The name of the game stays the same

Many years ago I wrote a piece about how we con people when we cannot recognise them. Like, heeeeeeeyyyyy, how are you, long time no see, (who the heck is he haven’t the foggiest) and I was thinking to myself have things changed since then.

By Bikram Vohra (Between the lines)

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Published: Sat 13 Nov 2010, 11:58 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:28 AM

Do we say, sorry, can’t remember you?

Not really.

We now have more categories for the con.

Like when you don’t remember the name you go for paternalistic quasi-religious: guruji, rajasahib, big man, Singh is King, Sir, that sort of stuff.

If you can’t do that with panache go with the bold and the beautiful angle.

For the women: Lovely lady, Gorgeous, look at you, migoodness, is that Vision really you? (if only I could remember your name!)

For the men: hello Chief, what a pleasant surprise, you are looking well, you have lost weight. Deflect, that’s the name of the game. Flattery is the best bet. If you don’t want to say Chief, you have a clutch of choices: Tiger, Champion, Big Boss, Captain, Hero (déclassé) Big Shot, take your pick. New ones heard in this end of decade are Big Brother, Monsieur (utterly mispronounced), Senor (to show how global you are) Kemo Sabay (from a wilting generation that watched Lone Ranger.)

Naturally, since we have no desire to be rude we desperately try to camouflage our inability to dredge out the right name at the right moment.

Here are some tips so that you might still aspire to climb a couple of steps higher. If you can’t figure who that is sailing towards you at the next party quell the panic and move resolutely forward, breaking his stride.

Hit him with it: Superman, imagine meeting you here. Now, Superman is flummoxed, odds are he doesn’t remember your name but the way you are behaving you are obviously buddies. Now, wipe him out by punching him on the shoulder in great display of camaraderie.

If someone else joins in and now you have two you don’t know a safe bet is always to say we go back way when. That has a nice stretchy feel about it and no one can argue.

Have you ever heard anyone say, no we don’t, we only met last week.

‘Way back when’ is a complete winner.

Add “Remember the old days” and you are home especially if you kill it with “those were the days.” Neither of you have a flipping clue what you are talking about but it works.

The odds now favour your having even less of an idea what this guy’s wife’s name is, so use similar strategy. Ask how is the memsahib, the better half (ouch) the Home Minister (double ouch) or with splendid elan, where is that charmer of yours. Of course, if he doesn’t have one or they have just split go in to a corner and shoot yourself.

Never commit yourself through specifics. Pretty silly you would look if you said, how’s the textile business doing? And he said, how the hell should I know I am in the electronics trade. You would never win back territory.

Play it cool. Ask how things are. Things is a wonderful word, it is flexible, it is wide ranging and it covers up for rampant ignorance. If you want to be more with it, sort of hep, ask him how tricks are? Don’t know what it means but it makes for great performance. Another good one is, how’s the world treating you? For some reason members of the human race loves answering this question, their vanity reassuring them that you are fascinated by their equation with the world. They will tell you?

If none of this works use the back up plan. Ask him where he has been hiding himself. It is such a stupid question but adults love responding. Like they do to another question: been travelling? Amazing, isn’t it, that articulate, intelligent people mumble such inanity?

Finally, be careful of the tripwire. Your wife. Wives have an uncanny ability to suss out when husbands are faking it. And since they derive much pleasure from putting said husband on the spot when you hear your wife say, ah there you are, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend, do the only thing you can to save your self.

Spill your cold drink and go into profuse burst of apology.

It might work. It might not.

You can always thump him on the back again.

Bikram Vohra is Khaleej Times Editorial Advisor. Write to him at

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