My Father is 75 years old now, fortunately blessed with reasonably good health. He was supposed to be an extempore talker during his younger days and the people of his times still recollect the funny one-liners he used to conjure up!
As he grew older, he perhaps lost some of his verve and confidence and his jokes started to fall flat, or so it seemed to him. So when I started to take note, he used to attribute them to his more popular younger brother Gangadhar fondly called Ganga. I have been witness to this unfortunate phenomenon many a times. How I used to wish for a more confident father! It was sad because he used to think people will not laugh at ‘His’ jokes but will lap them up if he told them as Ganga’s!
Today, out of the identity crisis and away from the ancestral house; he is more confident. He is at his best when he recounts 'Real Incidents' from his younger days. Perhaps, the financial security has done some good. Anyway, some of the old jokes he narrates are worth chronicling. I am making a humble attempt to translate his words in our mother tongue Konkani into English. Hope the essence will not be completely lost in translation!
Let me start with ‘3 Idiots’, the epitome of funniness! After refusing to watch the cinema initially, my parents relented to watch it when I insisted on it. I knew they’ll love it. And love it they did, big time! In one particular scene, Virus asks Raju Rastogi ‘How does the Induction Motor start?’ And the drunken boy, still not out of slumber says, “Budrrrrrrr”. This triggered off wild laughter in the hall and even my father burst out laughing. This inspired my father to recollect an old incident later when we reached our home. Let me borrow from the '3 Idiots' Librarian Pandeyji, "Bol Mai Raha hoon, par Shabd unke hain" - "I am just narrating, the words are his!"
After watching this ‘Budrrr…’ I am reminded of an incident from my childhood. There was an old lady who used to live near our house. She must have been about 90 years old. She was called ‘Manthari’ by everyone, including her own people. Manthari is ‘Old woman’ in Konkani. One morning we heard some loud noise and crying. We came to understand ‘Manthari’ had died in sleep. When her grand-daughter tried to wake her up to give her coffee, she was not moving and there was no response at all. In those days, there were no Doctors, hospitals or ambulances. Hence she was declared dead. So a lot of people gathered for the funeral.
There is a custom of giving bath to the ‘dead body’ before taking it to the cremation ground. People were watching with solemn looks as her body was made to lie down on the step of the ‘Thulasi’. And her son took a pot-full of cold water from the well and went around the body and Thulasi and as per the instructions of the Priest; poured the cold water over the ‘dead body’. Suddenly the ‘dead body’ sat up with a noise ‘Budrrr….’ shivering and cursing the person who poured cold water! Now… the Son, the Priest and most of the people close to the scene were absolutely horrified and just ran away screaming ‘Bhootha, Bhootha' that is 'Devil, Devil'!
Me a young boy at that time didn’t know much about Devils and just enjoyed a really hilarious scene. I can never forget it! She lived on for another two years or so. And finally when she really died, they made sure there was no more 'Budrr...'. But for us, the kids of those days; 'Budrr...' became a real expression. We even used to play 'Dead body' and wake up with 'Budrr...'
The second incident is as funny if not more. this happened at school and is almost a legend in our town even today!
A very witty History Teacher was taking class on a lazy summer afternoon. Boys were feeling sleepy and one of them, a Sathar was actually fast asleep. The Teacher found this out and threw a chalk-piece at him to wake him up. As the startled but still drowsy Sathar looked up; the Teacher asked, “Now, Sathar Saheb, tell me about the Panipat war and who fought with whom?” Our man was never known for intelligence. But he was never short of confidence when it came to expressing himself. And he shot back instantly, “What is this Sir, someone fought someone a thousand years ago and all of them are dead now. Not even one is alive. Why do you dig up those old stories today to trouble us poor souls? Not a single person cares who fought where. All are dead. So let US live!” With this he collapsed on his bench and went back to his slumber!
This is just a sample of a huge and impressive collection of anecdotes from my father. I hope I will be able to come up with more and do so without draining the fun out of them!