Humour: Life’s Safety Spring 

Out of all genres of writing, the most difficult,  perhaps, is humour. it is so funny, the Americans delete u (also pronounced as YOU) out of humour. Some feel u (not you) it is not funny.

The eminent Marathi writer of subtle, intelligent humour, Pu.La. (PL for you) Deshpande once told me, in an interview decades ago, that “humour is the safety spring of life; it protects you from the harsh realities of life, the unknown and unpredictable, the fear of failure. Life is hard if you cannot laugh it off.

“The ancient  Natya Shastra of  India holds that humour is born out of pathos,” he told me. The dividing line between humour and karuna rasa is rather thin.

Being able to laugh at oneself is considered the best. Another Marathi writer (of not so subtle) humour, P K Atre wrote his English initials instead of Pra. Ke ( he was Prahlad Keshav Atre) as he used to say  “piya hua to Atre, nahi piya to bhi Atre”  making a pun (fun) on his name as PK in Hindi (pronounced peekay which means drunk).

He, like Kushwant Singh, liked his peg and wrote a famous play (also a film) Ekach Pyala on alcoholics saying ‘just one more peg’ every time he drank ‘one (more)for the road’. Every peg is the last.

That is the reason I decided to make ‘The Last Laugh’ the last chapter of my book ‘The Golden Years’. Laughter, the famous Readers’ Digest says, is the best medicine, ‘jest’ what the doctor ordered. Which old man does not have to take medicines? Also, after all, he has the last laugh as the first to go.

There are different types of humour: Herbert Bloc’s slapstic or banana-peel humour, legal humour of Henry Cecil (No Bail for the Judge) or the medical humour of Richard Gordon.(Doctor at Sea &c). but the humour of P G wodehouse, of understatement and making fun of old English way of life, the best.

One of the greatest benefits of knowing the English language is being able to read (and understand) Wodehouse. Understanding something very subtle tickles (and boosts) our own ego -for being able to make it out.  I rate Wodehouse as my favourite author. Some quotes from him next week.


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