Doctors say that laughter is the best medicine. It not only increases the blood flow in our body but also triggers the release of endorphins, which in turn promotes an overall sense of well-being and even temporarily relieves pain. During the lockdown, when morale was at an all time low, like many others, I too turned to comedy to keep me going. Thanks to the OTT platforms – stand-up comedies, comedy shows and sketches are just a few clicks away. But the few clicks turned too many, and soon I had exhausted all the content under this genre. (Yes, guilty)
The truth is not every comedian will end up like Vir Das, bagging Netflix specials and performing at the Royal Opera House. Some rule Instagram reels, others have immense following on YouTube, and even others who are just starting out and don’t even have their own channels to promote. I have fallen into the YouTube black hole too many times now, but as much as I regret the wasted time, I am in awe of the kind of content people are pushing out. Tier II cities are just brimming with talent and potential and I love YouTube for providing them that opportunity (I still hate the constant barrage of ads though).
What’s even noteworthy is the progressiveness we show as viewers. We now openly laugh and acknowledge jokes that are made at the expense of our gender, education, status and upbringing. And of course, sex – a topic that was taboo till a decade ago is now all the rage. Because there is nothing as hilarious as an average Indian’s sex life!
Let’s put aside comedy for a second and reflect on the country’s progressiveness. Recently, India celebrated its 72nd Republic Day. A ‘republic’ is a form of government in which ‘power is held by the people and their elected representatives’ Sounds similar to a democracy and it is. Democracy is an ideology that helps shape how a government is run. Two sides of the same coin.
Apart from democratic and republic, India is also a secular nation. Which simply means that the government of India cannot be connected with religious or spiritual matters.
If I was on a stand-up comedy platform right now, I would take a pause right here and wait for the laughter to fill the room.
Because while we are all gung-ho about Freedom of Speech, there are some things that just cannot be said out loud. Forget saying out loud, don’t you dare even think about them.
Is it Rape? Or Murder?
I’m going to keep this brief and obscure – no names, no pointing fingers, no blame games. I am apolitical. But come and have a drink with me in person and I will have a lot to say. India is a majority Hindu nation and people are extremely protective (read: defensive) when it comes to their Gods. In the last few years, we have even seen pointless renaming of cities to something more ‘hindu-centric’. Unnecessary laws which give precedence to one religion over the others. In short, living as a minority in this country is not an easy task.
When it comes to religion, everything else goes out of the window. What secularism? And Freedom of Speech? Bahh!
For context, imagine the horrible scenes from the US Capitol. A bunch of idiots storming the building, acting like they own it. Now further add on to your imagination and expand that scene to a country.. you get my gist.
In early January this year, a comedian was arrested by the cops because of anti-Hindu jokes he might crack. I haven’t seen his set or performance, but the statement in itself is funny. At least it was, when I first heard it. Today, a month later with multiple denied bails and the artist still behind bars, it doesn’t seem so funny now.
Unfortunately, this is the grim reality.
What’s worse is that we can no longer blame it on the uneducated leaders of the country. The educated and the literate too are circling the drain of morality and ethics. In the coming years, we can’t even put it on lack of education, because it is the doctors and the engineers, teachers and professors that are adding fuel to the fire of anti-secularism. For what agenda or joy, one of their many Gods only know!
When news about this comedian’s arrest came out, Vir Das and other influencers criticised the move. But as usual, sane voices are seldom heard. I did, and I hope more people do. Vir Das succinctly summarised in his tweet “The system is not just telling comedians what they can joke about, it’s also telling you what you can laugh at. The main target isn’t our pen, it’s your throat”
It was a comedian today. It could be a blogger tomorrow. No conversations, no opinions, no thoughts are safe. Just smile and pray guys!