Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi weathered quite a bit of ridicule during his lifetime. Whether it was Winston Churchill’s remark of him being a ‘half-naked fakir’ or barbs thrown at him from closer home, the Mahatma knew that being a public figure had its occupational hazards. So the Government of India should take a deep breath and relax with the knowledge that poking fun at the Mahatma does not amount to Gandhiji, and what he still stands for, turning into a puff of smoke.
But then GoI has never been known to have a sense of humour. When a comedian in America takes digs at Gandhi — by showing the ‘Great Man’ pole-dancing, stripping, playing with daggers and dining with women — and uploads it on the video-sharing website YouTube, he is working within the parameters of comedy. Unfortunately, the fathers of our nation, including Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, will have none of that. To make matters worse, he and his ministry have suggested that steps be taken to block YouTube. The government might as well also go on a door-to-door hunt to crack down on people — people like us — who see no harm in cracking jokes about the Mahatma, or for that matter about Mr Dasmunsi — in our living rooms.
It’s easy and correct to lambast the government for its mai-baap attitude. But a large chunk of the blame for making regular Himalayas out of road bumps should lie on the media, especially the increasingly self-righteous television media. If Mallika Sherawat dances wearing whatever she wants to at a New Year’s Eve show, the television channels put it on a constant loop for the next several days almost waiting for some poor ‘offended’ soul to file a case for obscenity against Sherawat. The comic act on Gandhi was also brought to the notice of the government by the same set of self-styled tattlers. A joke is a joke is a joke — risqué or otherwise. But for the government to get that is as difficult as it is to explain a dirty joke to a group of nuns.