Why Columbus would have never discovered America if he was married?’ asked my husband the other day, reading an SMS joke he’d got. Before I could ask him how the sender was so sure of Columbus’s unmarried bliss, I saw him roll over with laughter while reading out the answers. "Because his wife would have said things like — Kab tak wapas aaoge?; main aur bachche bhi saath chalte hain; Ghar baithe baithe hi discover kar lo, agle hafte mere bhai ka birthday hai uske baad chale jaana; hamesha tum hi kyun karte ho — koi aur nahi kar sakta discover?"
I soon saw my husband add a couple of points of his own to the joke and forward to yet another married friend. I too found it rather funny. And then the age old thought occurred to me that much like blondes in the West, how the funniest of jokes in our culture often target women. And Sardars. And lawyers. And mother-in-law. And so on.
And how I, like most of you, have grown up laughing away at such jokes in good humour and not thinking any further. But, the other day I got a mail from a regular reader, Vishakha Jain, who wrote "I have been driving a car — perfectly and way better than guys — for years now. So, when I get jokes and forwarded emails showing all women drivers as careless fools, it upsets me. Is it not stressful when you see horrible generalisations in the name of humour?" Well, Vishakha, to be honest I’ve never looked at it this way. Because I feel the whole point of a joke is that we don’t take it seriously. But now that you have raised this point, let me ask the readers of this column.
Does it secretly stress you out if you belong to a category that’s often the target of jokes? Does it stress you even more that you are ‘expected’ to take it all in good humour and laugh along each time?
Here’s what I think but I would surely wait to know what you all have to say:
1.Generalisation, according to me, is important to ensure that a joke remains just that. If it is specific, it could seem personally offensive to someone and that’s where the humour flies right out of the window. As it is, we are such a stiff and uptight society. Half of us don’t even remember the last time we laughed our guts out. Even on the funniest of jokes, we take pride in curbing our laughter. I know someone who wouldn’t let a smile escape his mouth, no matter what. Tell him a rib-tickling joke and you could notice, perhaps with a magnifying glass, just a slight twitch on the corner of his lips. Because he thinks its un-manly to display emotions. And then there are those who specialise in killing someone else’s joke by interrupting and announcing ‘pehle suna hua hai’. So basically, a society where youngsters write LOL without even smiling most of the time, is anyway averse to actual laughter. Aise mein generalisation or not, at least keep the jokes coming as a saving grace.
2.Secondly, I personally feel those category of people on whom jokes are mostly cracked are way more evolved than others. Take wives, for instance. It’s only they who good-naturedly suffer jokes on them and their mothers. Can’t imagine husbands handling even half the pot-shots without there being raging ego battles. As for Sardars, even if the whole nation stands in salute forever in front of this hard working community, which not only gracefully allows us to crack jokes on them, but also laughs along, it won’t be enough. Those who can only laugh at the expense of others need to learn bigtime from their more mature counterparts.
3.And finally Vishakha, if you do indeed feel strongly offended by someone’s jokes, then perhaps you should express your
displeasure. It’s a wrong feeling to live your life feeling you’re being steamrolled by others. But trust me, jokes are more often an expression of camaraderie than aggression. So, don’t be in a stress to turn the tables or prove a point needlessly. Men call women drivers careless only to hide the fact that they themselves are busy noticing them on the road. Chill. But hey, could you please still tell me why most women leave the handbrake on?
Sonal Kalra is tired of hearing the same jokes. She’s willing to sponsor a community dedicatedly devoted to coming up with mean jokes on husbands. Any takers?
Mail your calmness tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Sonal Kalra on twitter at twitter.com/sonalkalra