I think every country must reserve a day for laughter. A day may not be sufficient for India, but we could make a beginning. Laughter is provoked by a number of things. There are truly funny events and matters. There are inadvertent mistakes that cause mirth. I enjoy the cartoons and jokes that appear in print, some make me roar with laughter. Dennis the Menace is a particular favourite of mine. The social media is replete with comments and observations that make one admire the wit of the author. Memes are especially funny. There are some statements and events that can only be described as bizarre. At first blush, one is furious. I react negatively too, but I have learnt to laugh at the foolishness and ignorance that are behind the bizarre. Laughter is the antidote to the poison that is spread by bizarre pronouncements.
The year 2017, to which we bid goodbye today, was replete with instances that were bizarre. Here are some examples that were so bizarre they made me despondent or ashamed or angry, but in the end I laughed them away:
The pride of place goes to pronouncements of those in authority:
1. The MoS (Home) found a doctor absent at a minor function held on Christmas day. (The doctor was on leave for a few days.) The minister flew into a rage and said the doctors who were absent should join the Naxalites and “we will then shoot you with bullets”. The minister may have been told that we had too many doctors per thousand population and it was a good idea to ‘cull’ the number.
2. A judge of the High Court of Rajasthan cited the Vedas as saying that those who kill cows should be massacred (I wonder which Veda) and went on to add his own prescription: declare the cow as India’s national animal and punish cow slaughter with life imprisonment. If a judge says so, I suppose enough space can be found in our crowded jails.
3. A minister of Madhya Pradesh gifted 700 wooden bats (mogri is the Hindi word) to brides. The inscription read ‘gift for beating drunkard husbands, police will not interfere’. The minister, in one stroke, struck a blow for women’s empowerment, for prohibition, for the institution of marriage and for police neutrality in a domestic matter (even if some bones were broken).
Diktats by whatever name — firman, fatwa, edict — are high on the hierarchy of the bizarre:
4. ‘Women can’t cut hair, groom eyebrows’ read a fatwa of the Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. Visit to a beauty parlour was forbidden. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ladies, don’t go to a beauty parlour, take your man to an ophthalmologist.
5. The village panchayat of Madora village, Mathura, imposed a ban on girls using mobile phones outside their homes under pain of a fine of `2,100. Why `2,100? Why did the panchayat pick on the number 2,100? Is it because we live in the
21st century? Or is it the price of the cheapest handset?
6. ‘Don’t celebrate Christmas’ warned a fringe Hindu group. The group should have revealed that they hate Christmas carols, will burn Christmas trees, and don’t believe in Christianity’s most important virtue — forgiveness. But let’s forgive them.
7. The head of the Dawoodi Bohra community directed members of his community to ‘use Indian-style toilets and host weddings at selected venues’. We saw pictures of persons breaking western style commodes. To sit or squat is the question. Squat is fine, as long as it is not OD.
Bizarre can be sinister too, but those examples don’t tickle me:
8. The Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna, required its employees to fill a marital declaration form. The employees were asked to declare their virginity and the number of wives they are married to. It was not clear whether the form applied to male employees only.
9. In Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, a boy student of Class XII was suspended from class for giving a hug to a girl student who had won a prize. The boy remained suspended during the last four months. The boy has vowed to fight for his (hugging) rights. He has a natural ally in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The PM should send him his best wishes.
10. A teacher couple working in a private school in district Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir, was sacked on their wedding day. The school management claimed that their ‘romance could adversely affect the students’. Did the management intend to say that the romance could ‘infect’ the students? The couple protested and claimed that theirs was an ‘arranged’ marriage (sans romance, to please the school management).
11. In the world of the bizarre, Mr Donald Trump is the undisputed king. What better way to acknowledge the reigning monarch than celebrate his birthday? And that is precisely what an outfit called the Hindu Sena did on Mr Trump’s 71st birthday. The event held at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, began with a raj tilak ceremony followed by cutting a cake weighing 7 kg and 100 grams.
Have a hearty laugh, bid goodbye to a bizarre year and welcome 2018. May it be prosperous and peaceful!