will be inaugurated with fireworks, followed by sentimental readings by local poets who lament the loss of civilisation. By the time those poets have gone on for about 30 minutes, most of us will eagerly await the end of it all. There will then be cheerleaders from Ukraine, one of the three Khans will tap dance on stage while Bryan Adams will be roped in to compose the special power rock score for the live-broadcast reality show version, which will be directed by none other than Steven Spielberg himself. (For those of you who can’t make it to Bangalore, there will be auxiliary events in Goa — an all-night rave at Anjuna Beach — and the Maidan in Kolkata, where a hilsa-cookout-cum-Rabindrasangeet-marathon recital will be hosted.)

Of course, there is going to be reserved front-row seating for politicians and the who’s who because even if the rest of us stand before the end, the VIPs will be comfortably seated. So, keep your mobile charged and just wait for that tweet or personal email invite from the event promoters. For, trust me, the end of the world will be very much a corporate do with its own devoted publicist, much like a Hindi film release or Chetan Bhagat’s next book tour.

But, in point of fact, the end will not be immediate — the above is merely the provisional plan for its inauguration. Technically speaking, even the world’s largest demolition squad will need upwards a month to destroy the world as we know it, no matter if they have the latest American weapons of mass destruction at their disposal. This means that we will all be given about a month to get ready to go.

What to do during the last 30 days?
For starters, all cash will probably have been demonetised once again to prevent black-marketeers and other contractors from hoarding it, so ask your bank manager for unlimited credit and go shopping. Get that Merc you always lusted for. In the last 30 days, vintners will quickly bottle and sell out all their vintages in order not to take a big loss, which means we can buy good tipple for cheap and stop guzzling Golconda port. Ramachandra Guha will update India After Gandhi and launch a new deluxe edition of it. Books will, in fact, get cheaper when Flipkart starts its end-of-the-world sale, but remember to tick the option for delivery to the next world.

Beachfront hotel rates will go skywards since everybody will want to die with a seaview, as will the rates of Indian premium coffee because nobody will want to be asleep when the end comes knocking. YouTube.com will see a lot of new users who upload their private footage and viewers will want to track what the end looks like in, say, Melbourne or New Jersey or Knäckebyhult. So, to take part in the 24/7 fun and watch Greenpeace activists chain themselves to organic tea bushes in Darjeeling, make sure to sign up for an unlimited data plan with your internet provider.

The opposition will stage a hartal in the Lok Sabha, but the supporters of the ruling parties will distribute sweets in their respective states — and we can all eat those sweets in abundance, since we don’t have to worry about dental issues, calories or diabetes. In the end, we can all look forward to having a good laugh about it, because Amul will take out funny ads every day in order to use up the whole year’s ad budget in a month.

Will it be good or bad?
Mostly good. For example, I often worry about dying, but if the world ends during my lifetime, it means that I’ll stop worrying now. The sooner, the better, because then I can say bye-bye to my BP pills. But that is an egoistical take. The larger benefits that we all can enjoy together include things like no more garbage on the streets because there’ll be nobody to throw it there, no spam, no unsolicited marketing calls, no more antibiotic-resistant bacteria, no computer viruses either or dandruff or deforestation or sandalwood poaching, no traffic jams, crazy lane-driving or wrong-side overtaking, no genetically modified vegetables, no MSG, no EMIs, no foreign hand, no corruption, no constipation, no riots, no nothing.

The end of the world is the simplest solution to all woes. On the whole, we are looking at a far healthier “post-end” world, somehow neater and perhaps even cleaner, in short, a global health spa type of planet upon which we’d all love to go on living — if it wasn’t for the one small hitch: once it’s over, it is over. But, nevertheless, we should enjoy it while it lasts.

Unfortunately, the end will not come easy. It may involve broken ribs, dyspepsia, tinnitus, and other ailments that no amount of Chyawanprash can set straight. One may have to sleep on a friend’s couch or move home to one’s parents for the duration of it, as one’s own mortgaged apartment will probably be taken back by the bank as soon as the end begins.

What can we do to make it less painful?
In the past, I sometimes worried about whether I’ll have enough money to live on until I die, but thanks to the Indian rupee getting demonetised, I realised that such mundane worries don’t matter very much in real life. As I was walking around with no valid cash, I found that one survives because of the goodness of one’s fellow humans: pharmacists sold me those pesky BP pills I must take against the defunct banknotes, restaurant owners who noticed that I was hungry told me to eat now but pay whenever I managed to locate an ATM with any money in it. I myself made it a point to use whatever change I received to make purchases from pushcart vegetable vendors to ensure that they got enough business to survive.

It turned into a very hope-inducing incident and I suspect that, in the end, we people will help each other to make it less painful for all. By now, you have come to the obvious conclusion that I am a visionary thinker and you may wonder what my top tip is for a worry-free ending. Well, it is simple: chill, adjust, and take it as it comes.

Zac O’Yeah is a thriller and sci-fi novelist who started his career producing travel handbooks, but this is the first time he has written a guide to the end of the world.

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