I don’t know when I first laughed. It must have been in the lap of my mother – and it must have been at some folly of my elders. Once started, I have never stopped laughing. I don’t go by such sophisticated sophistry as from Ghalib who wrote in one of his Farsi couplets (that I cannot quote verbatim) “The vulgar only laugh, but never smile, whereas well-bred people often smile but seldom laugh. “ Indeed, I laugh as often as my vulgar friends and smile as often as my well-bred friends do. I go with the wise man when he says that the most completely lost of all days is that on which one has not laughed.
But who to laugh at? Enemies? No, you can’t afford that luxury. Friends? Yes! One has to laugh at friends and if they are sore, it is much the better, because you can laugh the more. Laugh at yourself? That virtue is given only to a few of the human race … and I am lucky I am one of the laughing gentry who can first create a situation for laughter and then laugh heartily.
Grieve and the world grieves with you … Laugh and you laugh alone! Who said it? Probably Shakespeare. No, George Bernard Shaw. No, Oscar Wilde. Yes, Yes, & Yes. Because if you don’t know the source of a clever say, just put one of these three names and it would adroitly fit the quotation. We all know, that fifty percent of all clever sayings in English can be attributed to one of these three gentlemen.
Coming back to the question — when was it that I remember having first laughed — and shared the laughter with others? I must have been eight or nine years young when almost overcome with joy I received two birthday gifts, a wrist watch and a button-activated song player. I chattered about my new possessions all day long, Guests were expected for dinner and my mom gently admonished me in advance, saying. “Now , dear, every body knows about your presents. You should not prattle about them again and again. “.. The guests came and I kept my peace all through the dinner. Then I could contain the pride of possession no more … and I blurted out. If any one hears tick-ticking sound of a watch or a song, it’s me.’” and I uplifted my hand and showed my wrist watch and punched the button to play a song. Astonished faces looked at me and then there was universal laughter, in which I joined.
It was when I grew up a little that I found pure laughter fit only for children; the elders laughed only when some witticism was involved and the situation demanded a show of approval through laughter. I learned it late in life but it has now stayed with me.
Only the other day, a young lady, back from a tour of England with her husband, said about her visit to Stratford-on-Avon, the birth place of Shakespeare. “When I alighted at the small railway station I said to my husband : To think that it was from this very platform the immortal bard would depart whenever he journeyed to town. “
And then there is the campus humour. I have been – (Oh! I’ve lost the count!) teaching on campuses for almost sixty long years and I have a plethora of witticisms, my own … and, of course, my students’.
When my students started leaving the class on the stroke of the bell even before I had exited the classroom, I jocularly remarked : “Ladies and gentlemen, Please stay for another minute. I have some more pearls to cast. “….. Well, those who knew the idiom (Casting pearls before swine) enjoyed it, though shamefully, but others who did not know it, just looked blankly at me.
It was during the blitzkrieg of agitation on the campus of Punjab University, Chandigarh, where I taught for two decades or more, when the students wanted Hons. School System to be changed that a poster appeared on the campus.
“Students have the Honors and the professors have the system! “
And, finally, a rather more-than-intimate student of mine had a dig at another professor, one of my senior colleagues. “Did you, Sir, hear what the absent-minded professor did yesterday? He sent his wife down to the bank and kissed his money goodbye! “
I sighed heavily, and said: “The professor, my dear, wasn’t after all as absent minded as you think. He wanted to get rid of both … the wife and the money. “
SATYAPAL ANAND IS A FAMOUS POET, PHILOSOPHER AND WRITER BASED IN USA.