The sense of humor does not belong only to those who create it, but also to those who enjoy it too. In the game of tennis, it is only when the opponent player fails to return a serve, it becomes an ace. In real life, many humours go unnoticed like the ‘ace’ because of the inability of the environment to sense and respond to it. Here is the worldly experience of Mastiram. He prefers to be known that way though hails from a small South Indian town in the pre-IT era. He really knew how to sense and respond to humours.
Mastiram was studying in one of the best colleges of that city, as he always claimed. However, he would readily admit that there was only one college existed in that city! After his college, Mastiram started searching for job. He was called for an interview in Lucknow. His mother tongue wasn’t Hindi, neither he learnt it. So he learnt counting (numbers) in Hindi just to ensure proper money transaction. But he could learn only up to ten. As a matter of abundant precaution he enquired about the place to be visited and how to reach the hotel from the railway station and all. He was told to engage a cycle-rickshaw and not to pay more than Rs.5. After reaching Lucknow, he engaged a cycle rickshaw and reached the hotel. Then he asked the rickshaw-walla about the payment, in his familiar sign language (his only strength at that time). The rickshaw-walla replied, “dai rupia”, meaning Rs.2½. Mastiram immediately started counting from one to ten in hindi (which he learnt after great difficulty), at least half-a-dozen times. But ‘dai rupia’ was not at all figuring in his count. Then he got wild and told the rickshaw-walla in his rough voice, “only panch rupia”. The rickshaw-walla being unusually good insisted that he wanted only ‘dai rupia’. Mastiram wanted to be smart. He pushed a five-rupee note in the hand of rickshaw-walla, calling him a cheater, of course in his own language and rushed away from the spot. The rickshaw-walla was just blinking unable to understand the situation. Mastiram narrated this incident to one of his friends after his return. Fortunately, he knew Hindi otherwise this could have gone like an ‘ace’.
An unsuccessful trip to Lucknow made Mastiram to decide to go to Delhi for employment. He was traveling in a super fast train. Train travel always fascinated Mastiram. He considered it as an interesting aspect of life because many lessons are learnt and taught. In those days, water did not become a commodity completely. During the train journey, a railway vendor was selling water bottles. Mastiram was feeling thirsty. He wasn’t carrying water with him. So he bought a water bottle. A cautious person, Mastiram, started examining the bottle for the expiry date. The vendor was busy in giving back the balance. Suddenly, Mastiram became hyper active. He found on the water bottle something printed; “Bacteria free”. By then, the vendor got the change out of his pocket and was giving back. Mastiram asked him, ‘where is bacteria?‘ The vendor was just starring. Mastiram asked him once again pointing out what is printed on the bottle, ‘It is printed, Bacteria free; where is bacteria?’ The vendor didn’t have the answer, perhaps, because of his inability to understand what was going on. But co-passengers responded. Mastiram had a nice feeling of being smart, once again. A good serve and a return!
With great determination, Mastiram reached Delhi at last for a job. He realized how difficult it was to find a suitable job for him. Suddenly, he got a smart idea out of his quick exposure in Delhi. He gave an advertisement saying that he was in need of an assistant. He was very careful in not divulging any other details except his contact address. He got a good response, as expected in our country. He, out of the entire lot, short listed one fellow whom he found to be very innocent and offered him the job. He told him to come for job from the next day. The new employee though innocent, asked Mastiram about the nature of job and other terms and condition. Mastiram told him, “My dear boy. Your job is like this. Everyday you have to go to the nearby Gurudwara. Have your food there and pack the food for me and bring it. You can stay with me. No retirement, no pension, of course no salary, as I am providing food and shelter. What else is needed for human being”. What a great employer, Mastiram was trying to be!
Mastiram realized that smart advertisements and ideas just don’t work, at least for him. So he expanded his search for a job and had very hectic days in Delhi. He used to move around in a motorcycle without owning one, most of the time availing ‘lift’. Amidst the activities, he always used to find some time for a relaxing ride with one of his friends who owned a motorcycle. He used to visit his friend on the pretext of taking his advice (the word which he coined to convince his friend for sparing his time). His friend’s motorcycle had a defective meter (speed). While his friend was riding the motorcycle, Mastiram sitting as pillion rider asked him, ‘Bhai, what is the speed you are riding?’ His friend replied, ‘It is not possible to know, because the meter is defective. If you are still very particular, you can notice the speed from the car, which is moving along next to us’. Mastiram thought for a moment and felt that his friend was not smart enough. He retaliated by saying, “why I should trouble myself now, I will comfortably see the meter (speed) when you stop in the next signal”. His friend did not allow an ‘ace’ there. In fact, Mastiram too returned the serve by sensing the humour out of it.
At last, fortune came in Mastiram’s way and he got a job as cashier in a bank in Delhi. He was very happy and jubilant. As a part of his job requirement, he was sent for a course for learning Hindi. He found that the participants came there only for relaxing. But Mastiram, as he is known for, was determined to provide some enjoyment to others by making little fun. One day, the teacher while teaching Hindi, wrote a sentence on the board; ‘Ram ki shadi dhoom dham seh hui ’. Suddenly, Mastiram, who is always very active, got up and raised a doubt; “Madam, what we learnt was that Ram married to Sita; but we never knew that Ram got married to ‘dhoom dham’ also”. This time it was not only the participants, but also the teacher who burst into laughter. A well-returned serve, served with an intention. Mastiram, of course, in his best!
After the training, now it is the turn of Mastiram to show his efficiency in his work. It was during one of the early stage of computerization of the bank in which he was working, he encountered an interesting incident. Those days the banks were managed manually. So they found lot of difficulties after computerisation. Mastiram was just learning the computer operations. On that day, he was inside the counter (he used to consider it like a cage, as it appeared to be) and was struggling with the computer. The customers were waiting for him to settle down with his computer struggle. At last, when he could not get a break through, he asked his officer sitting outside the cage (who used to be always busy with his ledgers) how to solve the problem with the computer. The officer without getting himself off from his work told him, ‘Bhai sab, yek bhar bhahar akar andhar jao. Teek ho jayaga’. Hoping to get the solution Mastiram got up swiftly from his seat. Got out of the chamber (cage), closed the door and after a while entered the cage and came back to the seat and sat down. He looked at the monitor, puzzled and said, ‘Sab, mein bhahar jakar andhar aya, phir bhe teek nahi hua’. The customer standing outside the counter didn’t allow the ‘ace’. Mastiram realized his ignorance and felt it to be bliss because it could produce wonderful humours too.
Mastiram had many such live and lively experiences in his life. He always feels that life without humour is like a life without life. At the same time he strongly believes that life is full of humour only for those who can sense it and respond to it in whichever form it exist. He realized that readiness of mind is very essential to sense and respond to humour in our daily life. He sees humour as an effect of one or more causes; may it be ignorance or innocence or a deliberate action or the language. Ultimately, he believes, ‘humour needs human beings’.