It says something about a society when it can’t laugh at itself!
If you were to look at WhatsApp Groups or Google Groups, you would think that Indians are the funniest people on Earth. Virtually every second post is a forwarded joke…the commonest jokes being about husband-wife relationships then sex and then politicians. In fact, you would think that Indians are not only sex-obsessed, they seem to be inherently unhappy in their marriages and constantly at logger-heads with their spouses, while politicians in any case are always fodder for humor, the world-over.
And yet, there are no Mr. Narendra Modi jokes!
While in private, we still circulate “Sardarji” and “Gujju” and “Sindhi” and “Malayali” jokes, try doing these in public, in cartoons or columns or for that matter on Twitter. Self-appointed guardians will pile on you as if you were a kabaddi player who has just been captured and won’t let go until you have apologized and made yourself feel like a worm.
The Parsis probably are the only people who laugh at themselves and don’t care how much fun is made of them.
Even the so-called comics who do stand-up are very, very careful about whom they “offend”. So even they stay clear of Na-Mo jokes and jokes about communities they know will come after them tomorrow. No one really wants to fight lawsuits he/she can’t win or go to jail. The safest targets therefore again are husband-wife, other relationships, gays and fat people…and individual soft targets that can’t really hit back!
Like Ms. Alia Bhat!
She screwed up when she answered “Prithviraj Chauhan” to the question “Who is the President of India” on Koffee with Karan. Frankly, 90% of the graduate girls who I interview for receptionist and front-desk executive jobs have no clue as well, though they all know how many item numbers Ms. Mallika Sherawat has done in Tamil films. Yet, Ms. Bhat overnight became the shining icon of this large group of dumb “blonde” girls and boys who populate our country and irrespective of the fact that she is turning out to be a fine director’s actress, one screw-up in public was enough to make her the butt of every “dumb” person joke since then.
We are an extremely insecure bunch of people. If a foreigner says bad things about life in India, instead of acknowledging that we are a dirty, insular, selfish lot in general, we become defensive and fall back on our 2000-years old glory days and our so-called “Bhartiya Sanskriti”, which really only means falling at the feet of our elders, no matter that we then throw the same elders out to pasture when they are of no use to us. If another Indian, especially an NRI points out problems with our civic sense, we ask him not to come back to India. And if someone makes jokes about us or our religion or community, we want to hang him.
So it takes a lot in India to laugh at oneself.
And Ms. Bhat has just done that. Check out this YouTube video. It is a hilarious 10-minutes skit. The cynics will say it is a publicity stunt to rescue Ms. Bhat’s public persona. No matter! All India BakChod (AIB), the guys who bring out funny videos all the time (see their Dhoom 3 video against Yashraj) have done an amazingly funny job, taking potshots at everyone from Mr. Chetan Bhagat to Ms. Shobha De to Ms. Anjali Mukherji, while Ms. Bhat in a self-deprecating mode, with help from Mr. Karan Johar, Mr. Arjun Kapoor and Ms. Parineeti Chopra, all of whom also make fun of themselves, really rocks. Mr. Johar even makes fun of his supposed gayness and though I intuitively find him a gas-ball, he has taken to self-deprecating humor even in shows like Jhalak Dikhla Jaa.
Anyone who can laugh at himself/herself gets my respect, irrespective of his/her personality quirks!
And it’s high time we had some laws that prevented people from going to court or the police, each time someone poked fun at them or other public figures or exaggerated funny behavioral practices of specific communities or groups of people. Only then, will we be able to move to the next level of a 2nd World society.
And only when the same communities and people actually start laughing at themselves and create jokes about themselves, will we become a 1st World country.
Really, progress is not just about infrastructure and gleaming roads and shiny buildings. We have to progress as a society as well. And for that we need to be able to laugh at ourselves and be gracious when others poke fun at us.
And to start off, Ms. Bhat has shown us the way!