TODAY -

Set the record straight

By Debanish Achom *



Every place has its own share of jokes. Some are outright funny and not based on any hook. But a lot of them have an invisible connection with the characters of people staying at the area in question. The geography can be vast and wide, but let's say we are taking a walk within a few kilometres. Intellectual funny bones who can't wait to tell me what the Americans think of North Koreans can skip this page. I'm having a nice time looking out the window and studying my neighbour's behaviour who slipped and fell on dog shit and tried to hide the mess by dragging his bum on the grass. Let's get domestic.

For those in Patna, the folks in Madhubani are the staple of the former group's after-lunch jokes. Noida people make fun of the sorry faces in New Delhi. New Delhi makes monkey-faces at both Gurgaon and Noida. Gurgaon catches New Delhi pants down and skilfully takes a dig at Noida too. Agra hates Kanpur, and mean jokes in Kanpur include at least one mention of Agra. Down south, many in Mysore feel Mangalore is a haven of sex, beer and bad Western influence. Many in Mangalore feel Mysore is a haven of sex, beer and bad Western influence, and smuggles in Bangalore too in the same breath. Hyderabad stinks, according to Secunderabad. Secunderabad stinks and is never bothered about the smell, according to Hyderabad. And don't get me started on Kolkata. I can think of many more but since these are on top of the popular chart, they deserved a mention. Feel free to add yours too.

Closer home, usually the conversation on a slow Tuesday evening while standing near the Western-style toilet of an Express train passing through Assam goes like this:

"I last went home two years ago."

"Where?"

"Imphal."

"Imphal proper or...?"

"Somewhere near Imphal but not Imphal."

"Like you mean...?"

"A little distance away from this small settlement called Bishnupur something."

"There?"

"No, not there. You go a little distance from there and comes to this hillock."

"Finally there you mean?"

"No, not yet. Beside the lake, towards the lane that goes to another hillock and at the rear of the hill, just next to the Western end of the lake. There."

Then the talk moves forward.

In this country, unless one is from the capital of the state where one was born, it takes some time to make friends or cut business deals. It's a harmless thing, and it's simply funny. There is no bad intention either. In fact growing up in the countryside is good for health. The lungs remain healthy for many years and one grows up with a fine eye that can distinguish between a hen and a cock, unlike big town people who doesn't recognize a black crow from a white one.

During job interviews, to avoid the long hassle of explaining to the interrogator the discussion that one had on the express train, it's advisable to say in one sentence the exact GPS location. The template may be like this: "See, listen, look, that place is where the old man fell off from the cart, right in front of the tea shop where a body was found, near the small hill and just opposite the pond. That's the address."

This way one can silence the wise crack sitting on the other side of the table.

Also, before I end this post, I have to tell you that I must make some corrections to my previous rants. In 1939, I wrote on this website that the man with the moustache at the local bar had a banana in his pocket and he came from Thailand. Actually, it was not a banana but a gun and he was from Nagaland. The error is regretted.

In the joke I told in July 1962, it should have been a pig, not a dog, that went to MG Avenue. And it went to Paona Bazaar, not MG Avenue. It was the guitarist, not the police officer, who asked the question, "You got some meat? I'm hungry." I pray your enjoyment of the joke is unaffected by these errors.

The good jokes I told you about Marwaris in 1983 were not about Marwaris but the Chinese. On second thoughts, I remember the jokes were about residents of Thangal Bazaar, not Marwaris or Chinese. Apologies to all.

In my praise of the January 1992 rock concert in Polo Ground, I mentioned that the rain made the crowd go wild and the place erupted in an orange ball of fire with love and unity. There was no rain in January 1992, and the fire started after a bomb went off nearby. The rain was erroneously attributed to the scared audience wetting themselves. The person who gave me the wrong information has been suspended from work. Apologies all round, again.

Now with these petty matters cleared, I hope everybody will heave a sigh of big relief.




* Debanish Achom, a Bangalore based Journalist working with a big news media company, writes regularly to e-pao.net . The writer can be contacted at debanish9a(at)gmail(dot)com. This article was webcasted on March 29th, 2008

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