Every individual, community or nation has a peculiar sense and taste of humour and nature. What is the difference between humour and nature, I really do not know. But this is a fact that some people, by nature, are simple, noble and killjoy while others are not, or not in that degree.
Once an Egyptian woman, having a telephone set in her hands, approached a simple and gentle Saudi lady and requested her to permit her to make a call to Cairo on her own telephone, while using the Saudi lady’s telephone connection. The request was immediately granted as the Egyptian lady was using her own telephone. The Egyptian lady had a long hearty talk with her daughter, who also informed her revered mother the cat had given birth to seven lovely and healthy kittens and that now her doggy was recovering from pneumonia and that the proud mother-hen too has added her family by 21 small chickens. It was only after the receipt of the monthly telephone bill that the simple and noble Saudi lady realised how cleverly she had been bamboozled by the too-smart Egyptian woman.
Some people are delight of comedians and cartoonists. The late Mr. K. Kamaraj, the late Mr. Morarji Desai, the late Mr. Nikita Khrushchev, the (politically) late Mr. George W. Bush were some of them. But some people defy caricature. Mr. Barack Hussein Obama – it is admitted on all hands – is one of them. Till date he has made few gaffes. To quote Mr. Michael Musto, a columnist for New York City’s “Village Voice”: He is an earnest, intelligent person, trying to rescue a country in crisis and that is not all that hilarious.” The truth is that Obama is comedians’ and cartoonists’ nightmare. But this “killjoy” once joked at a dinner in New York, where he and his Republican rival Mr. John McCain made fun of themselves. Mr. Obama said: “My greatest weakness is that I am a little too awesome.”
My feeling is humour can prosper in democracies alone. The late President of Pakistan, Mr. Zia-ul-Haq was an exception. He would publicly appreciate the finer points of jokes on him. Once a journalist complained against gagging of the press by his regime to which the General replied: I say once again my government is a government run by military. When did I say it is a democratic dispensation? And as far as what you call “gagging”, could you cite some examples?” A pressperson rose to reply: “Mr. President! You strangle our neck. When as a result of strangulation our eyes come out, you complain: You have the cheek and temerity to stare at us!” The General went into peeks of laughter.
Only outside boundaries of non-democratic set-ups, jokes about dictators and dictatorships are heard. One of the numerous jokes that got popularised during the hey-day of Soviet Russia reached outside its borders: Once there was held an international conference of doctors. When they were exchanging notes for mutual benefit, a Russian doctor asked his American counterpart, “How do you do the operation of pyorrhoea” to which the bewildered American dental surgeon said, “Why? What is extraordinary about that?” For a while the Russian dental surgeon kept quiet. Then said in a low voice: “The problem is, as opening of the mouth is banned in our country, we have to reach the teeth from the other end!”
It is nice to hear New Delhi has invited the Egyptian President, Mr. Hosni Mubarak on the occasion of our on-coming Republic Day. A joke, of late, doing rounds outside. Egypt wants the world to believe that once the President asked one of his trusted lieutenants: Mubarak: Who is great, me or Hitler?
Lieutenant: Hitler? He was good for nothing. He brought the world to the edge. He committed suicide. You are, no doubt, great.
Mubarak: Who do you feel is great me or Saddam Hussein?
Lieutenant: Saddam Hussein? The poor chap could not understand the US machinations. See his end. There is no comparison between you and the former Iraqi President. By all standards you are great.
Mubarak: Okay. Tell me honestly who is great me or Omar bin Al-Khattab?
Lieutenant: Omar? He always feared Allah, while you fear none.