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Namboothiri Jokes

Namboothiris are famous for their wit and humour. They generally enjoy it by and on themselves. Even when such wits are aimed at him, he coolly enjoys them and never gets offended. This ability is the contribution of the Namboothiri culture and the surroundings in which he was brought up.

Such an ability to enjoy wits often helps to ease the tension of his mind and relieve pains and sorrows. But many other communities are not familiar with this cultural background. This has led to the feeling that the Namboothiris are stupid. The famous wit of Vaazhakunnam Atithiri is a good example.

Once when the Atithiri saw people decorating the road with festoons, he asked why they were doing it. The reply was that the "thukti" (District Collector) was coming. Then he asked: "So if you decorate like this, he won't come, is it so?" "No" was the reply, "It is because he is coming". "O,ho!" exclaimed Atithiri. "He is coming through these festoons."

It is easy to interpret it as Namboothiri's foolishness. But, the fellows did not know that he was actually fooling those self-styled clever men.

Yet another example: When buses started plying for the first time on our roads, one Namboothiri stopped a bus by just waving his hand. The conductor asked him to get in. Then the Namboothiri said: "I never thought this much when Ittyasu of my Illam (house) told me that the bus could roll through the road, and stop when one waves his hand. It is really a wonder!"

By this statement the Namboothiri pretends to be a fool while making fun of the driver and conductor, without practically losing anything by himself. In addition, by such jokes, he gets the sympathy of the bus operators. Only a Namboothiri could do it.

When the famous poet Vallathole Narayana Menon returned from a Russian tour (which he undertook for raising some financial assistance for certain projects), V S Nambudiripad of Vadakkumkara Mana (popularly known as VSN, who was famous for his wits) cut a joke. He asked Vallathole: "Went with one son and returned with two, is it not?" He went with his son named Gopi, but returned with double gopi ("iratta gopi"). It is a usage in Malayalam meaning "nothing" - Vallathole had returned empty handed.

People will not often understand the meaning and the implications of such a joke. At the same time, it has a sting which pierces the other person. Such statements are referred to as "nasyam" by Namboothiris.

Normally, the wits are quite spontaneous, and the ability is inborn for a Namboothiri. A wit cannot be repeated for a second time because the circumstances are different. The wits are often accentuated and complemented through facial expressions, sound modulations and actions of fingers and limbs.

The roots of Namboothiri wits may be traced to "Koothu", a form of Sanskrit drama performed by Chakkiar community. Namboothiris used to listen to "Chakkiar Koothu" which has given them the training for using and enjoying wits in their daily life.

| Article No:13. | Last update of this article:18th August 2008 |
Article prepared by V. M. N. Nambudiripad.

For more Namboothiri wits: "Namboori Phalithangal" by - Kunhunny, Publishers : Current Books, Kottayam, 96 pages, Price: Rs. 25-00, June 1997

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