Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why so serious?

Humor is a reminder that no matter how high the throne one sits on, one sits on one's bottom

The spoof appears to have run aground. Omar is an angry young man because someone attempted to lampoon him in a picture on FaceBook, along with his dad and grand-dad. The image appears to be a rip-off from a poster of a popular film ‘Three-idiots’. The Abdullahs’ – Kashmir’s high-brow first family – are mimed as Kashmir’s ‘Three-idiots’. An instance of Juvenalian satire, it would pass as just another gag in any civilized polity. Except Kashmir. Suddenly the ruling cabal is agitated, like an aged volcano.

A hurried press conference was called in Jammu to denounce the lampoonery. Rahim Rather, an old National Conference [NC] strong man, was flanked by two rising stars on the NC horizon Nasir Sogami and Devender Rana [expected to keep pouring paraffin in the NC lamp in Srinagar and Jammu respectively for many years to come]. They vented their ire on Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the opposition, and no Lal Ded herself. Ms Mufti was accused of forwarding a text to friends, asking them to check the picture out. Now Zardari was last seen giving final touches to a new law in neighboring Pakistan, attempting to gag those ridiculing him in texts. NC may well move a similar bill. AFSPA can wait.

Prof Howard Zinn, the very fine author, professor and intellectual who wrote tirelessly on civil liberties died in a swimming pool in Santa Monica, California last month. He often used to refer to Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to Abigail Adams -- written during Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts -- “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.” It is not known whether the NC bosses know that in satire, irony is often militant.

Humor is like an aphrodisiac, which needs to be popped once in a while. In London, the city I love, Punch was a ground-breaking magazine of popular humor that often involved satire of the contemporary political scene. There are so many references and pastiches of wit in Islamic culture itself. Arabic poetry, the genre of satire, called Hija, mixes amusing anecdotes or wit in a grave subject to make it just more palatable. Satire gained currency after Islamic philosophers such as Avicenna and Averroes elaborated on the Greek thinker Aristotle's Poetics.

Nearer home in the good old innocent days, our folk singers, Bhands used to fuse play and dance, to portray social traditions and evils, bringing out the satire in them. Our Ladishah is a beautiful sarcastical form of singing. It is humor loaded with political reproof. In the present day Kashmir there are just press conferences, where particles of froth can be seen floating about in abundance.

We learn three new things from the ‘Three idiots’ joke and the subsequent press conference: Mehbooba Mufti – with that black cell phone of hers – is a gamester. Omar has two spots of angry red on his cheeks. Our humor has been molested.

Must be the conflict.