The Weight of Whisper

Among the profusion of peculiarities existing in the human nature, the one about the tendency of the individual to allow whispers to make an impact on him appears, to me, singular in its ability to produce resounding efftects. Carefully contrived and carelessly prescribed by the malicious and the mischievous, whispers can be powerful instruments of causing a great deal of stir.

This is aptly illustrated by a tit-bit I once read about an Ad Man who, upon reaching heaven, was stopped at the gate. “Sorry,” the gatekeeper told him, “but we have got our quota from your profession. In order to gain entry, you will have to convince one of the others to leave.” “All right,” replied our man, “just give me a day.” At the end of the day, every one of the advertising agents in heaven had departed. When asked by the stunned gatekeeper how he did it, the Ad Man replied, “It was easy. I just whispered to one of the old buddies that the Devil was starting a new agency. Incidentally, I am not staying either. You can never tell about these rumours.”

Human psyche would appear to be curiously amenable to mysterious suggestions inherent in a whisper. But is the phemenon really as peculiar as it seems? The literal meaning of whisper lends itself quite admirably to figuratve connotations. Defined as “to say something using the breath, but no vibration of the vocal cords (the sound box)”, a whisper, upon mention, conjures up visions of an act of transmission of message by a deliverer who is exerting himself just enough to enable his breath to carry over the message to the receiver. A hint of mystique and silent strength is plain in the definition itself. Little wonder, thus, that people tend to respond in perplexing ways when whispered to.

Whispers have been in the employ of those wishing to have their ulterier motives subserved for as long as man has possessed verbalising ability. And what an unusual modification of the act of verbalising is the art of whispering that illustrates how the addtion of an element of subtlety can result in accumulation of strength.

The one category of individuals who have known for ages the exploitative potential of whispers is the politicians. From improving one’s own image to bringing about the downfall of the opponents are a range of activities where they benefit from appropriately launched whispering campaigns. The historic honour of bringing this technique to perfection could well belong to our own wily old fox “Chanakya” – the philosopher, guide and mentor of Maurya King Chandra Gupt – who employed the four W’s (viz. wine, women, wealth and whispers) to subjugate the enemies of Maurya empire. Untold permutations and innovations have since revolutionised the field.

Another well-known arena where people know how to keep interest in things alive the whispering way is the showbiz. The cine world has demonstrated like nothing else the tremndeous supporative value whispers can provide to sustain an entire industry. Remarks beginning “Did you hear that … ” giving informatiom on who is doing what, dressing how and going out with whom, when whispered in movie magazines & shows, intrigue and induce hordes of movie fans to unburden their pockets at the cinema booking windows. It has not fallen to the lot of any architect to design a more effective whispreing gallery than the circulation of movie-mags.

Most business at stock exchanges and race courses runs solely on the wheels of whispers. A useful word here or a careless whisper there makes all the difference between shareholders walking on air and several thousand punters being taken for a ride at the same time on a single horse.

Those engaged in the game of flirtation have always had a field day playing with whispers. All over the world, immeasurable weightage is imparted to the claims of the beaux by the whisphering of sweat nothings.

And before concluding, may I reveal to you a practical example of the might of a whisper? The publication of this piece was helped by whispering in appropriate ears that a couple of other papers would be quite willing to lap it up. The Editor, however, deserves kudos for playing the game sportingly and letting my whispers reach you!

The Bargaining Syndrome

Human beings living together in organised, civil societies give ample evidence of being most business-like of creatures. Seldom, however, is it appreciated that they go about doing their business with a playfulness peculiar to them by the virtue of their possession of that singularly fascinating entity – the human mind with its ever bargaining tendencies. I personally find the bargaining facet of human personality to be a constant source of fun, frolic and amusement.

When I visit the vegetable market, I frequently find the shopkeeper and the customer haggling over the price of tomatoes. A close watch on their faces and a little strain on my ears vividly reveals to me the underlying playfulness in the changing nuances of their conversation.

