Monday, June 10, 2013

The gift of laughter

Some people are born colour-blind. Some are born without a funny-bone. On balance, the latter group is more to be pitied
Growing up, I disliked the boys who were held up to me as examples. (No, I lie - I loathed them, I hated them with a deep and abiding malice.) “He’s so serious about his work”, I’d be told. “And an intolerably self-important little twit”, I’d think to myself. That could be one of the reasons why today I mistrust “serious”. What does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his last belly-laugh? “Serious” is over-rated. Schopenhauer? Pshaw! I’m a Marxist – of the Groucho persuasion.
  “He was born with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world is mad.” That's the first line of Rafael Sabatini's "Scaramouche", written nearly a hundred years ago. One could scarcely find a better maxim to live one's life by. I hold that just as there is no issue good or bad but thinking makes it so, there is no truth to grief or mirth, it's all a point of view. Granted, it may not be politic to crack Irish jokes when there's a bereavement in the family (especially if it's your boss' family). You won't get the guffaws that indicate your delivery of the punch-line was perfect. On the other hand, it can't hurt to raise a smile or two.
Humour, if leavened with sensitivity and compassion, lightens the burden of sorrow. The Monty Python group read a hilarious speech at their comrade's funeral. I can think of no better tribute to a man who brought happiness to people
Sadly (pun intended) enough, we as a nation tend to mistrust laughter. We persist in the belief that a sombre demeanour is a sign of great intellect or efficiency, whereas if the truth were told, it's far more likely to have been caused by colitis or tight underwear. To be fair, humorists have a tough time anywhere. Around the world, a man who lightens your mood is oft taken lightly. Remember P.G. Wodehouse's utterly hilarious lament at being dubbed a "burbling pixie"?
Humorists should rather be placed on a pedestal, for they create something that defies analysis. IF I am permitted another Wodehouse reference, it was said that criticising him was like taking a spade to a souffle. Why devalue this rare gift?
In India, this wariness about laughter cannot be a cultural relic. From Gopal BhNaar to Mullah Naseeruddin, Tenali Raman to Birbal (why, even Narad), our jesters have been respected as men wise enough to understand the world and present home-truths with a laugh. In more recent times, Osho (with his famous treatise on the f-word) and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar among others have had huge followings even though (or because?) they have encouraged their followers to laugh.
Why, then, are we so insecure whenever somebody publicly pokes fun at our idols? Obviously, laughter is anarchic. Especially in a democracy, where a telling satire can finish a political career more surely than assassination.

Perhaps that is the crux - we fear being laughed at because there is no remedy for losing one's dignity. But there is a defence. Prevention is better than cure. Pre-empt your satirists. If we learn to laugh at ourselves, our critics can at best laugh with us, not at us. And we might be happier.


Anonymous said...

This cheered me up immensely for various reasons, despite the pretentious BHNaar - because really lets stick to phonetics and not write English the way Bengali is written.
Apart from that, hahahaha....


Lazyani said...

It is so difficult to laugh at oneself , JAP da, that we forget how liberating it is!!

Shirisha said...

Narrated very nicely!!!

Ankita said...

hahah! nice post! there is an old saying that goes like
'never trust men who don't laugh and dogs that don't bark'