The nearby city of Hubli here in Karnataka held a unique competition last week ”An Abuse without Offending Contest”. Its goal - to judge intelligent and inventive ways of abusing each other. I had to check the date of the newspaper – it wasn’t April the First! 350 participants took to the stage either solo or as a duo (husband-wife, friends or brother-sister). The type of abuse was strictly controlled - participants were not allowed to use filthy language or hurt others with regard to caste, creed, religion or sex but could insult others using English, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam or any other Indian language. Evidently the aim of the competition was ‘to find a peaceful language in today’s troubled times.’ The winners were an elderly couple, Savita and Gangadhar Hiremath, married for more than five decades. They argued, quarreled and abused each other – and had the audience in gales of laughter with their inventive and witty insults, and they walked away with the first prize. Their prize – a garland of flowers.”We’re happy to win the first prize. On the stage we stayed natural and used language which we use in our daily life,” said the couple in unison at the end of the event.
When I was a teenager we used to learn Monty Python scripts off by heart and recite them at the back of the coach on the way back from sporting fixtures (its a bit embarrassing to admit this now). One of our favorite sketches was the ‘I’d like to have an argument’ sketch, where the hapless Michael Palin, wanders into the wrong room, and gets a volley of abuse. When he looks bewildered – his assailant realises he is lost and tells him, ‘oh this is abuse you want room 12a for an argument.’ Never did I think I would come across this in real life.
Maybe….. and this is a very tentative maybe….. there is some point to this bizarre contest. The organisers claimed “Most often a verbal duel turns offensive and leads to physical fights. Thus we want to encourage people to make their habit of abusing or scolding fellow human beings without any malice and thereby also enjoy and have fun in the process. Friendly bantering should be encouraged between people to vent their anger.” Having worked in all boys school, I used to find the majority of banter tiresome, especially in the staff room, but recognise that it could be an important way to let of steam. I have to acknowledge there were some geniuses at it – especially the students. Some of their observations and use of language could make me crack up, which could be a bit embarrassing, especially when trying to teach a lesson. I perfected the trick of writing on the whiteboard with my back to the class when I was battling to keep a straight face.
Wonderful ………………… Only in India!