Are we losing our sense of humour?

President Obama’s interview with Jay Leno has attracted a great deal of comment, mostly favourable, with the exception of his ability to bowl. He made the cardinal error of saying that he felt like a participant in the paralympics, when he was talking about his bowling skills. He was making fun of himself not any handicapped athlete. His ability to crack a joke at himself should be counted as high sense of humour, but the press and many others have gone overboard with criticism of his gaffe.

President G W Bush either said or heard or observed something funny and winked at Queen Elizabeth and the media went berserk! Her Royal Highness has not said a word about it, but everyone else and his uncle have blasted the man for being whatever. He was the President of the USA, elected by the people of the USA, the biggest, the best and whatever else superlatives that one can call and he was just being playful and expressed his amusement by that wink. A natural thing that a lot of my friends use as do I.

In a recent community meeting, I was unable to understand something that a neighbor was explaining and requested her to elaborate and added that I suffered from arthritis of the brain, to make the situation less serious and to put her at ease. Another lady in the meeting took serious objection to my using the word arthritis in such a ‘nasty’ way and accused me of being insensitive to the pain and discomfort of people with arthritis. The same lady had cracked an ethnic joke at my expense just a couple of days earlier. I had laughed and enjoyed it as much as the others there.

Now what is going on here? Are we beginning to lose our sense of humour? Being politically correct and saying inane things like visually handicapped for a blind person, mentally challenged for a lunatic etc does not fool anyone, and why persist with these things?

Or, am I from the wrong side of the tracks?

Future kid/parent conversation:

“Mommy, can I have my implant, PLEEEEEZE”
“No dear,not until you’re 16″
“But Mommy, Britney Kowalski has hers, and she’s ony 10″
“Yes dear, but she’s also got tattoos, and she lives in a trailer park. They’re not nice people dear”.

If it is alright to crack such ethnic jokes such as these, why can we not just be natural and use ordinary funny words and phrases to convey humour?

Colour Bias.

On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was shot to death in Memphis, Tenn.

Serendipity? Exactly 41 years to the day, I have been asked to write about colour bias in India by an American. Let me quote him -“I have spent time in your country, I enjoyed myself very much and felt more comfortable than I do in many parts of the US. Color is a major issue here between black and white. In India, the southern Indians many of whom are dark complected tell me there is a color bias where the golden brown people of India feel somewhat superior. Is that true? I would love to have your comment included in the blog post because your statement is compelling.I think our president is conducting himself with class and dignity and there are many Americans that have gotten past his race.

JD

JD is short for Jim Walton who writes a fascinating blog called Black In Business.

In separate email correspondence, JD and I have been discussing whether Mr. Obama’s blackness has to be taken into consideration at all while viewing his presidency, and I had referred to Eugene Robinson’s oped in the NYT.

I had said that most of us human beings, take ourselves too seriously and that we should learn to enjoy humour for what it is, just humour. We however tend to add spice to innocuous comments and come to unnecessarily convoluted conclusions about sensitivity and insensitivity. The issue that raised this interesting discussion was the interview that President Obama gave to Jay Leno where he joked about his bowling ability, comparing it to the para olympics. You can read Jim’s post and my comments to get a perceptive.

The issue of colour bias in India, is not quite a prejudice in the classic sense, as it is a preference for lighter hues. I suspect that this is a hangover from our colonial times rather than something inherent in our culture. All our Gods, sorry, that should read Hindu Gods,thank God for that, are pitch black and one of them takes on a dark blue hue too! A people who worship Black and Blue Gods, cannot be accused of colour prejudice can they?

The preference for the lighter skin tone I suspect, is the subliminal message of white being superior rather than different, that has succeeded via various brain washing methods like, language, advertising, etc. I personally would like some black beauty to give me some encouragement. Alas, in all these years, that hope has never fructified. Does not stop me from hoping though.

Jim is right. Our Matrimonial advertisements are full of descriptions of brides being of fair colour and men wanting fair coloured brides. The reverse does not however feature at all. It is therefore safe to conclude that Indian men prefer fair brides whereas the Indian women could not care less, as long as other qualities come up to scratch. My hats off to the Indian ladies for that highly practical approach to matrimony and for that matter, life in general.

It is not as though dark skinned women in India do not get married. In fact, more of them get married and stay married than perhaps the others – possibly due to geography and the differences in cultures. India is after all a country of many cultures and civilizations and some do better in somethings and the others in others. Incidentally dark skinned people are not located only in the South. They are spread all over India but perhaps more noticeably so in the South. The density of population is greater there. Not for any other reason.

Jim, I am afraid that if you ask an impossible fellow like me to comment on such matters of great importance, you will get this balderdash. I refuse to be cornered into favouring one over the other. I personally am safely in-between, even in my skin tone! So are all other members of my family. So, in India you have a third alternative – the brown, which I prefer to call the in-between. You can call us fence sitters too if that seems appropriate.

I shall visit your blog anon and give a link to this blog so that this long post does not clutter up your comment box! Thank you for the opportunity to do so.

Sisters Make People Happy.

I have just read an interesting article that needs to be shared with all my readers.

As most of you know, I am blessed with one sister and two brothers. All younger and the youngest being the sister, Padmini, who every now and then either drops in here and comments, or submits a guest post.

I quote from the article – “Sisters spread happiness while brothers breed distress, experts believe.”

While I have no doubt that the first part of the statement is indeed very true, Conrad is likely to take objection to the second half of the statement, though I suppose that the best way to handle that issue is to let Viki let us have her expert opinion.

Similarly, I shall leave it to Padmini to resolve the issue about our family. Who knows, some dark secrets may get flushed out of the system here! I suppose that like most of us, I too have a convenient memory! The fact is that, I have indeed caused distress of various intensities at various times within our family. I cannot however remember any occasion when Padmini had. Since, the three brothers have not really been together in the same geographical location for decades now, I cannot think of any distress that the other two brothers caused either.

Are there brother/sister combinations out there, who would like to throw their hats in the ring? Please feel free to. It is the silly season. Or is it already over and done with?

A Journey That Is Totally Personal.

I finally completed responding to the many emails, letters and messages that I had received giving me support in my time of grief. Today, I finally got to the comments on my blog and responded to all of them too. One of them from Conrad, has prompted this post.

I quote Conrad – “I think that you are exactly right that you just have to go through the experience. I have a high school classmate who just lost his wife this past week. I am told by another classmate who has gone through this that the words people send from the outside are neither solutions nor even meaningful as words so much as they are indications you are there for the person.

Hopefully, that is what we are doing for you as you travel a journey that is totally personal.” Thank you Conrad.

Two quotes to round up the subject and I shall get on with posting on more pressing matters that are waiting for expression.

“For a long time it seemed to me that real life was about to begin, but there was always some obstacle in the way. Something had to be got through first, some unfinished business; time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” ~ Bette Howland

“…..the opportunities to act properly, the potentialities to fulfill a meaning, are affected by the irreversibility of our lives. But also the potentialities alone are so affected. For as soon as we have used an opportunity and have actualized a potential meaning, we have done so once and for all. We have rescued it into the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see only the stubble field of transitoriness but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.

From this one may see that there is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past – the potentialities that they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized – and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.”

Viktor E Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning.