Laughter: The Best Medicine!

November 21, 2017 India , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Joann McPike/THINK photo



Ananya S Guha


The latest howler. A university in Pune says that to be eligible for a gold medal a student must be a vegetarian or a strict teetotaller. Of course, after protests, the University in its post wisdom has struck it off. That is beside the point. We can still make an issue of it and we will.

Firstly, what is so great or untainted about being a vegetarian? As if it has some moral stamp about it. I know many vegetarians who love to hit the bottle. So moral standard number one cancels immoral standard number one. Such people I suppose figure in the world of the amoral, not to forget their mystic chants and so on.

Secondly, this ten year old notification served what purpose? To discover gold medallists or holier than thou university products?

Thirdly. how would the authorities ensure that the winners did not eat or drink on the sly? Were there periodic alcoholic tests?

And fourthly, to which domain did egg consuming belong!?


Well, I suppose ridiculous decrees must spurt some equally ridiculous questions. This brings us to how morality is transfiguring or rather making societies and people demented.

The cow is holy, vegetarian food is the best, we must be votaries of our culture, practice yoga scrupulously, then we stand on the threshold of attaining ‘pure living and high thinking’.

Bertrand Russell once wrote an essay: ”The Harm That Good Men Do” where he debunked neatly the belief of a moral code, stratified and coded. I forget further details, but remember it as a hilarious subversion of a pontificating morality of ‘do and be good’. But such protagonists he asserted did more harm than good!

Also bringing in the mention of consumption of alcohol in the university precincts is itself a temptation, to ‘break bounds’; what else? College and university students are very vulnerable and love to take challenges, invert niceties and have a big laugh. Let’s see whether I can get away from this and still get the gold medal.

This is the first time I heard an academic institution behaving in such a holier than thou and off putting manner. Young bright students want appreciation, for intelligence, wit, hard work and co-curricular activities. The last and least they want are moral prescriptions. You can’t have strictures as guidelines to do well and perform.

I am sure many in the past were deterred to get what must have transpired to be an elusive gold medal indeed. Following Indian culture, another stipulation is not only vague but also a reinvented ploy of a monolithic Indian culture. Some of the paradigms are: yoga, vegetarianism, sun worship, cow worship, reciting mantras, etc. Such vagueness can be a source of irritant to young minds. Those who are already doing them, need not be reminded.


I wonder what ails our culture vultures today? Do they not have the satisfaction of witnessing Indians across all walks of life, embracing one in the many, and many in the one? Are they not seeing how the Hindi language is unifying the country, across North, South and even North East and East, the last two albeit previously recalcitrant?

Then what is happening to the burgeoning culture of reality shows, some of which like ‘Big Boss’ openly use vulgar and profane language? The burgeoning television culture of non edifying serials? Can they put a restriction to these, so that children will at least study, gold medal or not.

Culture has become a travesty, curriculum, caricature. Instead of busily dishing out gold medals, universities must rework syllabus, making them relevant to work and real life situations, test aptitude for the discipline, with practical applications of knowledge.

That this order has been revoked is certainly a good thing. The world is very conscious today of rights and wrongs. Indians too, are quick to react to rigidity and moral spams. But what is irksome if not worrying, is the institutional proclivity to favor, please and blandish political authorities. Education bungled with politics is a throwaway.

History has been lacerated, and now studies sought to be redefined, with ‘moral’ admonishment? Laughter certainly is the best medicine in such caricatured situations. The Readers Digest is absolutely right!





Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha was born and brought up in Shillong, North East India. He has seven collections of poetry and his poems have been published worldwide. They have also been featured in several anthologies. He is also a columnist, critic and editor. He now is a Regional Director at the Indira Gandhi National Open University and holds a doctoral degree on the novels of William Golding.

Editor review


  1. Rick November 23, at 16:14

    I worked as a World Vision volunteer in Calcutta for fifteen months -- you so eloquently paint the pulse of the nation. I am such a fan of your writing... Peace.


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