The long toes index
A Dutch intercultural trainer came up with a country-wise scale to measure the tendency to feel offence. He called it ‘the long toes index’. And guess which people, according to him, most easily felt that their toes were being stepped on. Indians. Oversensitive. Easily hurt. Insulted. On the other hand, I do hope he also means to say, to others like him – born and brought up in the Netherlands and used to seeing themselves as ‘eerlijk’ and ‘transparent’ – when in India, don’t come up with your (honest) opinions about the poverty, the filth, the position of women, Bollywood, whether cricket is really a game (after all they just stand around with a bat…. now look at football…..the sweat, the technique)….
Guess it’s time to look at long toes via what is available on social media with regard to stand-up comedy in India. Jokes, born and nurtured on Indian soil and available for public consumption locally and elsewhere in the world. Much of this is in local languages, but some of it is mixed with English and some start with a disclaimer to make it clear that the intention is not to step on toes. These days, Bollywood films have similar disclaimers too. Apparently, there’s some truth to the Dutchman’s long toes index. One would think that just being alive, creating or speaking, involves toe stepping on one or another of India’s myriad long toes.
So disclaimer in place, these comedians, to my mind, some extremely gifted satirists are on a roll. There is no topic they do not handle. From ‘consumption induced coma’, to the lies we tell ourselves about who we are, to the ‘dance of democracy’ and the lies leaders tell, to fake news, lynching, hate politics, sex, political personalities, Hindus, Muslims….and a lot more. And they spare no one, least of all themselves. They have different styles – some laugh with their audience, some smile and others are deadpan. Some address their audience directly, other’s don’t. But the ones I have seen are all without exception funny and ironic. Some are philosophical.
So far, they appear to have escaped the lock-up for certain kinds of toe stepping. One didn’t though. He got jailed for things he did not say. His name is Munawar Faruqui (surprise, surprise). After some months in prison and no evidence to support the purported crime of insulting Hindu gods, he was set free. He doesn’t plan to stop with his profession. His fan following grows by the minute. And that brings me to the audience of all these satirists. They are laughing, they are following, they are sharing, they are subscribing, they are having conversations and dialogues. They are laughing. May their tribe grow, even as toes do.