India - A Nation of Witty Wisecracks or Dour Morons
Laughter is the best medicine
‘Laughter is the best medicine’, claims modern medical science. Humour is the stimulus that induces laughter. Wit is humour in the cerebral form. Satire is humour in malevolent form. Pun is humour in circuitous form. Wit is the art of making a point without making a enemy. Satire is the art of criticizing someone without ruffling the feathers. Pun is the art of denigrating someone in the garb of eulogizing or vice versa. All three are humour in different forms. All induces laughter in different ways. They can take myriad shapes and forms. Superpose into one another, yet retain their identity.
Cattle Class and "Indian Netas - Holy Cows"
A few years back during the UPA-2 regime, austerity measures were placed by the Government due to then ongoing economic recession. That's when our the then Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, a celebrated former diplomat, tweeted on Twitter, the ubiquitous social networking website that he was travelling cattle class in aerospace in solidarity with the holy cows. The undiplomatic comments of the ace diplomat almost cost him his job. The Poor Minister with rich pedigree, a greenhorn in politics, was nearly hooted out of his chair for not being austere with words in times of austerity. His own party was baying for his blood, for insulting the holy aam aadmi image of the party. Opposition, who are now in the hot seat was castigating him for mortifying the sentiments of the common man. The hapless minister became a villain overnight from a suave, sophisticated and dynamic young turk of the grand old party. Some old flag bearers of the party were imbued with new found enthusiasm to teach some lesson from the glorious Indian tradition of sacrifice to the new disciple, which has waned for public works.
Trivialized Media with Great Austerity Drive
The media, trivialized by the trivia of public discourse revolving around aggressive activism, powered by omniscient anchors with rhetorical oratory and reality TV, gave prime-time coverage to this humoresque public drama. At the end, the uninitiated enfant terrible was saved by none other than the most pedestrian, dull, workmanlike, gruffly old man, our venerable erstwhile Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself, who termed the famous or rather infamous tweet as a simple joke. The situation still has not changed much though we now have witty, chest thumping, active, colorful Prime Minister with huge mandate and even bigger rhetoric at the helm.
The Great Austerity Drive at the expense of Tax-payers
Whether Mr. Modi conquers the final frontier by hard selling his 'Startup India, India dreams' on his upcoming visit to the silicon valley and turn the tables on former British Raj by holding a grand exhibition at historic Wembley stadium at tax payers’ expense or Rs.20 thousand crores of zero balance A/C savings of common man in London, only time can tell. But the truth remains whoever holds the reins of power at South Block in New Delhi, right of center or left of center, on an average, the taxpayers of this country spends about 3 crores a year for each member of parliament for looking after (read before) the interest of the citizens of this country (read own clan). Every day, around 3 crores is spent when the parliament is in session, half of which is lost in fisticuffs of both verbal and physical kind. Each year, the Hon’ble ministers of the government spend about half of the year outside India on official business (read personal errands). The list of expenditure of the 'netalog' and their minnions, the 'babulog', at the expense of the taxpayers, the ultimate financiers is so long that it will take a lifetime to finish this article. But that’s just the white list. It is the money that is accounted for. We haven’t taken into account the black list. The money which cannot be accounted for, because then we will surely get sucked into a black hole.
Austerity Drive: Real or Wit
Despite Modi government's policy of not allowing Ministers and Bureaucrats to visit abroad more than a certain limit per year without cogent reason, the much ado about austerity will certainly put two great peripatetic mendicants, who preached austerity to attain Moksha or Salvation more than two thousand years ago, Buddha and Mahavira to shame. That brings us to the larger question of public discourse in India with cattle class and holy cows acting as a metaphor and their correlation to humor. One thing for sure, the sharp-witted former MOS never meant it as a joke or even if he did, he deliberately camouflaged it as one to take a potshot at the hypocrisy and hype surrounding the so called austerity practiced by successive political dispensation in power.
Is there space for witty banter in public discourse in this nation
So, the poser ‘is there space for witty banter in public discourse in this nation’. If the answer is yes, then we have matured as a democracy. If the answer is no, then we have still some distance to travel. A country which does not permit humor in all forms in public domain is intellectually sterile. A intellectually sterile country cannot become a vibrant democracy, because democracy is government by discussion, where ideas, serious or humoresque emanate and propagate like a relay race which leads to a mutually acceptable healthy public opinion. Therefore let us not allow our holy cows (read netas) pollute the public discourse through their unholy hypocritical blathering and turn the cattle class (read common man) into a country of dour morons instead of witty wisecracks.