I read with interest the article by Matthew Adukanil (With Humour, you can fight many a battle, The Hindu Open Page, March 10) and doubly endorse his prescription to my poor fellow-beings on mother Earth to take on the battles with a sense of humour. However, my experience speaks otherwise.
Once amid heat generated at a meeting, where the speaker was shouting like anything directionless, I stood up and queried, ‘Gentleman, what is your problem?’ That provoked instant laughter among the audience who felt so merrily relieved but the meeting had to go on even further, of course, minus me who was promptly evicted by the loyalists of the person on the mike. In fact, after a couple of days, one of the listeners suggested that I should thank the organisers for their muscle power lest I would have had to bear with the stuff endlessly that evening.
As a school student, I was privileged to have extra sports activities because of my sense of humour. More often than not, I would be identified to be sent out the moment any teacher entered the classroom. After all, a smiling child is looked at with suspicion in our classrooms. And how dare you put up a cheerful face and a brave smile during the maths period? “Out”! And that was the single English word I have heard frequently in my school life.
My sharing jokes during the Language period would ensure installing a ‘virtual’ Ganesha in my presence so that I would start doing Thoppukkaranam (a worship procedure that involves one holding one’s ears by the hands in a crossed way and squatting up and down), just a hundred times every time. Exchanging a caricature of a fellow student often offended the drawing master, who invariably mistook the image to be of his and I ended up doing three rounds around the playground.
In college, the masters were even more concerned and conversant with one another in the faculty room; so little exertion was required on my part to apprise them of my sense of humour that became their armour against me. My jovial essays made their red inks go dry and at the end of each semester examination, I taught my classmates how to cultivate a positive attitude to negative internal marks.
My rail journeys in unreserved compartments, sitting on a gunny bag or on the lap of a sleeping old man who would be seated at the edge of a single corner seat, could never meddle with my sense of humour. As for bus travel, standing for hours together, my comic movements due to aches and pains made the lucky ones seated in the bus merrier than the worn out CDs of good old films screened on a grand old TV set.
At my workplace, I faced ‘serious’ questions on my practising the lighter side of life. And my smile made me walk more miles because of change of place. Despite my plea that it is my nature, a co-tenant in the residential apartment took pity on me for being the sole laughing man at the monthly residents welfare committee meetings despite decisions on increased maintenance cost, failed drainage connections, misplaced EB cards, tangled telephone cables, mismatched letter boxes and perennially out-of-service lifts. He forcibly ferried me to meet his family doctor. That led to a chain of medical attendants from ENT specialists, orthodontic surgeons, dermatologists, cardiologists to gastroenterologists.
Good heavens, I was spared a visit to the departments of nephrology and oncology! After filing the reports that got piled up from various labs, scan centres and diagnostic institutions, I was taken to a psychiatric consultant who made a complete study as though I had arrived from another planet. He comforted me, taking me into confidence, and said this ‘abnormality,’ which is becoming rare these days, could be ‘cured’ but I should wholeheartedly coperate in therapy.
The neuro specialist was puzzled and seemed bowled over after listening to my non-stop joke-telling, cartoon appreciation and jovial dialogues of popular movies. He pointed out that the outside world had way back lost all its fun and wondered how I remained unpolluted. He thought over a little. And, finally, asked me whether I had ever been serious about anything in life. I replied I did not take life itself seriously. Then, suddenly, his face brightened.
He pulled out his prescription pad and his pen started moving quickly across like the mechanical hand of an ECG recording device. Then he handed me the slip that contained not less than half a dozen tablets to be taken before, after and during food on all days and twice on Sundays and holidays. And he whispered into my ears his ‘humble’ consultation fee.
The very next day, I was surrounded by intrigued colleagues who kept enquiring how, why and since when I had turned so serious-faced and how come I left smiling.
I am yet to share the secret. After all, I learnt that at a price and how can I teach them that free of cost? And, I am inwardly happy that a few people have started exchanging secret smiles between them every time I cross them. I may shortly start receiving concessions on consultation fee from my physician for referring to him more ‘cases’.
(The writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org)