Kashmiri Humor


Kashmiri Humor

by Arun Koul

Kashmiris by nature find humor in most occurences and experiences of life. For some reason, they are more readily able to express themselves naturally, while conversing in their native language, which is Kashmiri. Hence a Kashmiri conversation, even on more serious topics is likely to include humor created through banter, wisecracks, repartee, sarcasm and wit. The ability of Kashmiris to laugh at life while bonding in the moment helped them draw romance even from their seemingly mundane living in the past and also in sad or complex situations.

Consider this; you are on a bus in Batmaloo during the late 70s and the guy sells Chana with “Bell-bottom chana hey, Panay evan Khyana hey (meaning Bell-bottom Chana Hey, Gets eaten by itself Hey).” The next time he says “Bell-Bottom Chana Hey…” and before the guy can finish comes the repartee, “Ye nasa evan Khyana Hey (it cannot be eaten Hey).” Or, you are on a bus in the aisle seat and the person says, “Che pakak na side, mein chuu vatiy vasun (could you move to the side, I have to get down on the way.” The guy in the aisle responds, “ Chey beh andar kun, mein chu ad-vatiy vasoon (you sit on the inside as I have to get down mid-way).”

A bunch of kids goes around during elections shouting slogans, “angreez paith, titi-fiti, titi-fiti; angreez peth titi-fiti (saying it in english titi-fiti; saying it in english titi-fiti),” and then come to the point, “ Vote for Sher-i-Kashmir.” Talking about election times, the fights in downtown between supporters of two different political groups were termed Sher-Bakra (lion vs goat). I can understand why someone wants to be called Sher (Lion) in a situation of conflict, but why would the other group allow themselves to be called Bakra (Goat)?

And then is the tradition of giving names to people that were not originally given by their parents, Farooq “Bijli (lightening),” Jawa “Khattar (lemon car),” Nazir “Gola (round),” Imtiaz “Full Stop,” Gul “Curfew,” “Muku (flat nosed)” Mazari…. this was much before Bollywood started naming its tapori (vagrant) characters in this manner.

If you are only serious in a conversation, you will lose your Kashmiri audience in no time. You have to bring out the humor. So, the next time you are speaking with a bunch of Kashmiris, be ready with your anecdotes, character caricatures, hyperboles and jokes. Even if you are making a sad statement, bring it out as an irony. So be derisive and laugh at others who you feel superior to in some respect; or even be derisive of yourself and let others laugh at you. Having said that, as much as a speaker can help the conversation through humor, it really works if the receiver has a funny bone as well. Particularly, your situational read needs to be right. So, do not blame me if you end up with a Muka Nas (flat nose) for a poor effort or joke.

Humor (hasyam) is defined as one of the nine nava rasas (principle emotional responses). While speaking about Kashmiri humor, we need to separate it from pure laughter or comedy. It is a lot more subtle than that. Humor improves our life experience even in times of adversity and takes us in a direction opposite of stress and anger.
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