“No jokes please, we are Indian,” no longer holds true thanks to today’s politicians of the ruling establishment who are humourless and don’t eat popcorn chicken.
Indians were always seen as a dour lot who could never take a joke on themselves and were politically correct even before the phrase became a nightmare for people trying to tell things like they are.
You could never make a joke on mothers, for some reason, maybe because they are an important part of the men’s lives, even after they grow up and get married.
Many Indian mothers live with the couple after the wedding just to keep an eye on things, literally, and it is for that reason there are also very few jokes about Indian mothers-in-law. Just to keep things in balance, nobody jokes about Indian fathers and fathers-in-law, who anyway do not count in a regular household.
As the humourless lot came to power, social media and memes became very popular among savvy teens, and stand-up comedy took off, that was irreverent, topical and touched upon taboo subjects.
Things were pretty bleak in India for many decades, jokes-wise, after independence, and the only thing that was passed of as humour, came from the so-called comedians of Bollywood who made crass jokes about women, especially “westernised” women, and about Indians from the south of the country who were made to look like country bumpkins.
Then came the ultra-nationalist, hardliner party, the BJP, that made Indians stand up at the movie theatres for the national anthem, before the start of a three-hour extravaganza of songs, dances by scantily-clad women, cartoonish villains and crooked politicians.
(Just for your information, Indians do not like to be told what to do, by anyone, let alone their government. That is why no Indian ever waits in a queue and that’s why few traffic rules are followed on Indian roads).
Just for context, the Indian national anthem is short, about 52 seconds, and it does not take much effort to stand with your popcorn bucket in one hand, and a giant sugary soft drink in the other, and stand to attention.
There is also a shorter version that has just the first line and the last lines of a stanza, which is about 20 seconds, and is played on special occasions, maybe when the rain starts pouring and you are in a cricket stadium and you don’t have an umbrella, and there is a need to hurry things up.
At about the same time as the humourless lot came to power, social media and memes became very popular among savvy teens, and stand-up comedy took off, that was irreverent, topical and touched upon taboo subjects, such as marriage, vegetarianism and beef. They mimicked America’s great comics such as Jerry Seinfeld.
To add to this sudden eruption of humour in the Indian psyche, the hardliners propounded, out of the blue, things like peeing, or urinating on your plants to make your plants flourish.
It did not make a jot of difference to the comics that studies have shown that human urine has natural fertilisers such as nitrogen and is a safe and effective fertiliser for cabbage, beet, cucumbers, tomatoes and just about anything in your home garden on the fifth floor balcony, which could be pretty hazardous for the people walking below.
Indians became more humorous when politicians such as Kiran Bedi, governor of Puducherry, said she heard the Sun say Om, and unfortunately, also tweeted it.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said at a science meeting: “We know from science that the potential energy, the silent form of energy, can move mountains by its conversion to kinetic energy of motion. Can we build a science in motion?”
I suspect his speech writer is a closet comedian.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi