Five rejuvenating terms across various world cultures find meaning in these testing times(Photo Imaging: Parth Garg)
Five rejuvenating terms across various world cultures find meaning in these testing times(Photo Imaging: Parth Garg)

Humour: Around the world in five terms

A healing word from each of the five continents, picked for our peculiar times
Hindustan Times | By Rehana Munir
PUBLISHED ON OCT 04, 2020 07:05 AM IST

If one could reduce a year to one desire, 2020 would be the year of escape: from illness, from fear, from exile. The escape to an elsewhere that promises both adventure and renewal – with good Wi-Fi and no chores! So here’s a whirlwind tour of the world on the magic carpet of words.

Asia – Kintsugi: the Japanese art of mending broken pottery pieces with gold.

The philosophy is breathtaking. (And is also the title of the wonderful bilingual writer Anukrti Upadhyay’s new novel.) You not only repair what’s broken; you raise its imperfections to art. Imagine the applications in daily life. If your frozen yogurt fails, how about rebranding it as a fusion shrikhand? Worn sneakers with tell-tale stitches tell a story. And that unseemly stain on your wooden table: the perfect spot to etch an apt couplet from your favourite poet. e.g. This classic from the sexy sage, Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”

Africa – Ubuntu: “I am, because you are”. Part of the Zulu phrase ““Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu” meaning: A person is a person through other people.  

In all this (rightful) worry around the community transmission of germs, we’ve lost sight of the original connotations of the term “community”. The Zulu tribe of South Africa reminds us that we are all, in fact, in it together. Social distancing has made it tough to feel this feeling, I’ll admit, armed as we are with masks and shields. But the joy provided by food deliveries, sniggers by WhatsApp memes, friendly glances on morning walks and cheeky banter on social media reminds even the loners among us: “I am, because you are”.

Imagine the application of Kintsugi in daily life. If your frozen yogurt fails, how about rebranding it as a fusion shrikhand?

Europe – Hygge (pronounced “hu-guh”): Danish word for a quality of cosiness that comes from comforting activities like drinking warm beverages, baking, or chilling with family.

With the apocalyptic year hurtling towards its wintry end, the world needs some TLC. The Scandinavians have their bonding by the fireplace – a luxury not afforded to us tropical birds, stuffed in our pigeon holes. Perhaps we can replicate the feeling by watching You’ve Got Mail, or another Nora Ephron romance, on our trusty laptops, while slurping an extra-cheesy bowl of Maggi, snuggled under a favourite blanket with the AC on 22 and conscience on “low”. Reading a favourite comic while feasting on a decadent pizza with a peppy playlist on could do the trick, too. Works even better if you’re not, in fact, a teenager.

America – Kupaianaha: Hawaiian word meaning surprising, strange, wonderful, amazing.

Or what the translated as: “Cowabunga, dude!” It’s time to resurrect that feeling of absolute astonishment – the sense of wonder that we seem to have lost while attending to the small matter of… err… survival. A gasp of excitement at a Zoom call that runs interrupted. A whoop of delight when there’s finally a credit intimation from your bank. A little jig when you find that long-forgotten slice of cake in the inner recesses of the fridge. And a frenzied Wooohoooo! when that favourite T-shirt you had given up on miraculously fits again, stretched helpfully by a brutal washing machine.

Surprise the universe with your boundless energy, bordering on the disturbing.

Australia – Corroboree: An Indigenous Australian gathering involving dance, mime, and singing designed for entertainment and relaxation.

This might not seem the best time for a celebration, and so, ironically, it might just be what’s needed. In lieu of the Aussie outback, we have the boomerang app. And if that great booming instrument so musically called “didgeridoo” isn’t handy, there’s YouTube. Team it with a frothy beverage of your choice and concoct a corroboree of your own – a soirée with swag. Invite the people at home, badger your friends into joining you virtually, or just go it alone. But whatever you do, don’t do the accent.

Follow @rehana_munir on Twitter and Instagram

LFrom HT Brunch, October 04, 2020

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