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Is humour returning to our Parliament?
As our Independence Day approaches, I remember our founding fathers with great awe, respect and a feeling of warm personal intimacy. It did not matter which side of the political divide they were. They were people who sacrificed for our independence. Their learned world view gave us one of the best Constitutions in the world.

Rushing to the well was not their hallmark. But their sharp 'gift of the gab', with a poet's sensitivity, made reading their debates a lesson to remember. Towards the end of his life Pandit Nehru was battered with criticism day after day. In the House he lamented with Akbar Allahabadi's:

'Woh katla bhi karte hain, toh charcha nahin hota.

Hum aah bhi bharte hain, toh ho jaate hain badnam!'

While our law makers expressed their emotions and scholarship well, a matching dose of good humour was rare. Shashi Tharoor in his book 'The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cell Phone', too laments the absence of humour among our politicians.

'There is sadly, very little evidence today that Mahatma Gandhi's puckish sense of humour has been inherited by his political heirs. Asked once what he thought of western civilization, the Mahatma replied, 'It would be a good idea.' Upbraided for going to Buckingham Palace in his loincloth for an audience with the King-Emperor, Gandhi retorted, 'His Majesty had on enough clothes for the two of us.'

Interestingly, in 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi too lamented the growing absence of wit and humour in Parliamentary proceedings, remarking that 'lawmakers fear how media will play it up'. For whatever it is worth, the websites 'parliamentofindia' and 'rajyasabha' archive the supposedly humorous exchanges by our law makers, under 'House of Laughs'! A book also by this name has been brought out. (See inset).

Good humour delights all, irrespective of who the target may be. It lightens our burdens of the day. Even higher is the art of being able to laugh at oneself, in presence of others. The other side of coin is sarcasm, which tends to belittle others. Master of sharp sarcasm, Modiji trained his guns on 'maun' Dr Manmohan Singh with:

'We politicians have a lot to learn from Dr Saheb. So much happened, but there is not a blot on him. Dr Saheb is the only person who knows the art of bathing in a bathroom with a raincoat on!'

British Parliament: Possibly, the largest archives of humour, wit and sarcasm are in the British Parliament. Winston Churchill was known for his sharp repartees:

Churchill described his adversary, Clement Attlee as "A modest man, who has much to be modest about." Similarly, on another occasion he described Attlee as 'A sheep in sheep's clothing!'

Once Churchill interrupted a parliamentarian and when the person protested, Churchill had the cheek to fling back at him with, 'Don't talk, while I am interrupting!'

Once a British parliamentarian remarked, 'The problem with political jokes is that they get re-elected!' How true!

US Congress: Similarly, the US Congress too publishes 'Humor from the Congressional Record", which I have often leafed through at the local American Centre. It is replete with witty exchanges:

Once, a tall Texan filibustered for hours to a bored Senate. However, the diminutive and alert Japanese American Senator Inouye from Hawaii cut him short with an apt reply. Enraged, the tall Texan threatened – 'You pigmy, I can swallow you like a fly!' Senator Inouye retorted, 'In that case, you will have more brains in your stomach, than in your head!'

Anecdotes about Abraham Lincoln's wit and humour are a legion. His schoolmate Douglas was his lifelong rival in studies, as lawyers in the court, in courtship – as they courted the same girl and finally in politics. All the way, Lincoln won each round. But Douglas never missed a chance of shaming Lincoln. Once, as Douglas barged into White House unannounced, he saw Lincoln polishing his shoes:

'What Mr. President! You polish your own shoes!'

'Yes, Douglas! Whose shoes do you polish?'

On 12 August, 2017 Mumbai Mirror carried a small report titled, 'Humour in the House'. It talked about humour and lighter moments returning to Rajya Sabha, with Venkaiah Naidu taking the chair. Leaders talked about Naidu's penchant for limericks and acronyms.

Modi set the tone with:

'Amal karo aisa sadan mein,

 jahan se guzre tumhare nazare,

udhar se tumhe salam aye'

Amen!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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