The shopkeeper starts with the quotation of a substantially higher price of tomatoes, giving himself subtle but definite airs of imperiousness. The customer handles a couple of tomatoes, makes a face and puts them back into the sack with a remark on their quality, describing them in poorer terms than they deserve. When he opines on their money value, which he deflates by just about the same amount by which the shopkeeper inflated it, the latter seems to feel the effect of deflation on his own self. The changed look on his face indicates he is no longer insistent on riding his high horse.

The shopkeeper’s demeanour takes a friendly turn, instead. He conjures up another sack of tomatoes – paler and much staler – and offers them at the customer’s price. The lack of shine on these tomatoes is reciprocally commensurate with a mischievous gleam appearing in his eyes before he goes on to assume a poker face!

The customer disdainfully glances at the second stock of tomatoes and silently rejects it with a gestural brush-aside. However, the shopkeeper’s offer, with that well-concealed mischief in his eyes, has done more to the customer than meets the eye.

The customer turns back to the original stock of tomatoes and displays a wonderful quick-mindedness in revising his opinion of it. The same tomatoes, painted pretty much anaemic in his previous remarks, get to hear a good many colourful words said about them. “Only it is their price that forces one to see them in darker light,” is the way the customer verbalises his mind now. “Better, perhaps, it would be” – he continues to think aloud – “to drop the very idea of buying tomatoes. A meal could very well be cooked even without tomatoes.”

The customer’s predicament and the possibility of his meal being left untouched by tomatoes seem to touch the shopkeeper’s heart, instead. The alacrity with which he comes forth with a price-revision so as to enable the customer to make his meal a more juicy experience would make the most gracious of angels seem lazier in benevolence!

The price reduction, however, has not been to the extent that could add succulence to the customer’s sapless spirits. On the other hand, it probably succeeded in making his mental state more fluid.  For even as he begins his departure from the shop, the ripples in his thought-pool are apparent. He looks a bit unsure and after every couple of steps turns his head around to re-examine the tomatoes; and the shopkeeper’s face!

The customer’s apparent unsureness works for sure in convincing the shopkeeper he can’t feel too sure of his tomatoes and his customer, both at the same time. This new-found conviction blossoms into a cordial smile on his face as he invites the customer back to the shop with the idea of adopting a via media.

The customer returns with more sure-footedness than any Olympian athlete can muster in the same few moments if he wasn’t already expecting the quick turn of events. A bargain is struck on a mid-way price. Both parties look cheerful and their tomato-hued cheeks leave no doubt about how much they enjoyed combining their little sport with business!

The Cynic Syndrome

A Freudian satire on the element of cynicism in human nature

The world is not an easy place to live. Soon after being pushed into an existence, every one of us mortals on this earth is faced with that gruesome issue of survival. The three most basic needs of life – food, clothing and shelter – impel us into action from the word go.

A newborn cannot but cry on his arrival here, despite all that the world may have to offer. For he knows that the cosy environ of the womb that provided him with both shelter and succour is no longer available. From now on, he has to struggle to seek his requirements.

Even as his wailing – the only way he knows to attract attention – brings rushing a doting mother, he is inadvertently multiplying his tribulations. He has, in the process, added another dimension to his requirements, viz. a need for attention (to subserve emotional gratification).

The affection and care of parents, if one has the good fortune to enjoy these blessings, can look after this need in the early years. Sooner or later, though, the brazen emotional exactions of the world around him begin to close in on him, robbing him of much of his own happiness.

It begins with the first visiting relative who, while invoking divine benediction on him and coaxing his uninformed self to feel proud of his lineage, does not fail to croak disapproval of the slant of his nose or the curl of his hair. Some more critics of the zodiac from among the relatives would, in the years to come, seek attention by reminding him from time to time of likeness to the fauna closest to their heart while bestowing upon him titles such as puffy pup, mussy mouse, greedy hog, silly kitten and poor lamb!

