My dear ladies, laugh!
Kamla Bhasin and Bindia Thapar launched the Hindi version of their feminist joke book, Laughing Matters on All Fool's Day. Kanika Sharma attempts to understand the humour, women and ideology amidst giggles
Veteran feminist Kamla Bhasin along with Bindia Thapar, a renowned illustrator for children, are set to make you cackle about one of the most grim issues this country faces -- gender discrimination.
Move aside the dented and painted arguments or Chowmein logic as Bhasin hits back with the recently launched Hasna Toh Sangharshon Mein Zaroori Hai -- a translation of her 2004 feminist joke book, Laughing Matters.
“I’ve been a joker all my life,” she relates. “During college, I would randomly make up couplets and songs about fellow students to have fun around Holi.”
The next time you spell out your ideal man as funny, think again. “Patriarchy always attacks women through humour. Most sexual jokes are at the cost of women,” says Bhasin. An integral part of the women’s movement since early 1970s, she shares her perspective. “Once I became a part of the women’s movement, I realised that there is a lot of anger which is good. But over a period of time, you realise that patriarchy is so ridiculous that humour becomes an effective tool.”
Reading the introduction, the angry young women proverbial of the feminist movement are even jibed as Bhasin emphasises, “Long faces are not good for a long movement.” This simple book becomes more potent with its plain line black and white illustrations. Bindia Thapar, a trained architect, informs, “Humour has a major positive role to play. It is not about mocking people but laughing with them.”
Bhasin, known for her work at the grassroots’ level, says, “My main methodology of working is addressing the illiterate.” Thapar suggests, “Visually, you need to show a more humane world. Almost 95% of the population doesn’t read including literate people.” She continues, “In my career, children or women are drawn as per men. Every time you show a policeman, there's a man with a danda (stick), not a police person. When you ask anybody to draw an illustration, nobody will draw a woman reading a newspaper with a cup of tea.” She pauses, “Because women are productive and hardly shown doing a leisure activity. My women, in turn, are not nubile.”
When we prod her for a photo for this story, she says, “The woman on the cover is me. I love her with her open hair, bare feet, full-breasts, happy with her arms outstretched; as if she is saying, ‘here I am having some me-time.’ I wish I looked like that.”
Hasna Toh Sangharshon Mein Zaroori Hai / Laughing Matters, Kamla Bhasin & Bindia Thapar, Jagori, R100. Call 011-26691219/20 or write to B-114, Shivalik, Malviya Nagar, Delhi for copies