What a Nation Laughs at is Serious Business

What does India laugh at?

On fat women, thin men, short women, lanky men, dark women, bald men, women with big breasts, men with big paunches….the list is endless. If the content of the comedy shows, that was live currently on Indian television, is anything to go by then India laughs on body shaming the most!

This disturbing social behaviour yet again came to light when recently actor Tannishtha Chatterjee slammed Comedy Nights Bachao Taaza for ‘racist’ comments. The show based on a roast format got on the nerves of the actor when the organisers found her skin tone as the only factor to roast her. Atleast the said show is based on the format where you know you will be pulled up. What about the supposedly most popular comedy show on Indian Television currently – The Kapil Sharma Show. A lot of the comedy sequences of the show are based on the lip size of one of the lead actors or the bulk of another actor or the looks of another one. Forget the actors on the show, from the live audience that participates on the show the ones unfortunate enough to be picked up to feature on the show are more often than not body shamed. And that comprises the script of India’s favourite comedy show!

This is what India laughs at! Body shaming, racist comments and bullying. 

Unfortunately just like making people laugh is a serious business, the insights into what people laugh on is an even more serious business. It is the revelation of the social psyche of the nation. The deep rooted bias running through the veins of this nation stands exposed in what it takes joy in slamming.

And the phenomenon in our country is not laughing on, it is laughing at

Be it Kapil’s show or any other comedy show on air currently, the comedy is not in the situations, it is on the characters. All these characters represent a segment of the society and more than comedy it showcases the bias that these people face everyday. Leave apart the live audience grinning away or the recorded laughter notes, these shows highlight where the fabric of the society is frayed and splitting. They show where our empathy should lie and that fine line where we are converting into something that is not human.

While on this, I remember an incident which happened about an year back, at my workplace. A group of 3 women. All three are successful professionals with a robust personal life of their own. In terms of body type, skin tone and looks – one an average looker, second – good looking but has crossed the border of being called obese; been working out and the effects have started to show. Third – very good looking and definitely obese by social standards but the big frame more than compensates for the fat. The three are friends, often doing things that friends do. Kitty parties, shopping and the likes.

One fine day the entire workplace is shocked with the news that the 3rd one died after an unsuccessful bariatcic surgery! And anybody can guess it was anything but a direct result of peer leering and pressure concentrated on body shaming.

Just two days back I went to the parlour to get a facial done and the beautician promptly finds it her basic responsibility to suggest to me that I should get a skin whitening pack added. Though it was obvious I asked her what effect will it have. She very proudly told me that I will become fair and that will make me look more beautiful. I lost it at this point and vehemently turned down her suggestion while telling her I don’t want to be white. I love my dusky skin tone.

The ideas of normal is so deep rooted in our social fabric that a slight deviation and we go berserk.We want to correct it immediately, confine it to our mediocrity and define it as normal. Or accepted! The thing is when we stop looking forward to these jokes and start seeing them for what they are – a bully’s offensive remarks that is the day we start being normal.

Normal people co-exist. They aren’t obsessed with making clones out of every other country man or woman.

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