During his early formative years, the cousins frequently ask for notice by showing signs of vexation of spirit over his new dress. Friends at the birthday party demand cognizance of their warlike abilities in trying to procure the same helping of sweets as he gets. His playmates seem always to fancy his toys more than theirs and classmates often turn yellow-eyed at his winsomeness to the teacher. His mortified neighbours choose to look glum when comparing his brilliant exam results with the dismal performance of their own urchins. The apple of his parent’s eye is made to feel like an apple of discord.

This, and many a similar experience in our days of nascence, turns us into a cynic – a description that need not provoke the scepticism it invariably does when you try applying it to someone. For is it not true that when we grow up to be ourselves, nothing pleases us more than doing a similar turn to the world in order to gain its recognition!

As leaders and politicians, we give ourselves to savour the intoxication of power over dominion; inebriated behaviour being the guaranteed way to invite attention. In an ecclesiastic garb, we often love to hold in leash the morals and ethos of masses – trying, perhaps, to get even with the avuncular character, who, in our juvenile days, saw in us the semblance of a canine pup!

The bureaucrat, perhaps, listens to the dictates of his conscience, urging him to teach a lesson to all those nincompoops who had felt none-too-happy with his brilliant exam results and his good impression on the teacher. The businessman among us relishes indulgence in the spin of different shades of money (as if to erase the painful memory of the cake he lost to that Martian friend at the birthday party of yore), proclaiming in the process: “I can eat my cake and have it too!”

The list of instances of conversion to cynicism can be endless. But I would like to finish with the observation that the more reflecting and the more analysing ones from among us take to creating writings such as this; they are the Sigmund Freuds of humour literature!

All In Good Humour

It all started in good humour. I was at a party. The host, a dear friend who thinks of my writings as works of good humour and is always saying gratifying things about them, good-humouredly chose to introduce me to a guest as a Merry Andrew – an old-time colloquial expression for a humorist.

The “How do you do Mr. Andrew?” came as a bit of a jolt. As I turned to my friend with pleading eyes and intentions of making a request to rectify the mistake, I discovered to my considerable unease that he had to excuse himself away, the very same moment, to his wife beckoning urgently from a distance.

I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. Was I to set things right by giving him my real name? Or should I play the game and try proving to him that I was indeed what my friend chose to describe me as? I decided to go for the challenge.

Flashing a smile that was meant to beguile, I returned his courtesy, whereupon he felt encouraged to get more intimate. “I am here for the first time,” he said. “Do you come here often?”

“Yes,” I replied, “the place is like a secomd home to me.”

“Oh, you must know him very well then.” His reference was to my friend, the host.

“Well enough for him to take liberties with me, and my name,” I said.

He didn’t seem to catch my point. But a mention of my name stirred up further interest in him as he said, “Talking of your name, wouldn’t you say that your first name – Merry – is rather uncommon? Truth is, I myself never heard it before.”

“Neither had I until I was baptised. But my baptist friend perhaps thought it was the best name for me as it hints at my profession,” I said grinningly.

His amusement was there for anyone to see. “Well I will certainly say that it is a most appropriate name in-so-far-as it describes your nature. By the way, what is it that you do for a living?”

“I use my wits,” I replied.

“You certainly are a jolly man!”

“I have to be, to make a living. Besides I am of the opinion that in today’s tense times, one could do worse than being a little mirthful and frolicsome,” I said.

“How true! But I still haven’t got a hint about your profession.”

“That’s the trouble with my profession. It is rather an uncommon one, just like the euphemism it entitles people to bestow on me. But I think I have already given you a broad hint.”

His growing discomfiture became plain. “I am not sure I understand you completely. Besides I am serious about wanting to know your profession.”

“I know you are and I appreciate your interest. I, on my part, am trying to be as serious as would be in keeping with the requirements of my profession”, I said.

My friend made a reappearance at this stage with words of apology for having left us on our own. Noticing that we had already struck a conversation, he asked, “So what have you been doing?”

