Special Agent Swathi: How to tame the misinformation monster4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
By Asha Sridhar
Trust us when we say this, it could be hiding inside a phone near you right now! Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Meet Swathi, the smartest sleuth you will ever… err, meet? Join the 13-year old as she keeps this monster from spreading its gnarly tentacles and gets to the bottom of the curious case of the mystery date…
PART 1 – Blues, clues and achoos!
It was getting dark and cloudy outside. The smell of wet earth was already starting to distract Swathi. She was a 13-year old teenager, and like all freshly-minted teenagers, she didn’t quite fancy spending her evenings poring over the laws of physics.
Now, all she wanted to do was snuggle in her blanket with a crossword puzzle and drown her thoughts in the pitter-patter of the rain. She would have loved to have gone outside, but, “AAAAACCHOoo….!” You see, she couldn’t. Instead, she had to finish her homework and upload it on the cloud! “Hmph! How I miss just writing the essay in my notebook,” she said.
It had been 10 months since schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Swathi was longing to meet her friends. After all, what could a girl do after she had finished reading all the Nancy Drew mysteries on her bookshelf and even re-reading her Tin Tins? If only she could go to school! She could swap books and book banter with her book buddies beside beautiful bookshelves…you get the drift. She missed sharing her lunch, and, of course, exchanging loud stories and laughter in their bustling and sunny eighth standard classroom.
You won’t believe what happened next. Just then, her phone began to ring. It was her friend Raj. What happened next was even stranger. He was calling to tell her that school would reopen after Christmas, less than a week from that day. “What a coincidence! I was just thinking about school,” she jumped. She was so charged up she rang up all her friends to share the news.
“School, here I finally come! Whoever thought I would miss it so much?” she announced, “I’ve got to tell Amma and Appa.”
In the other room, her parents were settling in to watch television after a long day’s work. This could mean only one thing — the late-night news bulletin was about to start. She rushed over to tell them about the school re-opening, but she was a minute too late since the rule in her home was no talking during news hour! So, she did what any wise person in her place would do. She got absorbed in the news herself.
Now, that’s a good thing and a not-so-good-thing. We’ll talk about the not-so-good part first. By the end of it, she almost forgot what she had come there for! The good part was that this happened because her idol, tennis player Rafael Nadal, was on television. It happened every time they spoke about him or tennis. “I’m sure this happens to everybody. You’re in the clear Swathi,” she said and shrugged it off.
But because she was paying attention, she also realised something particularly important. They didn’t mention school re-openings! She reasoned that may be like her, the news anchors were sleepy too. It was pretty late and they had been talking for quite some time. They should announce it in the morning bulletin. She was sure of it.
“Goodnight Amma, goodnight Appa,” she said before tucking herself into bed.
The next morning came, and not a word about it in the news.
“Hmmm…how strange!” Now, her mind started ticking. After all, she had read too many Nancy Drews for her own good. Where did Nancy Drew end and where did Swathi begin? Was she now Nancy Drew? Her mind started wandering. “AaaaaaCHOOOO.” Now, this jolted her back.
Getting back to our newly developing mystery. Her best friend had told her school was to re-open. She trusted him. However, she couldn’t ignore what she heard on the news too. The number of Covid-19 cases were rising and it was not safe to go outside. Her school would never do anything hasty. She knew that. “Something doesn’t look right,” she said pacing up and down her room. “I’m going to get to the bottom of this!”
To be continued…
(Does Swathi solve the mystery? Why is no one other than her friends talking about the school re-opening? Find out in the next installment of How to Tame the Misinformation Monster!)
Author’s Note: Asha Sridhar is a muggle writer who wishes she could wiggle her nose and create beautiful sentences. No, she’s not read all the Harry Potter books.