No Laughing Matter

June 8, 2023by Rajeev Hora0

Given that extra moment to contemplate, the best of man comes to the fore like a shield to prevent his worst from getting exposed.

George Bernard Shaw, one of the greatest playwrights of his time was considered an irrepressible wit. But the devilish Shaw was outwitted by actress Cornelia Otis Skinner in an exchange after the New York opening of Shaw’s “Candida,” in which she played the lead. Shaw cabled: “Excellent, greatest!” She replied: “Undeserving such praise.” Shaw answered: “Meant the play.” She shot back: “So did I.”

Such wit finds it way in our daily lives as quips, repartee and wisecracks. Impressed with such exchanges of seemingly intelligent and disguised humour, many of us want our children also to become smart and witty. I have however finally come to the conclusion that wit is not always a good thing.

Wit often evokes laughter at someone’s expense. That someone who cannot defend himself. Either because of lack of counter ammunition or due to the burden of his circumstances. In transactional power equation terms, it amounts to firing arrows on a helpless, vulnerable person. Not forgetting that the hurt never really goes away. The meek never forget and those who do not forget find it very hard to forgive.

Witty people have a grey-pack up there which is equipped with a relatively faster processor. They tend to think fast and speak faster than the hapless victim in front. It is in this ‘not to be missed’ moment that they generally do not give enough thought to the ramifications of their speech.

Covey’s favourite gap between stimulus and response thus gets compromised unwittingly. It is in this gap that virtues of empathy, concern and kindness reside. It is the sofa of goodness that comforts. When given that extra moment to contemplate, the best of man comes to the fore like a shield to prevent his worst from getting exposed.

Arrows of wit do not come back, if one ever believed they would. All apologies are useless because  the organic raw self has already revealed itself by the witty words. ‘What you are’, keeps ringing in the ears and it certainly is not musical. In fact, sharper the wit, deeper the cut and greater the bleed.

Not surprising that people find it rather difficult to trust witty people. One does not know when the cynic wit will surface and cause a trust deficit even between the best of friends. Also, witty people by design are extremely poor listeners. They hear just about enough to be able to prepare their speedy response which they deliver in the first possible gap that they can sneak through.

And before you ask me, “Why this kolaveri today?”, lemme share a Whattsapp forward which came my way a couple of days back. I frankly don’t know who this Xavier  gentleman is. But he appears to have quite a fan-following on social media for his witty quips.

“Saari cities ne gaana gaaya par Hiroshima Nagasaki”, in Hindi meaning “All cities in Japan sang a song but Hiroshima could not ”. Appears to be clever wordplay. No doubts about that. The attempted mirth even evoked plenty of emoji laughter on many social media groups.

But hey, please pause a minute and spare a thought for what happened in these two most unfortunate cities almost eight decades back. Disaster and catastrophe are understatements to describe those dreadful days.

The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people. By the end of 1945, the bombing had killed an estimated 140,000 people in Hiroshima, and a further 74,000 in Nagasaki. It took a few seconds for the nuclear explosions to reach their maximum size, but their effects have lasted for decades and spanned across generations.

Five to six years after the bombings, the incidence of leukaemia increased noticeably among survivors. After about a decade, survivors began suffering from thyroid, breast, lung and other cancers. Pregnant women exposed to the bombings, experienced miscarriages and deaths among their infants. Children were born with intellectual disabilities, impaired growth and an increased risk of developing cancer. No laughing matter Mr Xavier!

And incidentally, cancers related to that radiation exposure continue to be evident even to this day. The horror story has really not finished. The cities may have outwardly recovered but the hurt has been indelible. Resurrection does not mean that Christ was not nailed on to the cross.

It does look like an innocent ‘forward’ akin to the many non-sensical ones we receive everyday. But it is also a true reflection of the thoughtless and blasé world that we are growing to be. Forwarded by the ‘fastest finger first’ without an iota of reflection of what lies behind the curtain.

Don’t know which is the greater tragedy that has hit mankind till date? The media-influenced growing insensitivity of the human race or the atomic bomb? While the two cities stand today as a splendid testimony of human spirit to survive, the modern-day digital plume continues to rise. Watch out for the fallout!

Yes Mr Xavier, you are so right even if you didn’t mean to be.

  Hiroshima could not sing because the dead obviously cannot.

Certainly not amused,
Horax (Casper)

First published at on 08/06/23
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The Hibakusha (survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) are integral to the history of the atomic bombings of these cities – not only because they experienced the horror of these weapons first hand – but also because of their tireless efforts at the international stage to eliminate nuclear weapons. Please do read about their stories if you can spare some time.



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