Behind the Book: The Great Indian Sense of Humour by C. Suresh (Author)
It always feels great to host fellow blogger-turned-authors here. For me it is a matter of pride as I see them share their joy of becoming an author with us at Reviews & Musings.
Today we have none other than C. Suresh whose blog has given me many smiles. Though he needs no introduction, I will still share somethings about him more because they need to be told.
Fiction has been an addiction but the need to make a living took Suresh through Chemical Engineering and a PGDM at IIM-Bangalore and, from thence, to a long 16 year stint in the area of finance with specific expertise in fertilizer subsidies at IFFCO and a further two years as consulting expert in the same area. That, in his words, about sums up the boring part of his life, except for the people he was privileged to meet.
Born on 27 September 1963 in Chennai, Suresh can be a dithering Libran most of the times. A company town upbringing at Neyveli and Engineering at Annamali University, Chidambaram was leavened by management education at IIM-Bangalore and, later, working life at IFFCO, New Delhi. Having decided very early in life to write full-time after securing a financial future – which also incidentally meant that he remained single in order to make it as early as possible - he quit employment at the age of 41 and his consultancy at 43, and returned to Bangalore.
Otherwise, he can be described as a mess of contradictions – a bookworm but avid trekker; alone but never lonely; enjoys solitude but loves company; lazy but a perfectionist, the litany is endless. Trekking, which side-tracked him from the writing for which he quit his job, is a major passion and he does, at least, one trek in the Himalayas every year in addition to numerous local treks.
He reignited his passion for writing with a fairly popular blog www.jambudweepam.blogspot.in. The blog has been rated among the Top 5 humour blogs in India, twice in succession - in 2014 and 2015 - by BlogAdda, and has also been listed third among the Top Humour Blogs by Baggout.
He also has a short story published in a collection “Uff Ye Emotions” and has edited and written a novelette in an ebook anthology “Sirens spell danger”. He is more active on Facebook and can be accessed here. He does have a twitter handle - @CSuresh16 – but he has no handle on using it regularly.
Coming to his book - A dog eat dog-food world, the title in itself piques your interest to know more about the book isn't it?
A hilarious pseudo-history of marketing management, which explicitly denies resemblance to any actual history, and which will be horrified if some semblance be found. The story of a man who discovered that the path of life is strewn with treadmills and, if you get on one by mistake, you could keep running all your life to stay in the same place. The story of how a businessman may just be minding his…err…business and the ‘Invisible Hand’ can cause unexpected consequences to arise out of his innocent actions. There is no point blaming the tale for being exaggerated because that is precisely what it seeks to be – an ‘exaggeratio ad absurdum’ of some facets of the world. Anything you learn from the book – be it the basics of marketing management or a satirical view of Society – you do at your own risk.
The tale only dogs the doings of Spike Fortune who only sought to feed dogs and, later, sought more dogs to feed.
Jerry Fortune who, being fortuneless, gets dragged helter-skelter behind his uncle Spike in the latter’s careening pursuit of commercial success and gets sandwiched between Spike and Tyke who was Spike’s resident genius on enticing dogs with their wares. He also has to help Spike in his rivalry with Tom Rich, who is unwillingly dragged into upstaging Spike and tries to do it by teasing the palates of cats, helped by the bumbling efforts of Jasper Rich who would rather be partying than chasing cats with cat-foods.
Spike Fortune, who, being unable to justify his existence by making money, is obsessed with justifying his existence by spending all his inherited wealth. Lead into the paths of commerce, he discovers that, while it may seem attractive to set out to lose money, the natural consequence of having people consider him a loser was indigestible. Having set out to feed dogs, Spike becomes obsessed with feeding more dogs and, later, having more dogs to feed.
Jerry Fortune, who discovers that there are perils to having your livelihood depend on a benevolent uncle. Tied to his uncle’s coat-tails by a need for sustenance, he is dragged helter-skelter behind Spike in the latter’s careening progress in pursuit of commercial success. Having first been a mere interpreter between his uncle, Spike, and the resident marketing guru, Tyke, he later finds that being in the middle can get very uncomfortable, indeed.
Tom Rich, who had never realized that the easy contempt he had for his schoolboy acquaintance could prove so dangerous. Spike’s meteoric rise in the world of Commerce puts him in a position of either having to prove himself better or have all that contempt come back with usurious interest. He drags his nephew, Jasper, along in pursuit of teasing the palates of cats.
