ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'Leave God Out of It'

Plight of Humour under the Gods of the Present Era

The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, and their compatriots in other parts of the world, who lost their lives for daring to laugh at holy cows, are martyrs to the cause of humour.

From Copenhagen and Paris to Mumbai and Kolkata, satirists and cartoonists have become targets of bigoted followers of both religious gods (who choose to murder them) and political gods (who put them behind bars). One is reminded of the story of the famous 13th century West Asian humorist Mullah Nasiruddin, who went to a tailor to order a shirt, and the latter promised to deliver it within a week, adding the rider, “God willing!” After several weeks, having listened to the same promise—along with the same rider—a disappointed Nasiruddin finally asked the tailor: “How long will it take, if we leave God out of it?” Nasiruddin’s question, seemingly innocuous, but as a metaphor, tears up the vast canopy of religious hypocrisy that covers our socio-economic practices.

In today’s context, it poses the problem at two levels—(i) the uneasy relationship between the exploitation of popular belief in religious authority (“God willing”) by opportunist charlatans on the one hand, and the quotidian needs of the common people (a shirt, for instance) of which they are deprived on that religious plea, on the other; and (ii) the alliance of religious authority and the modern state, with its paraphernalia of mini gods—politicians, bureaucrats, judges, businessmen, contractors, mafia dons, among others—who also keep reassuring the Nasiruddins of today with the same old promises in the name of some superior authority while denying them their basic needs.

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