“I have been trying to live upto my two names, including the one just recently conferred by you,” I said. “Now, suppose you tell him that I am a humourist by profession – and also my real name, which, incidentally, means jewel of virtuous patience I was just now constrained to be trying to honour your latest gift of appellation to me!”

Take It From Me!


An intended work of humour that purports nothing, for now, except to amuse the reader with its sheer word jugglery.

Lately, I have taken to humour rather seriously and this seems to have taken my friends by storm. So taken-a-back they appear at my new-found fervour for humour that it is going to take a lot of doing on my part to take their minds off the idea that I might have gone nuts!

For this is precisely the notion that seems to have taken hold of their thought machinaries.  Taking into account the fact that only until the other day I had been quite a dud, in terms of my perceived humour quotient, this is not exactly surprising. But take my word, I have myself been taken quite unawares by an inner urge that forced me to take a fancy for humour in all its variants – ranging from the soulful to the sacrilegious, the  breezy to the black , the self-abnegating  to the sycophant and from the krispy to just kool (sic)!

Although I did not myself take long to come to terms with this change that has taken place in my attitude (as a whole), and accept it as a matter of fact, I will, perhaps, do well to allow my friends to take their own time in taking stock of my intentions which, despite having taken an apparently snide turn, remain friendly as ever.

Not that I take exception to my friends beginning to regard me as some kind of a nincompoop who, as it would seem to them, is taking great pains in trying to prove that he is a nut as well. In all probabilities, I would have taken steps similar to those of my friends, viz. those of retreat (on confronting me), if I were in their shoes. The dramatic transformation that has taken place in my demeanour, of late, would necessitate this from anyone who finds it difficult to take drama in their stride!

What I will not take kindly to is the idea that they should take fiendish delight in proclaiming acquaintance with me in the manner of pronouncing cognizance of one who, as they say with a curl of the lip, “appears to be acting as though he is taking over from where P.G. Wodehouse left”. For I am not merely acting as one who harbours such intentions, I really mean to. And also, whatever else P.G.Wodehouse, the celebrated twentieth century British humourist, might have done he certainly did not possess the traits of a nincompoop, or of a nut, that my friends seem to be attributing to me. He, I feel, would have taken grave offence at such preposterous opinion!

My not taking an offence does not, however, mean, in any way, my admission of possession of the aforementioned traits. It is merely that I choose not to take heed of their (silly) utterances. After all, which great humourist (!) did not have to contend with similar situations to begin with? And if he had taken such things to heart, would he ever have become what he eventually did?

The remarks of my friends, no doubt, sometimes force me to take a dislike for them but my sense of humour quickly takes the opportunity of showing its worth and makes me issue counter-remarks that, unfortunately, take a lot away from their public image. What surprises me is why they can’t find it possible to take it down their throats that I have merely taken it upon myself to try and take apart cheerlessness from their lives and inject some humour, instead. For this, I am even prepared to take the risk of being sneered at by those who would; to them, I have only this to say, à la Wodehouse: “It takes all sorts to make a world.” I hope they have taken the hint!

Now, then, after all this rigmarole, do I get any takers, please, from all you unsespecting  souls  who would match me in exuberance of honesty by admitting to having been taken for a  ride on my April Fools’ wagon today. All those who do, get to take my hand extended in friendship for fun, frolic & free-speak pathway to love, learning & laughter through a celebratory consumption of human follies & foibles serving as fodder for the funny bone, with more platters to follow in the ensuing weeks.

Happy All Fools’ Day!

PS: Your fun-fool home task after reading this piece is to tell me how many takes were incorporated in the compilation of this joy-ride of fun phrases utilizing the word ‘take’. If you counted correctly, you would realize how much ‘patience’ this fun-doctor of yours painstakingly practiced in coming up with this laughter capsule for your fun-consumption. Well, its not for nothing I have been named “Sudhir Bhushan”, transcribed “Jewel of Virtuous Patience”!