Monday Musing 199: The dying art of self deprecation
I spent the better part of the weekend watching the celebrated TV serial 'Mirza Ghalib' written and directed by the acclaimed Gulzar, co written by yet another giant Kaifi Azmi. The serial was telecast in 1988 in the times of black and white TV and the hegemony of Doordarshan. I was still in school and yet to develop the intellectual capacity to distinguish between Krishi Darshan and Ghalib - the only role both played was that they allowed me some time in front of the TV. Then somewhere in the year 1994 during one of those long distance train travels, I bought 'Deewan-e-Ghalib' from The Wheeler & Co, one of those ubiquitous book stalls that spawn in the railway stations across the length and breadth of the country. Ever since then the yellowing pages of that book, now filled with underlines, notes and asterisk marks have reminded me of the giant that was Ghalib and his amazing story and the realisation how little I still understand him.
Watching the dozens of episodes of the serial is like a crash course on his poetry and a peek into his persona. Apart from the literary genius that he was, this time what intrigued me about him was his amazing ability of self deprecation. Despite his genius, despite his own realization about his genius, he remained amazingly self deprecating about himself. He took his art seriously but never himself. He was childlike, full of humor and never hesitated in pulling a fast one on himself given his penchant for alcohol, gambling and continuously being in debt- obviously in a literary way. Sample these.
Ho goya koi aisa bhi, jo ghalib ko na jaane
Shayar to wo achha hai par badnaam bahut hai
(Is there anyone who does not know of Ghalib - he is a good poet but has a bad name)
Ye masail-e-tasaffuf aur ye tera bayan ghalib
ham tujhe wali samajhte, jo na baadakhwaar hota
(O Ghalib - with the quality of your observations on the matters of the world, one would consider you a wise one, if not for your love for alcohol)
I am sure there would be much more evidence of his self deprecating streak. The point of this musing is to contrast this to the current times in general and the cubiclist in particular.
Look around and one would find just too many people taking themselves too seriously. No one has time, actually the ability to see the humor in tight spots. Self deprecation is a dying art and a dying ability. Too many serious blokes are making living a dangerous vocation. This is no where visible more starkly at work place. The pursuit of success, ladder climbing, survival of the fittest has robbed us of the ability to laugh at ourselves and take a dig at our own imperfections. If a man of Ghalibs genius could do it then maybe we give ourselves a little more credit than we deserve, or may be Ghalibs genius was actually in his ability for self deprecation despite his brilliance.
In yet another place he writes,
na tha kuch to khuda tha, na kuch hota to khuda hota
duboya mujh ko hone ne, na hota mai to kya hota
(When there was nothing, there was the supreme power, who would have been there even if nothing would have been there - my downfall is in my taking my 'being' too seriously - what would have happened even if I was not there)
Folks, in the long run - we are dead, so cheer up. Watch Ghalib for inspiration.
....and before I forget, tomorrow is Monday. Let’s get to work.