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Mumbai Diary page: Tuesday Tales

The waning art of satire
EACH time we view great satirists in action, this diarist rues the alarming fall in the standard of satire in India. Not because there is no talent, but because satire inherently means we make fun of all that is wrong with people and society, and no matter what or who is made fun of, there is always someone who is “offended”.

TONGUE IN CHEEK: Satirists like John Oliver tell it like it is
TONGUE IN CHEEK: Satirists like John Oliver tell it like it is

That “I am offended” stance often translates into a threat of physical violence or online bullying. So, when we watch three great satirists — Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert — take the American television firmament by storm every week, we wonder whether Mumbai will see a return of great satirists and humourists such as PK Atre and PL Deshpande who could make fun of just about everyone, and yet manage to make the most sense while surrounded by a society comprising self-righteous (add your own swear word here). We were reminded specifically of Atre because it was his birth anniversary last week (Aug 13), and on Sunday night (Monday for us), the greatest piece of opinion journalism on the shameful incidents in the town of Ferguson in the US came not from any mainstream news outlet, but from John Oliver, who runs an extremely successful comedy show on HBO called Last Week Tonight.

Satirists hold a mirror to us, and the image is never pretty. It is this, perhaps, that we Indians do not like. It is also the same reason why our MPs do not want radio presenters mocking them. We wear a cloak of misplaced sanctimony. And this diarist fears that the likes of Atre may never return.

Truck Talk
INDIA’S trucks are famous for two things (and we’re not counting rash driving on the highways) — stylised, colourful décor, and words of wisdom painted on the back. Besides standard ones like “Mera Bharat Mahaan” (My India is great) and “Horn OK Please”, to the familiar “Buri nazar waale, tera mooh kaala” (Evil-eyed one, may your face be blackened), slogans can include a tip of the hat to friends and family, acknowledgement of blessings from elders, thanks to the bank which has financed the vehicle, and sometimes the odd life lesson too.

One of our readers sent in this poetic-philosophical line spotted on the back of a truck. Unfortunately we don’t have a photograph, but the words are evocative enough to paint a picture all on their own.

“Maalik ki gaadi / Driver ka pasina / Raaste pe chalti / Ban ke hasina” (The owner’s truck / The driver’s sweat / She moves on the road / Like a beauty).

Of the divine and the stars
IT WAS a packed house on Sunday night at the Tejpal auditorium on Hughes Road, for a Janmashtami celebration. The Prasaadi, as the programme was called, organised by Mumbai’s man on the move, Deepak Kapadia, had the star of long-running sitcom Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, Dilip Joshi, who plays Jethalal Champaklal Gada in the serial, on stage to resounding cheers from the crowd.

Dance drama: Jethabhai with Daya of 'Taarak Mehta...'
Dance drama: Jethabhai with 'Daya' of Taarak Mehta...

“Jethabhai”, as he is called, said that he had a time crunch and though he wanted to stay for the entire duration of the programme he was forced to leave as he had to report for shooting on the sets. The anchor ribbed him, stating, “Actually, Jethabhai has to go and meet Babita (his crush in the sitcom).” Meanwhile “Jethabhai” said Tejpal holds fond memories for him. “In those early years, my children would accompany me to Tejpal. They were too young to understand my plays then, but they loved the sandwiches and samosas of Tejpal,” he said as the crowd chortled and asked him where was “Daya” (his wife in the serial) and why he had not brought along Nattubhai (a character in the serial). Then, post that, it was on to more spiritual things as Shrinathji bhajans took over, and the night moved on to a crescendo with ‘Krishna Janam’ post midnight.

Studied advice
WHILE in a taxi the other day, we were stuck in slow-moving traffic along one of the city’s smaller roads. At a street corner, a small group of young men, chatting with each other, caught our eye — and that of the taxi driver. He switched gears from grumbling about the traffic, to commenting on the younger generation. “Shiksha hi sab kuchh hai (Education is everything),” he said. “Look at these boys, if they were working somewhere they would not have time to waste, and they would be contributing to the country’s development too. I’m sure they are dropouts.”

We were about to remonstrate at his assumption, when he went on to elaborate with his own life story: “My father was a government employee, a clerk. He insisted that I should study, but I ran away and left school. And today I am a taxi driver. If I had heeded his words and studied, I would have had a good job. I would not need to struggle with traffic and garages and difficult passengers.”

Well said, albeit realised a little late in life.

Contributed by: Sachin Kalbag, Hemal Ashar, Vidya Heble

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