WHERE HAS ALL THE HUMOUR GONE?

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It has been more than a week since a Member of Parliament (MP) of the opposition combine, mimicked the Vice President in the Parliament complex at New Delhi. The brickbat trading has not stopped since. Newspapers and news channels are full of stories of indignation, defiance, hurt, disbelief, rights and indignity – depending on which side of the political fence the storyteller is sitting. Someone has also gone to court with a defamation suit. There are people shouting from the rooftops that serious insults have been heaped on the second highest constitutional office in the country.

I am not fishing in politically charged waters but merely making a statement of facts. The individuals concerned belong to two different political entities which do not see eye to eye. One belongs to a ‘single engine’ party that is the ruling dispensation in one of our states. The other is the ruling dispensation at the Centre. The state alleges that the Centre has not paid up on its dues, the Centre on the other hand harbours different views. Recent tiffs between the two entities came to a head when a firebrand MP of the opposition combine was expelled from the Lok Sabha for reasons of security which of course, was hotly contested. However, you cannot mess with the boss, so the Ethics Committee prevailed.

Hot on the heels of the expulsion, there was a breach in the Parliament’s physical security where it emerged that the miscreants were admitted into the Parliament as spectators, upon the recommendation of a MP of the ruling party at the Centre. Clamours for his expulsion were raised by the opposition combine but  so far, an inquiry has been ordered and some uncomfortable noises have been made by spokespersons. The state in question and the Centre have also been on a collision course over several other issues including the management of the state-run universities.

The mimicry episode is perhaps a symptom of the frustration resulting from all that is happening between the two warring factions. It may not even be so. It could just be light-hearted humour blown out of proportion. There was also vehement opposition to another MP filming the mimicry on his cell phone. These days, when people film family funerals and put them on social media, what’s wrong with an impromptu mimicry show? I recall a Facebook post by one enthusiast who posted a cremation video of a relative with a comment, “At the cremation ghat with Panditji…feeling very sad.” That is how life is today, face it.

Coming now to mimicry per se. I have seen since childhood that it has been one of the most enjoyable forms of entertainment. And political figures have been mimicked from as long back as I can remember. Film personalities have been another favourite group that has been mimicked widely. I distinctly remember several comedy shows on national television that mimicked political personalities. One of the most memorable imitations I remember is that of a celebrated television personality mimicking one of our erstwhile Prime Ministers. It was so delightful and it also carried a social message. There were very few entertainment shows in which people like Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Nana Patekar, Shah Rukh Khan and Om Prakash were not mimicked by comperes and comedy artistes.

We ourselves, have imitated and mimicked our school teachers and relatives at school and family gatherings. Nobody felt hurt or insulted. Good mimicry is  a rare talent and must be enjoyed. Let alone schools and family, we have even imitated our seniors and bosses at work without the slightest fear of retribution. We were certain that they would never mind a friendly jab at their idiosyncrasies, some of which they never realised themselves. Needless to mention, their spouses enjoyed these digs the most. It is said that comedy is serious business. It takes preparation and effort to make others laugh. A great quality, however, is to be able to laugh at oneself. That shows acceptance and character.

Unfortunately, when the atmosphere is coloured in political hues, even humour is lost on people, at least those who are the objects of such humour. As a person who grew up normally and one who enjoys a good laugh, I am distressed at the unnecessary debate and viciousness that has surrounded this non-issue. At this rate, all our stand-up comedians should be banished to Siberia. Quite to the contrary, people pay money to go and watch them mimic our politicians and film stars, apart from many other enjoyable acts that they perform.

Where has all the humour gone?

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