spit take Society

No laughing matter

Finally, now that the world is suffering, we, deservedly, as was expected, as we always do in the end, are the ones ROFLing  

“When we were wishing each other with a namaste – they laughed. When we were washing our hands and legs before entering our homes – they laughed again. When we followed a pure vegetarian diet – they laughed at that, too. When we were doing yoga – yes, you guessed right, they laughed. When we were burning our dead, ditto. And when we bathed after attending a funeral – heck, they laughed uproariously. And, finally, now that the world is suffering, we, deservedly, as was expected, as we always do in the end, are the ones ROFLing.”

When I got this message on WhatsApp for the 32nd time, I had no choice but to respond. The lucky winner was my childhood friend from Seattle, Shanks Shankaran, CEO (laid off) of Thillana Tech.

‘Who, da?’ I texted him.

‘What do you mean ‘who’?’ responded Shanks.

Who laughed? When we were doing these fantastic things, like namaste, yoga, being vegetarian, and having post-funeral baths with ancient Liril soap under a gurgling waterfall like a pre-vedic Karen Lunel, which fool was laughing? Please let me know. I want to write him a stiff letter.’

Shanks sent one smiley with dark glasses, one smiley with tears and two brown-skinned thumbs-ups as a response.

‘I don’t get it, da,’ I texted. ‘Please elaborate. I want to set them straight. Do you mean the Mughals? Were they the culprits, eating large plates of biryani with onion raita and laughing inappropriately at us while we ate keerai vadai? Was it the Brits, then? Their stiff upper lips quivering with vulgar mirth? Or was it aliens from Rahu–Ketu? Who was laughing at us?’

‘All of them. Except the aliens. That’s plain stupid,’ he replied.

‘So you think we shouldn’t be made fun of?’ I said.

‘Yes. How dare they?’

‘Who isn’t made fun of? Everyone is,’ I said.

I got a shrug emoji. A second or two later, inexplicably, two balloon ones.

‘Are you saying other great civilisations like Greece and Egypt weren’t made fun of?’ I persisted. ‘You think satire and mockery were invented by the Mughals and Brits for the sole purpose of demeaning our unsulliable culture alone? And ours is the greatest, fabbest, coolest, cleverest, uniquest culture that just can’t be lampooned?’

Shanks sent me four emojis. The first three were of the middle finger. The last one was an anthropomorphic representation of what we refer to as asingam in our culture.

I went on: ‘Tell me, do you think ancient Greek, Egyptian, Arab, Mesopotamian, Roman and the myriad Native American cultures, to name a few, didn’t have a whit of common sense or wisdom?’

‘What’s your point?’ said my friend. Between ‘your’ and ‘point’ was a word no one in our ancient culture would have used.

‘Listen, no one is making any more fun of us than they are of anyone else. We aren’t that special.’

My friend sent me instructions that, were I to follow, would involve a corkscrew, industrial glue and a couple of double-strength rubber bands. And a specific part (or two) of my anatomy that one doesn’t discuss in polite company.

‘One more thing, Shanks,’ I texted. ‘Today, we may be buying up masks, sending heart emojis to our cooks or hiding petrified under our beds. But we aren’t LMAOing, ROFLing, or even LOLing, trust me. No one is. Not us. Not them. Not you. The only one laughing like Surpanakha is Covid-19. Hope you’ve stocked up on the toilet paper.’

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a satirist. He has written four books and edited an anthology.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 9:23:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/no-laughing-matter/article31181321.ece

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