G Sampath’s debut book, How To Make Enemies And Offend People is a dummy’s guide to what not to say to people you plan to keep in touch with, or to Arnab Goswami if you bump into him.
Satire and wit in hand, Sampath ponders on the possibility of Goswami as the PM (because “He is the only person...who can be more outrage than outrage itself”), Sachin Tendulkar’s murky life and why Ajay Devgn’s nipples, well, seriously offend him every time he glances at the billboard. There’s also his wife who hides their TV remote control in the refrigerator and his excruciatingly painful break-up with his bank.
On a serious note, though, Sampath admits that something really has to elicit a strong emotion from him - anger, humour, even despondence - for him to sit and write about it. “I am a very high-strung person, so the only way I can process what’s happening around me is by writing. Having said that, I don’t sit and filter when I am writing satire - humour cannot be politically balanced and neutral.”
It comes as a surprise, then, when he admits to having toned down the piece on Tendulkar. Chary on offending a national icon? “My original version was more scathing, and I wasn’t happy with the feedback I received, which asked me tone it down. Then it came to me that it is easy to make fun of a person than it is of his work.”
Sampath says that over time, we have become more protective of our public personalities. “We are more regressive. We can make fun of a certain bearded man with a turban, but I’d like to see whether we will make fun of a certain other bearded man if he comes in power. The bar is set really low.”
Humour in India, adds Sampath, needs to go beyond the “usual stabs on stereotypes, cricket, Bollywood, shit, sex and peeing.” “I’d like to see people take a risk, the bar’s set really low for now.” The risk, he elaborates, is when you offend people in power.
“When you’re ready to be critical of the powerful, that’s humour. Humour is a vocation, if you take it seriously as an art, it has a component of critique, much like Mark Twain’s works, which have an element of commentary on society. That’s the humour which adds value,” he adds. And what offends him the most? “A lot of things - noise, the way people elbow around in queues and censorship of any kind. That really gets my goat.”
How To Make Enemies And Offend People
Published by Penguin Books India