All that Spike and Tom had wanted was to be a winner in their respective businesses and, more importantly, in their own private game of one-upmanship. They had no idea that their humble quest would redraw the contours of Society and set in place principles that both businessmen and Society would live by.
As you might have guessed by now, his sense of humour is quite quirky and that is what made me ask his views on "The Great Indian Sense of Humour". Read on to know what he thinks about it.
There are really people in this world who take it lightly if they are the butt of a joke? AND they still call themselves human? Astonishing, or so it was for the most part of my youth. Having spent it in going red all over, when someone even giggled in my vicinity - the tacit assumption being that they were laughing at me, my button used to get readily pushed when I was indubitably the butt of a joke.
To be sure, when I swiveled on my foot in a pull-shot, missed the ball by a mile and fell gracefully on the stumps, the entire audience (of some 20 kids and a lone donkey) erupted in laughter but that did not wound me. I was able to laugh it off myself but that is because I did not pride myself on my batting skills anyway. If Sachin Tendulkar could have laughed it off in his youth, then talk to me about a sense of humour.
Of course, if you had the same uncanny ability to keep an entire audience in splits, while attempting to put bat to ball, you do not necessarily expect them to laugh at you when you say something in mathematics. (Unless, of course, you also shared my ability to add two and two and pull a different number out of the hat every time you tried). So, you were sort of sure that they may be laughing at your batting ‘expertise’ but that did not mean that they were laughing at you as a person. If, every time something about you seems funny to someone, you start assuming that you are being considered a figure of fun – a sort of clown, without the cap and the bells – you are bound to be bristling with buttons that cannot avoid getting pushed, unless people are very careful even when they are patting your back in appreciation.
Come to think of it, there is another minor issue. Like the time when I got my progress report and my friend said, “Great! At last, you got a centum, even if it only after you total up the marks on all the subjects.” (Ah! A centum was what we called getting 100% in a subject). I laughed along with him, knowing full well that he also belonged to the brigade who dreamed of hitting that magic figure one day on the same basis as I just did. If, however, the class topper had cracked the same joke, what I cracked would probably have been his head.
That IS that other minor issue. When a joke comes from someone, who sails in the same boat as you, it is harmless fun. When it comes from someone else it is contemptuous sarcasm. You react to the presumed motive of a joke as much as to the joke itself. Which is why something that is a joke between women is sexist from it comes from a man; light-hearted banter about your religion from a co-religionist is blasphemous disrespect from another and so on and so on.
That makes it rather difficult to be funny in India without giving offense. By the time I have assessed whether someone is a Tamilian; a Brahmin;a male chauvinistic pig or a rabid feminist; a winner or a loser; an exploiter of the workers or a virulent opponent of productivity; a pseudo-secularist or a Bhakt; a blood-bayer or a pinko….What was I about to say? Ah! By the time you finish assessing all that and determine whether it is safe to tell the joke, you have quite forgotten the joke. This diversity of India may be many things but it is really the bane of humour. You may mean no contempt but, till the day your motives scroll on your forehead like a television ticker-tape, it is best to keep your humour bridled.
Incidentally, though, sometimes humour can be worded in a manner where the contempt is obvious. The garb of humour should not be used to excuse rudeness. One of the forms of rudeness is to keep ribbing a person on the same issue in all forums. Like, I was quite able to laugh it off, when I sprawled over the stumps, but, if someone had made it a point to keep cracking jokes about that incident every time he met me, I might have been tempted to swing the cricket bat at his head - with a prayer that I do better in connecting with what I intend to hit this time.
One other thing is how a Society regards humour. In a Society, where something funnily said is automatically assumed to be frivolous, it is futile to expect a sense of humour from leaders. After all, we expect dignity from our leaders. If our definition of dignity includes the fact that they shall never be the butt of a joke, it is but natural that they react badly to humour. After all, if the Prime Minister slipped on a banana peel and his entourage started rolling on the floor laughing, we do think that the PM is not worthy of respect. When THAT changes, when we can see that being funny in an incident does not convert a person into a clown, we can start expecting a better sense of humour from our leaders.
One thing, though, I really hope will change. The Great Indian Sense of Humour – and, indeed, the Great EVERY COUNTRY sense of humour – seems to consist largely of laughing AT some person/gender/region/community. When we change to understanding that good humour is all about laughing WITH others, there would really be no need to decry the lack of sense of humour in anyone.