Also very delightful are the
pieces by Aimer A. Dickson, whom I had never read before. One is
an essay Drunkards of Distinction and the other a naughty
verse titled Company, which reads: "One night in
late October/ when I was far from sober ...my feet began to
stutter/ so I lay in the gutter/ And a pig ... lay down by my
side/ A lady passing by was heard/ You can tell a man who
boozes/ By the company he chooses/ At which the pig got up and
slowly walked away."
pieces like My Failed Omelettes and other Disasters and The
Zigzag Walk, are the timeless, quintessential Bond; even
though reading them gives one the feeling of d`E9j`E0 vu.
But by far, the most typical example of the editor’s
self-effacing style and humility, which pokes fun at his own
foibles, lies in the beautiful introduction to the book: simple,
easy flowing; yet laden with puckish humour. "An expensive
pen may occasionally vanish`85but an inexpensive ball-point
seldom lets me down. I keep a bunch of these handy: some on my
desk, two or three in my coat pockets`85a couple in convenient
flower-pots (I get the occasional bright idea while
gardening)`85Pens accompany me on long walks. Computers don’t,
and secretaries won’t."
He also makes a
serious point about humour by making distinctions between wit,
satire and comedy. While the former two are subject-specific,
comedy, especially when ‘plucked’ from everyday life or
based on one’s own foibles and eccentricities, outlives them.
And that’s Ruskin Bond’s forte. He makes the world a better
place, simply by making us laugh with him, and at ourselves.
A rare discovery
is the satirical piece, The Kidnapping of Major Mulvaney,
written by an erstwhile British ICS officer on the ‘bumbling’
ways of the bureaucracy during the Raj. It makes one think that
not much has changed in the country in the last century!
piece by Vijay N. Shankar — The Music Man — about the
life and vanity of a saxophone player who has fallen on hard
times and is working in a wedding band, besides being humorous,
touches one deeply. The character is so much R.K.Narayanesque
that it reminds you suddenly that the maestro does not figure in
the collection! Similarly, there is no piece from P.G.Wodehouse.
I would have loved to see something from his all-time great Pigs
— though no anthology is perfect; and the selections remain
basically the editor’s prerogative — make one suspect that
Bond has been a bit lazy, even by his own standards. Also, the
pieces in the book have not been compiled in any particular
order. It leaves one doing a zigzag journey through the contours
of the myriad humour-scapes. Perhaps that’s the way Bond would
like it to be – serendipity in humour! But at least the
publishers could have been less somnolent. Also, an author-wise
index at the end would have been helpful in locating one’s
favourite piece for a delicious re-read.
humour writing as a genre of literature remains neglected.
Academics turn up their noses at it, dismissing it as ‘light
stuff.’ Newspapers reject witty pieces in favour of editorials
on disasters or political shenanigans – the vanishing ‘middle’
column is a pointer in this direction. And the Nobel Prize
committee has perhaps never considered a P.G.Wodehouse, a
R.K.Narayan or a James Thurber for the award! And to survive in
life there is no medicine better than laughter.
So just bond with
humour, board the Rupa Laughter Omnibus; till the blues
are bumped off with a smile.