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Rambling post alert. All the finicky readers with too high standards may please take note of the fact and bow out gracefully to save precious time.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say or rather said Charles Caleb Colton and the rest, the ‘they’ I have mentioned, duly have taken it up to explain away the annoying instances of copying by cats of the human variety. It might well be pleasing to those who have inordinate hunger as also thirst for flattery to have such felines mewing ‘sincerely’ around them. With no such hunger or thirst, it only gives me the heebie-jeebies and makes me break out into itchy rashes all over when confronted with them.

Decades back in school the children had a song for copy-cats:

“Copy cat, kill a rat, Sunday Monday eat the rat”

I must admit I have given much thought during tender years of childhood as to why copy-cats had to kill and eat a rat on Sunday as well as on Monday or come to think of it, why they should kill one if at all.  Probably it was linked in some way to the action of copying: something like, if you are into copying, you might as well copy your actions of Sunday on Monday as well.  The explanation could of course be something much more profound than the simplistic one I offer. But I do have my doubts regarding any profundity connected to it, as I feel the entry of the rat in the picture only proves conclusively that rhyme rather than reason prompted the making of the ditty.

Anyways, digressions apart, methinks, the tiny tots who sang the song (do they sing it in schools in the present too?) had their little hearts in just the right place. There have been many occasions in my adult life when I have been tempted to sing the song with the same unrestrained gusto of childhood, especially when I have come across certain copy-cats who frustrated me by their errr… copying nature. But, sigh, being a grown-up has it limitations. Apart from the fact that your peers are wont to stare at you askance, there is always the fear that one will be led not too gently to the nearest loony-bin and shut in thereof if one gave oneself up to unbridled enthusiasm in such matters. You see, the majority of adult humans prefer hypocritical flattery to the most harmless truth and would rather banish those who prevent the syrupy flattery from sloshing against them rather than the fount of such syrup.

Years back we stayed in a sleepy little army station, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. All of us ladies of the army unit we belonged to made trips together to the city in the vehicle provided for us, once every week. One such day a few of us finished our shopping earlier than others and were idly watching my neighbour  trying to choose from the many pastel shades of chiffon saris spread out in front of her by the overzealous salesman. She sat undecided between a light blue, a sea green, a peach, a baby pink, a lemon yellow…  Oh, you get the drift. ALL of them looked so pretty and delicious to me.  After quite some time of discontented dillydallying, she suddenly got up and declared unceremoniously that she did not care for ANY of them and wanted to check for other shades in some other shop.

“The light blue looks pretty. Doesn’t it?” I asked her. I had got one of those sudden impulses of mine.

Her forehead creased in distaste and she shook her head impatiently. That seemed a good sign in my favour to me.

“You are not going to buy it?” I wanted to make sure before taking the plunge.

“No.” she said dismissively, “I don’t want that color. In fact, I did not like any of them.”

“So, may I?”

That’s how it is with me. No dithering.  Though I loved them all, I made a spot decision to go for the light blue one. It is a fact that while stepping into the shop I had no intention of buying a sari at all.

“Yeah, sure go ahead…” she said indifferently and walked out with a friend to the shop across the street to look for more colors.

So imagine my surprise when on the return journey as the ladies clamoured to see the color of the sari she had finally chosen, she took out from the carry bag the exact shade of blue she so disdainfully had rejected and which I had got for myself.  I stared in dismay.

“What do you mean buying the same color? I even asked you before buying!” I said, finding words at last. “I could easily have bought any other color. I liked them all!”

I was in bad humor over the discovery. Call me mean or whatever, but I did not hide my obvious displeasure at the time.

“Is it the same color?” she asked in pretended surprise.  Wow. An Oscar was in order for her performance that day.

I know what some wisecrack is going to say at this point: it is an individual’s prerogative to change their mind. Sure, of course it is. But then why be devious? Why not just say, ‘I changed my mind’? Besides which, the wisecrack who says that will have spoken too soon (which all wisecracks do most always) without possession of the whole facts (to hear which wisecracks do not normally have patience).  In subsequent days, the same thing repeated itself. You see when that happens, anyone with a reasonably good nose smells a rat and it could in all probability be the very dead rat killed by the copy-cats and kept aside to eat on Monday. Ha!

Once it so happened that she tagged along with me to this particular shop I was going to. Though I resented it there was nothing much I could do about it. It is after all a free country. Once there, she fussed a lot, (she didn’t like the texture, the color, the design… it went on.), and ended up not buying anything.  I ignored the theatrics (I hate cribbers and fussers. Period.), chose what I wanted quickly in my characteristic no-nonsense way: a purple sari with tiny flowers on it. But believe it or not, the very next day she was back at the shop with her husband and bought the very same sari. Once again she put on her innocent, ‘is-it-the-same’ act for our benefit. I fretted, I fumed, but there was nothing much I could do other than exchange the one I got for a different sari.

Thereafter, Operation Shopping-in-Secrecy was strictly enforced.  Yes, I admit she could easily go around from shop to shop looking for similar stuff and still get the same one. But I was damned if I was going to make it easy for someone by letting them tag along with me. If they had to, let them copy the hard way, was my logic.

