Manikkoth Ramunni (M.R.) Nair, who wrote under the pen name of "Sanjayan", would be unknown to most of the Malayalis of the current generation, I'm suManikkoth Ramunni (M.R.) Nair, who wrote under the pen name of "Sanjayan", would be unknown to most of the Malayalis of the current generation, I'm sure - which is sad, considering the fact that he was arguably the most funny satirist who ever wrote in Malayalam.
Sanjayan was born in 1903 in Calicut District, which was under Malabar state in that era: the state of Kerala was still 53 years in the future. He passed away in 1943 due to tuberculosis (untreatable in those days) after a tragic life, in the course of which he saw his wife die a lingering death due to the same disease which ultimately claimed him; he also had to watch helplessly as his son wasted away due to a disease of the bone marrow. But in the course of his short existence on the temporal plane, Sanjayan fought back against destiny which had dealt him a raw hand of cards with one of the strongest weapons known to man: laughter.
And a sizable chunk of the Malayalam reading public laughed with him.
Sanjayan's manifesto on life can be gleaned from the poem, Aniyarayil ("In the greenroom") about a reluctant Vidushaka (jester).
The jester is telling the stage manager:
"Please allow me to remove my costume. The time for stage entry has lapsed, my heart is weak and my feet wobble. I have no time to complete my facepaint. I cannot even smile once: how can I make the audience laugh? Please let me remove my costume!"
The jester here is Sanjayan: the stage manager is God, who replies with a smile:
"Even if your heart bleeds and your head bursts, you must laugh - that is the duty of the jester. In your heart of hearts, you know that both laughter and tears are both illusions. Therefore, embrace laughter, which is equivalent to nectar on earth. Melancholy is poison for the soul: laughter is the balm of ultimate bliss."
Well, the Jester took it to heart, and laughed till he could laugh no more.
Sanjayan was an extreme conservative. A staunch follower of Gandhi, he hated communism like the plague (he openly calls it by that name). He is anti-feminist, constantly making fun of the nascent women's lib movements of his day. In literature, he is a staunch classicist, and does not miss a chance to poke fun at modern poets.
By all means, I should hate him, as he stands diagonally opposite to me in political views. But I don't! I love his writings. Why?
Again, I will quote a poem by the writer, about his views on satire:
"For the rose-bush of satire, The laughter is the flower, the criticism the thorn. Always remember: the plant is loved for its flowers; And not the thorns."
This is the reason why you will laugh with Sanjayan even when the object of ridicule is yourself - because it is laughter, pure laughter, which dominates. The first laugh of the jester is always at himself, for his foolishness. It is from this trough of self-deprecation that he asks you to descend to his level, and look at the absurd drama that we call human life. He understands Aristotle's dictum only too well: by going beyond emotions, he can laugh at everything - and he gets you to laugh as well. The pure laughter of absolute bliss which cleanses.
I do not think Sanjayan has been translated. I request my friends from Kerala at least to give him a try. His complete works are now available in two volumes, from Mathrubhumi press. It will definitely be worth your while....more
Funniest TV series ever. And this adaptation is presented as the PM's journal entries, memos etc. rather than as a TV script, so it makes for enjoyablFunniest TV series ever. And this adaptation is presented as the PM's journal entries, memos etc. rather than as a TV script, so it makes for enjoyable reading.
One of the sentences I still remember, a gem, is the Prime Minister commenting about a Middle Eastern country:
"A strange place where women get stoned for committing adultery - here in England, they commit adultery when they get stoned."
That will give you taste of what's inside the covers - classic English humour....more
"Payyan" (meaning "lad" in Malayalam) is the alter ego of Vadakke Koottala Narayanankutty Nair, or V.K.N as he is known to his readers. V.K.N created"Payyan" (meaning "lad" in Malayalam) is the alter ego of Vadakke Koottala Narayanankutty Nair, or V.K.N as he is known to his readers. V.K.N created his own signature style in Malayalam, combining terse sentences, absurd statements and comical juxtapositions to create a kind of humour which was a mixture of Kafka with Stephen Leacock. This Sahitya Akademi award-winning tome is a collection of short stories, most of them loosely based on his experiences as a journalist in Delhi.
Apart from Payyan, we meet Colonel Renu, his lady love; the book-store proprietor Ittoop who can travel all over the world with a few English phrases; "His Highness" who orders curd and pickles in a five-star restaurant in Delhi; and many others. Payyan's own experience as a prisoner in his incarnation as Franz Kafka ("Kaalaghattam") is quite easily my favourite in this book: the story "Premavum Vivahavum" (Love and Marriage) is a close second. All Ittoop stories are rib-ticklingly hilarious.
V.K.N is the Malayalam equivalent of Wodehouse for me, for lifting my spirits when I am down in the dumps. ...more
Three Men in a Boat is one of those books which have become legend. It is quoted as a must-read for all humour afficionados: it is touted as one of thThree Men in a Boat is one of those books which have become legend. It is quoted as a must-read for all humour afficionados: it is touted as one of the funniest books in the English language. So I am a little bit ashamed that I waited so long to read it!
Then, you may ask, why only the three stars?
The pluses first. The book is really humorous: in many places, I could not control my sniggers and was doubled up in front of the computer screen (this was just before dinner yesterday, BTW, so my wife thought I was in agony from hunger and ran off to the kitchen to heat the food). British humour is dependent on exaggeration and understatement. They exaggerate the humdrum (the smell of cheese in the railway compartment, for example, from the tome under discussion) and understate the momentous; and the disparity of scale produces the humour. But the prose is always dead serious, the writer never for a moment advertising the fact that he is writing something funny. It gets me every time, even on the re-reads (sometime, in the case of P.G.Wodehouse, even on the re-re-re-...reads).
Jerome K. Jerome is a fine writer. As with all good writers of humour, language is putty in his hands. I can detect many of Wodehouse's classic turns of phrase in Jerome's work, so Wodehouse must have drawn inspiration from him.
The minuses? Well, pretty much everything else.
Apart from the humour, the book has little else to recommend it. The journey is rambling and uninteresting: the discussion of the English villages do not stay in the mind: the historical vignettes, even though well-realised, seems to be too "text-book"y and out of place: and one particular passage, about the corpse of the lovely girl floating in the river, is outright bad and could be straight out of a pulp novel. These dragged this book down from five stars to three stars for me.
But I will still go back and read certain passages like Uncle Podger putting up the picture, Harris singing comic songs, the travails of the poor German singer, and George getting up early in the morning by mistake. These are vintage British humour.
Recommended for all those who love to laugh....more