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Matthew Gervais, an American evolutionary biologist has traced origins of laughter back to 4 million years when human beings became bipedal. Language appeared only 2 million years after the first laugh. Since then laughter and humour has occupied vital space in everyday life. Anjali Arora enumerates some lighter moments which occurred in her life because of her disability.

Humour and disability has close association. Disability and persons with disabilities are represented with an element of humour in media and literature.

I personally feel that mocking at others is not the real import of humour. Instead, the ability to enjoy life situations particularly those, which are discomforting is the real humour. Adding a humorous element to the difficult situations, makes the conversation enjoyable.

With this view we can find humour everywhere around us, even in situations which are not so pleasant. This can be difficult and unbelievable but undoubtedly important.

As a disabled person myself, I know, and many of my friends share with me the kind of situations they and I face. These are generally situations of people's response towards us as persons with disability of any kind. To find humour in such situations is hard, at least, as a spontaneous response. Humour like other arts and skill is learnt. For me, disability has given me the opportunity to find humour in many things.

It is experienced and observed that some people have so much ignorance about what I as a visually impaired person can do. This is not always about educational capacity but generally, even recreational activities are a matter of surprise and amazement for most. How people respond to a sight of a visually impaired person is interesting, insightful and humorous to think over.

When I think about such incidences, I find humour in many of them. I don't intend to cast any aspersions on any body but the fact remains that experiences pertaining to my disability have extra humour in them. I cannot resist smiling at those whenever I recollect them.

This is an age of customisation but see the extent to which customisation is taken for granted. For example, often strangers or sometimes even known people use the customised language to define the activity, "Anjali, do you watch TV. I mean, listen to TV?"

What goes in my mind at these points of time are series of question to find humour in innocently ignorant statements: Isn't television an audio-visual aid? Is television only watching and is listening not involved? Isn't the expression in English "watching" used only to distinguish it from "listening a radio?"

This customised usage is interesting to look at. I wish customisation like these were more creatively used in services like banking, transportation, and the like. Many more sporadic instances arise that can have an element of humour. Something like the following event is quite interesting.

A visually impaired man came out of the temple after doing his pooja. As he walked away from the temple premises, a man called out from the back in the conventional style,"Soordas jee, Please wait."

The visually impaired man was familiar with the usage of this expression and so stopped. The caller came walking very fast and stopped near him and held his hands very tightly and said, "I saw you worshipping and was curious to ask something, if you don't mind." The visually impaired man said, "Sure! Tell me what is it?"

"I was standing next to you when you were worshiping. I saw you standing with hands folded, eyes closed and your lips moving in prayer of the Almighty. I saw you doing all this in the perfect way prayers are offered! I saw it all! ' Well, thank you,'' he said when all the while he was tempted to say "O! You mean, while I was praying, you were observing me and not praying? Why did you come to the temple in the first place? Anyway, what else?"

"All that was okay, and perfectly performed," the man continued with the same approving tone, "But tell me why do you need to come to the temple for prayers when you cannot see the God?"

"Well," said the visually impaired man with a suppressed smile, "Does one need to come to temple only to see the God? Isn't there something more in the atmosphere and vibrations, which make a spiritual place so special?"

"O yes. You're right in that sense. Temple and other spiritual places have special significance. The vibrations are strong and peaceful. May be you as a blind man can assess vibration better than us — your extra senses," he paused and then continued, "But you can't see the God as it is here in the temple! May I tell you that it is so magnificent... and grand.. .and majestic.. .and beautiful!"

"I beg your pardon?" said the visually impaired man, "God's grace has to be experienced and not seen! Who has ever seen the God with bodily eyes? I personally feel that it is more important that God should be able to see you and me. Right? O! By the way, don't you close your eyes when in front of the idol of worship in the temple? Have you ever seen Him? Do you call seeing the idol as seeing the God?"

The stranger was left in his thoughts. The blind man knew that arguments like these couldn't be won by advancing forceful, logical and rational reasons. Prejudice is far remote from truth than ignorance.

I remember some of the interesting responses to me as a child with disability and curiosities expressed to me. (Innocently ignorant, as I choose to call)

As a child with visual impairment, somebody asked me, "How is it that you can eat food even without being able to see, how does it go straight in your mouth?"

Words could explain only a little. I as a child could hardly understand how to explain this. I only looked at her with surprise and then smiled and said, "O! You mean, you keep a mirror to look into when eating food? Or is it that you can see under your nose also, hmm?"

I sometimes feel that questions like these perhaps cannot be answered or explained in words. Having found humour in these questions, the recollection of these events is precious and enjoyable. I can find humour and amusement in everything that happens with me particularly that which relates to disability and enjoy it all.

Once while travelling in train, a man resentfully pointed, "Disabled people enjoy many benefits. You being visually impaired must be travelling free of cost and your escort also must have paid only half the price of his ticket," I had to smile but thought, "who would like to hav this and many of such concession Hmm?

anjalee.arora@gmail.com

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