There is another set who listen to you and throw your words back at you as if they were their own.  I am simply amazed and insanely amused at such form of imitation which lacks the ability to remember the source. I call them Amnesic Copy-cats. Suppose you tell one of them that you love listening to music and you just cannot go about your work without your fav music playing, they will listen to you, but not say anything. The next time you meet them, THEY will tell you, they listen to music and just cannot go about their work without their fav music playing. Well, there is nothing new about that. A lot of people have common tastes, right? WRONG. These people neither played music before they heard you, nor will they be doing so after they make their copy-cat statement. They merely liked the sound of what you said and decided to use it as a piece of conversation. THAT is what makes it so funny.

Virtual life is no different either when it comes to copycats. As I have written here, while blog-jumping some time back, I came across one blog which was a mish-mash of material lifted from many other blogs without any credit to the originals. I found my own sentences/paragraphs too, neatly ‘lifted’ and fitted into the new exotic blog-dish served to the public as the lady’s own preparation.  But the best part was one comment I received to my own rant against it:  How do you know it is yours? Oh wow! Nobody asked that question to the copycat blogger where I saw one and all singing Hallelujah, but I am asked how I know it is mine!

I don’t know if any of you have seen this old movie with Rishi Kapoor and Kimi Katkar in the lead roles. Kimi insists that she is Rishi’s wife whereas he says his wife is dead.  All through the movie Rishi is bent on proving that Kimi is an impostor. In the last reel, his little daughter (who was in boarding school?) enters the picture and addresses Kimi as “Mummy!” conclusively proving to everyone concerned (police, priest, the lot) that Kimi is indeed his wife as she had been claiming all along. But, still Rishi shouts, “No she is not, she can’t be my wife!”  All are puzzled at the vehemence. “She is not my wife. She cannot be…” he repeats, “because… because… because… I killed her.”

Do you see the connection, how it explains why and how I know the lines stolen were actually mine? Of course I did not kill anyone! But those lines the copycat blogger lifted could not belong to her because they refer to my own experiences. And if yet some other wisecrack is going to tell me about coincidences, I am gonna say, “Go take a walk brudder (or sistah as the case may be)”.

Anyways coming back to online copycats, I have met quite a few in my time. They either lift your ‘about me’ (preposterous considering you are you and I am I), use the same words that you have coined, say they too prefer the same things you do et al. I know of agnostics who wouldn’t know the meaning of the word. Then there are those who ‘borrow’ little known or well known quotes and put it up as their own. Twitter and Facebook abound with them. Babe-in-the-woods that I was , I used to (note the past tense) think so highly of them for coming up with such cool ones, till enlightenment dawned about the copy-paste involved and the ruthless chopping away of author names.

Once I came across a 55-word story which impressed me a lot. Imagine my surprise when on one of my blog wanderings I came across the very same story in another page of a well known and admired blogger, with just minor changes! I wanted to make sure it wasn’t my imagination. So I spent the better part of my afternoon going through the blogs of the original blogger to find her story. Yep, it was there. The copycat blogger fell with a thud and crashed to the floor from the pedestal in which I had mounted them. Even though I find good stuff on their pages, I can’t help but be sceptical about their authenticity. A real pity that talent should thus have been negated.

The best of the lot falls under a different category. The person described self as a poet and claimed to have written thousands of poems. Now, that is an impressive number. I sometimes read and commented on the poetic posts of the person at a common blog-site. I did feel something was amiss… but with me. The poems seemed to go right above my head. But I did not find the fact too surprising considering that I am not an expert myself.  Like I have already mentioned here I tend to cringle and run away from poetry blogs in general though I very unjustly inflict poetry on hapless people when the mood strikes me. But with blogger after blogger dishing out unlimited praise to the offerings posted by the person I felt quite small and inadequate. I quietly slunk away after reading, failing miserably in thinking up some clever comment like the rest.

One day, when the person had yet again commented on one of my blogs, I felt I MUST return the favour and so trotted over, Hoping to make a suitably “intelligent” comment this time, I started reading earnestly and out of the blue, started singing. No, no, no. You unjustly accuse me. I hadn’t taken leave of my senses.  Reading the latest poem on the blog-site had just that effect on me.  I bet you want to know the ‘why’ of it. I found the reason soon enough. While I was reading, my brain had helpfully translated the same to Malayalam for reasons only known to its own self and I had merely hummed the translation, familiar lyrics of a film song of the early 80s. Tada! I had come across my first translator poet, who borrowed freely from rather well-known sources not his own. Imagine translating a famous lyricist’s song known to almost all Mallus, to English and passing it off as one’s own. Ingenuity (or gall) comes in various guises.

Of course they say nothing is original in this world. I certainly don’t know who compiled the statistics though. Everything has been said and done and already presented, they say. We, in the present only re-present some of them with our own touch, in our own ways. But what makes people not even try to have an opinion, a liking of their own? What’s so great about copying someone else’s work and being praised for it? Even if you aren’t caught by others, doesn’t your own heart know the truth?!

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