Why is there such a problem talking about [deleted deleted] as a flesh and blood entity who experimented with his hormones and hygiene habits? Clearly, [deleted] made wisecracks about everything under the sun, including his experiments with truth. Similarly, why do morons who haven’t ever seen the insides of a book get so upset on hearing that there’s a history book in which the biological father of [deleted] is said to be not [deleted] but [deleted]? They get so har-har-harangued that they trash the institute where the book got its material from.
The answer to all this Freudian fuss lies in the way we Indians differentiate between our public and private utterings.
It’s not that we don’t have a wicked sense of humour. If you’re unsure about ever having tittered at jokes involving our “village elders”, I can forward you dozens of email and SMS jokes, including the one about [delete delete delete] wanting to have sex, but being known as a lifelong brahmachari was advised to bang a bomb in the desert to sublimate his desire. And if you think that taking digs at deities are super-taboo in super-secular India, knock yourself out over the one about the [deleted] going to heaven and meeting a bevy of virgins.
As any Indian dropping by a nudist beach in Europe or visiting Vegas will know, the purdah between public and private realms is far less opaque in more liberal societies than here. So you’ll get to read and see things that make fun of their icons that we can only gasp at.
Even something as mainstream as an Academy Awards night or a regular television talk show will be peppered with jokes on important folks. Imagine a movie awards night here where [deleted deleted] is being ribbed by the emcee. The All-India [deleted deleted] Fan Club will mobilise its members and beat the faeces out of everyone right down to the caterers at the function.
But it’s not that we desis don’t indulge in our “nudge-nudge, wink-winks”. We’re just careful about whom we crack these jokes in front of. The flip side of this private space revelry is that we want to be seen — oh so badly seen! —to be defending our heroes being made fun of or criticised.
In fact, to be seen as pummelling the shameless iconoclast (who boils down to being anyone not singing hosannas) is the shortest cut to proving one’s loyalty to the hero’s brand managers. And doing that, in a society where people happily crawl when asked to bend, is a terrific option for opportunities to open up.
So double up with laughter about [deleted] having played nookie with [deleted]. Have a colourful, civilised debate about how [deleted deleted] was the real source of all the problems that ultimately led to the [deleted deleted deleted]. But do all this in private.
Outside the liberating sanctum sanctorum of your living or chat rooms, you’re the sanctimonious Indian who either gets livid when you hear “loose talk” about our holy cows, or get mighty upset about people’s sensitivities being hurt time and again by those “who don’t understand our culture.”
Heck, our attitude to jokes and critiques of our heroes reminds me of our attitude to something more fundamental: sex.