[Note: recently decided to write a little bit more about the inspirational artists I’ve encountered over time. And no better or easier place to start than with comedy.]

Humorists observe universal truths, then present them in ways that make you laugh and think. Some examples come to mind - Douglas Adams, Oscar Wilde, Stephen Colbert, P.G. Wodehouse.

One name from my youth in India doesn’t get much attention nowadays: Dr. Surendra Sharma, an exponent of हास्य रस कविता (humorous poetry) and awardee of the Padma Shri (India’s fourth-highest civilian honor.) His poker-faced, mild-mannered, monotonic rustic delivery of लुगाई (wife) jokes made him famous; but Dr. Sharma has way more depth than that.

Recently I found some of his YouTube clips, and have been listening at every chance I get. Some choice observations:

ऊँचाई नहीँ होती है पतंग की। ऊँचाई होती है पेड़ की।
जो जितना बढ़ता है, उतना ज़मीन में गढ़ता जाता है।

“The heights don’t belong to the kite; reliant on winds and attached to strings held by another.
The heights belong to the tree; the higher it grows, the deeper it sends roots into the earth.
Grow like a tree, don’t soar like a kite.”

हमें कुछ भी नहीँ ग़म था, अगर ग़म था तो बस ये ग़म था…
जहाँ कश्ती मेरी डूबी वहाँ पानी बहुत कम था।

“I don’t have many regrets; just this.
That the waters which sank my boat turned out to be so shallow.”

मेरा बेटा exam में 45% ले आया। मैं खुश हो गया, क्यों कि मेरे 51 आये थे। और अगर 95% ले आता तो अमरीका भाग लेता। अब मुझे छोड़कर दिल्ली से ग़ाज़ियाबाद भी नहीं भाग सकता। और मेरा सुख इसमें नहीं है कि मेरा बेटा अमरीका जाकर ५ लाख महीना कमाता है। मेरा सुख यह है कि मेरा बेटा ३० हजार महीना कमाता है, मगर शाम का खाना वह मेरे साथ बैठकर खाता है।

“My son scored 45% in his exams - I was very happy. If he’d gotten 95% he’d have run away to America. Now he can’t even run away to the next town. And sir, my happiness is not that my son lives in America earning 500 thousand a month. My happiness is that my son earns 30 thousand a month, but sits down to eat his evening meals with me.”

जिस काम को आप करते हो, जिस काम से आपका घर चलता है, जिस से आपका पेट पलता है… जब तक आप उस काम को इज्जत देते रहोगे, मुनाफा होता रहेगा।

“When you go to work, go like you’re going to pray at a temple. Because after all, those things that you ask for in a temple, are delivered to you through your work.”

बच्चों को आप कार मत देना, संस्कार दे देना। ऐसा न हो, जो बच्चे छोटी उमर में आपके कपडे गीले करते थे, वही बुढापे में आपकी आँखें गीली करें।

“Don’t give your kids possessions - give them values. Otherwise those kids who used to wet your clothes in their infancy will, in your old age, moisten your eyes.”

मैं यहाँ सबसे छोटी उम्र का कवी हूँ। क्योँकि सम्पत्ती वह नहीं होती जो आपने खर्च कर ली। सम्पत्ती वह होती है जो आपकी बची हुई होती है।

“I am the poet with the lowest age here… seriously. Because I don’t talk about age that’s spent, I talk about age that’s left. Wealth isn’t what you have already spent, wealth is what you have left.”

राजा बोला यह रात है।
मंत्री बोला यह रात है।
अफ्सर बोला यह रात है।
मीडिया बोली यह रात है।
और यह सुबह-सुबह की बात है।

“The king said it’s a dark night. The minister said it’s a dark night. The officer said it’s a dark night. The media said it’s a dark night. And this happened every morning.”

भ्रष्टाचार मिटाया नहीं जा सक्ता। अपना निर्णय लेना पड़ता है कि हम भ्रष्ट नहीं होंगे।

“You can’t eradicate corruption. You can only decide, for yourself, that you won’t be corrupt.”

“Keep a high vision. The king’s job is not to eat with the dalits. The king’s job is to work hard to make sure the dalits can eat like kings.”

“Our worst crime was that we started voting for political parties, instead of voting for good persons. Had we voted for good persons, parties would lose elections… but this country would never have lost elections.”