Now, I don’t know whether the general quality of humour is on a rapid downslide or whether it is just me.
May be I’m getting too old and crotchety to appreciate a certain variety of jokes. Or maybe - and I am inclined to think that this is the probable reason - some so-called “jokes” are just not funny.
Man-slipped-on-banana-peel type humour has never really appealed to me. But I tolerate it. I tolerate the widespread glee it causes in those around me - those quite obviously not in my immediate friends circle, of course.
I know that the perception of “funny” differs from person to person. So much so that I placidly tolerated this cow who used me as a back rest, arm rest, head rest and what-have-you while she was convulsed with laughter over a theatrical performance that I thought was absolute hamming at best.
Of course, I have been in stitches myself over silly, childish things. The sight of BC tripping on the stairs and falling at the feet of an usher at the cinema or running down steps into a banyan tree turned me into an absolute wreck. My “bob sledding” on my knees down a flight of stairs, all the while taking care not to upset the pile of books I was carrying, resulted in tears of laughter and bruised knees for weeks after.
This morning I awoke to find a text message on my phone. It read: “Indian cricket team penalised by animal activists for hunting 11 kangaroos last week. Pledges to pay penalty by hunting 11 terrorists today” (the day of the Indo-Pak cricket world cup semis).
And you know what? It made me plain angry.
I tried to brush it off, ignore it, rationalise it and attribute it to PMS, the summer temperature or general irritability. But it continued to bother me. I then ran it past BC and Terror. They did not think it was funny either. We found it downright offensive.
I don’t really know the sender too well having had the good fortune of working with the bloke for just a few months. Nonetheless, I replied, telling him I thought his “joke” to be “in very bad taste”. It was the most polite rebuke I could think of, given my foul frame of mind.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned sporting rivalry? I am pro-Ferrari, pro-Real Madrid, pro-India, pro-Federer, pro-gender equality, pro-nudity, pro-meat, pro-butter, pro-matching-underwear. Does that make me anti-animal or anti-Pak or anti-men? NO. There is a distinct difference.
I am all for poking fun at people, as is evident by the snide barbs that pepper my blog. However, I am apt to think that there is a fine line between “funny” and “offensive”.
Inzamam-ul-Haq running after a cheeky spectator with a cricket bat - funny. Sreesanth’s pantomimes - annoying or strangely embarrassing. Pakistani cricketers being branded “terrorists” - offensive. Downright disgusting. Pathetic. Infuriating.
In our quest for funny, have we abandoned all sense of decency or civility? I’d like to hear the same ones laughing when they are at the receiving end of such crass humour. Crassness in the guise of “patriotism” is okay, apparently.
My mind wanders back to Ducky - you know, the one who got his camouflage knickers in a bunch over the perceived insults to his lineage, primarily his spinach-propagating aunts. While driving through Tamil Nadu to get to a holiday destination, we passed miles and miles of arid farmland, taking in the sight of scorched farmers toiling away under the unforgiving blistering sun.
Ducky remarked, “These Tamilians are such blackies, no? Ha ha ha!”
I am not sure what happened after that. I must have burst a blood vessel. But the next thing I knew, I had burst into tears. I heard myself, in a strangely strangled voice, hysterically howling about what a disgusting thing that was to say, calling him a *bleep bleep bleep* and more *bleeps*.
I was furious beyond belief and felt extremely hurt. Hurt because this was a terribly unkind remark about people of a state that I will always regard as home even if I am not originally from there. A state that gave me the best education one could ask for. An education that taught me tolerance and acceptance of anyone from anywhere. On the other hand, I was also irked by his scathing unfunny remarks about people from the north east - a region I owe no allegiance to. So there is the possibility that I might just be over-sensitive.
I only calmed down once I had cried myself out and was dizzy from the bawling, having convinced myself that I could expect no better from a chap who had been brought up to believe that light skin is beautiful. I had seen enough kitchen concoctions dumped on his face by the family after every beach holiday - the same family that lectured me on the harm I was causing my complexion by standing in the balcony at noon - to forgive him his absolute insensitivity.
So here’s the toughie. Just how do you explain the difference between class and crass, especially to morons with the intellect, wit, personality and charm of a mildewed boulder? Is offensiveness or borderline racism okay because it appeals to a possibly wider, obtuse and insensitive majority?
And if you don’t agree with my crabby rant here, blame it on PMS. Or the summer heat. Or the stench of boiling cabbage wafting from my neighbour’s kitchen.