World's greatest antidote

funny side up
Last Updated 14 January 2017, 18:51 IST

Most of us are stressed because we take life more seriously than it should be. Many of us have even forgotten to smile, let alone laugh. Humour is an antidote to any problem or situation we face in life. It not only increases our happiness quotient, but also adds years to life.

If you look around, you will notice that the people who live the longest are the ones with a strong sense of humour. Lord Dennings, the celebrated British judge who used humour in good measure all his life, even to send a strong message across, lived up to a 100 years. When a fellow judge delivered a verdict which went against popular sentiment, Lord Dennings did not make his displeasure felt directly. Instead, at a formal dinner where the judge was also present, Lord Dennings remarked, “Unlike my brother judge here, who is concerned with the law, I am concerned with justice.” The remark sent the audience into peals of laughter, but the message was loud and clear.

Khushwant Singh, in his book Khushwantnama, which he penned at the age of 98, a few months before his death, says, “I have never taken anything seriously, least of all myself. Humour is a leveller. It is also good for the soul. It keeps you healthy and is one of the keys to a longer life.”

Former Karnataka Chief Minister J H Patel liberally used humour as a communication tool to deflect criticism, extricate himself from a tricky situation, and settle scores with opponents without ruffling any feathers. When the Opposition accused the chief minister of receiving an expensive watch as a gift, Patel took the wind out of the sail by narrating a story: “A woman once asked Shankaracharya the difference between truth and untruth. Shankaracharya brought a pot of water and pointing to the moon, said: ‘That is truth.’ And then pointing to the reflection of the moon in the water, he explained: ‘That is untruth.’”

Similarly, said Patel, the Opposition could not distinguish between truth and untruth: “If you empty the water from the pot, will the moon disappear from the sky?”

Most of us allow our ego to take control of the situation, without realising that even a very tense moment can be diffused without losing one’s cool. The then Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar was inaugurating the World Humorist Conference in Hyderabad, when the microphone went dead. Instead of flaring up, Jakhar said with a smile, “I seem to have a bad day. The mic went off at the previous function too. When the mic-man was summoned, he naively remarked, ‘the speaker’s screw is loose’ and went on to repair the mic.” The microphone technician obviously did not understand the enormity of his unintended pun, but the humour was not lost on Jakhar, who continued with his speech.

Living a stress-free life also means the ability to laugh at ourselves. Once, YMN Murthy, a well-known humorist, was invited to deliver a lecture when some students who mistook him for renowned cartoonist R K Laxman,  crowded around him for an autograph. Instead of taking offence, Murthy quipped, “I am not Laxman, but at my age I might look like one of his cartoon characters.”

If there is one single ingredient that can put our life on the right track and smoothen the creases of worry, it’s humour. Life is all about moments of laughter. These are the moments we will cherish forever. Once we make humour a part of our lives, the world will be a much better place to live in.

(Published 14 January 2017, 16:03 IST)

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