The Parsee Punch, a London Punch clone, was published from 1854 to the 1930s. A first look at Wit and Wisdom, a new compilation by Mushirul Hasan. Here, he writes for us on politics and humour.
‘Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand’, wrote Mark Twain. Many of our leaders during the freedom struggle enjoyed sketches, photographs and cartoons. “If I had no sense of humour,” Gandhiji said, “I would long ago have committed suicide.” His humour was gentle and sympathetic. He ridiculed human folly in general rather than attack specific persons. Jawaharlal Nehru was pleased to see an exceedingly beautiful picture by Boris Georgiev, a Bulgarian artist, representing an Indian peasant with all his misery and resignation. He knew Shankar the cartoonist well and found him very “nice”.
Maulana Azad has some passages of great satirical ingenuity in his Urdu writings. The intellectual diversions that engaged his liveliest wit and those of his close friends are at least as revealing as the melancholia that finally overpowered him during the dark days of partition. In fact, Urdu humour offers such rare insights into South Asia’s cultural history that it can be read as a historical document without undermining its artistic achievements. It introduces a tenderness and loftiness of feeling.
After Independence, the country swarmed with cartoonists—good, bad and indifferent. R.K. Laxman’s taciturn Common Man—tough and durable—has left his mark. The Common Man is ‘a silent, bewildered’, and often bemused spectator of events anyway beyond his control.
Once upon a time, our politicians made lively remarks in a sharp, amusing way. Hence the cartoons of the era engaged the conviction and the passions of the discerning mind, and appealed to popular taste and intelligence too. Nowadays, wit and humour seems to have disappeared from their lives. In its early days, superior restraint won the reward of greater success. Today, the innocence of the funny side is replaced by coarse and boisterous jesting in Parliament. In general, the humour has turned brash, boastful, crude.
Cartoons fall into the historian’s province and some knowledge of them is necessary to understanding social and cultural histories. They belong to a field beyond history.
(Wit & Wisdom: Pickings from the Parsee Punch, by Mushirul Hasan, is published by Niyogi Books and priced at Rs. 795.)
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT