Sunday, November 12, 2017

Perfect People are a Cartoonist's Predicament

An FB friend of mine posted on his wall, a set of jokes about Gujjus, Marwadis, Sindhis, Bengalis, Malayalis, Madrasis, Punjabis, Telgus, Sardars and some others. While comic reactions and FB likes kept pouring in, some fellow left a comment about ‘cultural sensitivity’. Expected. What was not expected was, he immediately got told off by all others reading the post and even asked to grow a pair of balls.

I, for one, understood because I too belong to that league of people who feel like puking at political correctness. (I was actually relieved to see these people on this wall and to know that their likes existed in large numbers - for, I had been feeling very lonely)

Words like racism, feminism, colour prejudice, saffronization, equality, are for the dumb and half educated. Meaningless, misconstrued and misused.
I didn’t include secularism in that list because it deserves a separate and special mention, being a dirty word, and the most obnoxious of them all.

Though I belong to that league of people, I would not have reacted so strongly had it been my wall. I would have asked the fellow not to be so bookish but to take a chill pill and to laugh it off.
You see, the company of some secular and politically correct friends has, over the years, made me somewhat lukewarm.

But this set of people here were journalists, and to be specific, nationalist journalists. To be even more specific, Hindu nationalist journalists. (Who are, by the way, the only true nationalists!)
These were sick and tired and hateful of political correctness as it was the tool the presstitutes, used by them for peddling their lies and for breaking the nation.
These people were more alive to the dangers of it(political correctness) than most of us and hence their rejection of it was instantaneous, absolute and complete, no matter that here it came in the context of racist humour that was not related directly to any of the slogans the presstitutes are currently shouting.

The fuss over ‘cultural sensitivity’ now having been thrown out of the window, my mind stopped to observe what it usually does whenever jokes about Indian ethnic groups are aired and shared.
What I observed was, there were no jokes about Kannadigas, Odissi, Maharashtrians, and a few others.

The very first time this had occurred to me, years ago, I had felt happy.
Because I live in Karnataka and though generations ago, my ancestors came from Tamil Nadu, we have adapted to this land in which we live, we speak Kannada and we identify with the people of this land totally.

Once I got over my feeling of chauvinistic triumph, the next thing to do was to think why it should be so. I mean, why there should be no jokes or obnoxious generalizations about the Kannada people.

The answer was, the Kannada people must be an agreeable, flawless people. Well, almost.

Among many others, exaggeration is one way of deriving humour.
You pick an idiosyncrasy, a flaw, a peculiarity, a deformity, a queer habit, and then you exaggerate it 10 to 20 folds and what you have is humour.

When there is no idiosyncrasy to be found in a subject, there is nothing to exaggerate and therefore no scope for joking nor mocking.

I don’t remember when, where and how, but I once met a cartoonist who told me about the tough time they had when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister.

Cartoonists delivered cartoons by exaggerating flaws and imperfection in their subjects.
While PV Narasimha Rao was a goldmine, offering a capsicum mouth, a capsicum nose and a bad jawline that could be generously exaggerated to produce a great caricature, while Indira Gandhi with that disproportionately long and sharp nose (for a woman) could be made to look like a witch, and Deve Gowda with his round fat face and dark skin made indistinguishable from the Ragi Mudde he ate, Rajiv Gandhi had a perfect, symmetrical, handsome face and no flaws that offered fodder to a cartoonist.
The result was, even in his caricatures, he looked handsome.

The same way, the Kannadigas I believe have no noticeable flaws.

While the Madrasis have their curd rice, bad Hindi, guttural sounds, their lungi (I am excluding LTTE, Veerappan and others in keeping with the light mood of this post), the Malayalis have oil on hair, a heavy accent, the Marwadis their money lending, the Gujjus their calculative habits, the sardars their imagined stupidity, the Telgus, their obsession with dollars and green card and so on, the Kannadigas have no noticeable peculiarities that stand out, that make them ‘outstanding’ in a crowd..
So it must be, with the other people such as the Odissi, Marathi, and the rest of whom one has not heard any mockery that one remembers.

Some failed attempts were made by some sick and jealous minds though, to create jokes about them - one of them was that a stone thrown randomly in Bangalore would strike either an IT guy or a dog (the city had copious numbers of these) - but none of those ever brought out the laughs. None of them ever will.
The harder they try the happier I will be to know they are jealous.

Thus thinking, and coming back to the Kannada people, I realized they were actually a moderate people, not easily incited, somewhat dispassionate and laid back. People on the middle ground.

On a serious note, I think they are a great people, the best in all of the country, for they are without doubt, the most tolerant, hospitable and accommodating of all.
The truckloads of outsiders that IT has brought to Bangalore is perhaps equal to the number of locals originally residing here. All of them, with the exception of a few, speak not a word of Kannada and still get away with it.
The bus driver, conductor, vegetable vendor, milkman, washerman, shopkeeper - all of them speak to these people in their language.
Unimaginable in any other Indian state!

The Kannadigas on the other hand easily speak four to five languages. And yes, they do speak Hindi. No resentment, whatsoever.
When they live outside their state among other people, they mix like sugar in milk. They don’t stand out; because they don’t fanatically assert their identity, you see.

Ten years ago, it was good to hear praise for these people from a friend of mine who is from my community, and to have my long standing preconception verified, but even better when the praise came during later years, from a Bengali, a North Indian and other outsiders who having lived in other Indian cities and then having lived in Bangalore, realized, that this was the best city and these people, the best people.

Don’t get me started on the climate.

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