Humour writing suffers from benign neglect in India: Writer Khyrunnisa A.

Humour writing suffers from benign neglect in India: Writer Khyrunnisa A.

New Delhi, October 21, 2020

Humour is an integral part of our lives. Laughter, as one discovered from the good old Reader’s Digest, is indeed the best medicine. There is so much to gain when you laugh with someone or laugh at yourself. You learn the positive aspects of life and nothing better to drive home this point than the growing number of Laughter Clubs in the neighbourhood parks. You begin the day listening to the roar of laughter from young and old from the nearby park.

For the affable Khyrunnisa A, an author based in Thiruvananthapuram, humour has been the medium to reach out to her fans. She is a celebrated writer of fiction in humour with two remarkable works – one for children and the other for adults.

As creator of the immensely popular Butterfingers series for young readers, she emerged the number one story teller in this genre. It was hardly surprising when Shashi Tharoor acknowledged her work with a flattering remark for her Tongue in Cheek The funny side of Life, humour for adults, published by Westland Books. “A collection of observations about daily life by a woman with a sparkling sense of humour. A delightful read,” he said in praise of her writing.

Khyrunnisa feels humour writing lacks support. “India does have a fair amount of humour writing but comic literature suffers from benign neglect. The sad fact is that even if readers enjoy humour and critics admit it isn’t easy to write humour, humour writing is still considered a notch below serious work.”

She had a natural bent for humour writing. As she observes, “My inclination has always been towards humour, be it in my choice of books, in my conversation or in my writing. My literary staple is P.G. Wodehouse. I honed my skills at repartee growing up in a large family and my ability to observe the incongruities of life is a great advantage.“

Would P. G. Wodehouse style count in these times? “Yes, I think so. At least in India, people continue to read and enjoy his books. The social world he took delight in satirising might have disappeared long ago but his methods are timeless. He remains the gold standard in humour writing.”

What were the elements that she kept in mind when writing humour for children? “I observe children as much as I can. I try to become a child and think like one. I’m careful never to talk down to children. I get under the skin of my characters and work out what they might do or say that would be funny,” said the award-winning writer of The Crocodile who ate Butter Chicken for Breakfast and other Stories, published by Westland Books.

For adults, the approach was not different either. “My humour is grounded in reality. I observe life through the spectacles of humour, and use gentle satire to highlight the absurdities and trivialities of everyday life. Readers can easily relate to these situations. I take delight in laughing at myself and that is very amusing for readers.”

Khyrunnisa is emphatic that there is a place for humour writing among adults and children. “Children love it. Humour is always in short supply because adults value solemnity while children instinctively love to laugh. They enjoy the Butterfingers series because they cannot resist humour. As for adults, who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh? It’s a great way to de-stress oneself, and especially in today’s uncertain world, people are looking towards humour to help maintain a balanced view of life, and remain sane and grounded."

The two enjoyable books are close to Khyrunnisa’s heart. “Blending lively wit and irrepressible humour with the everyday experience of the modern Indian woman, Khyrunnisa brings together a splendid collection of stories and anecdotes, inspiring many a chuckle and page after page of absolute unadulterated fun,” says young historian Manu S Pillai of her unputdownable Tongue in Cheek.

Readers would love "Where’s the Rubber Band Gone?", "Nerves of Steel," "It’s a Dog’s Life, Anyway,", "Coconut Shy" and "Serving Great Britain" from ‘Tongue in Cheek’.

For her young fans, "Chip and Munk", "Republic, Day and Parade", "When Literature Returned to Spear’s Academy", "Yankee Uncle" and "The Tap and the Frog" are some delightful stories from "The Crocodile…"

Khyrunnisa is emphatic that there is a place for humour writing among adults and children. “Children love it. Humour is always in short supply because adults value solemnity while children instinctively love to laugh. They enjoy the Butterfingers series because they cannot resist humour. As for adults, who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh? It’s a great way to de-stress oneself, and especially in today’s uncertain world, people are looking towards humour to help maintain a balanced view of life, and remain sane and grounded."

The two enjoyable books are close to Khyrunnisa’s heart. “Blending lively wit and irrepressible humour with the everyday experience of the modern Indian woman, Khyrunnisa brings together a splendid collection of stories and anecdotes, inspiring many a chuckle and page after page of absolute unadulterated fun,” says young historian Manu S Pillai of her unputdownable Tongue in Cheek.

Readers would love "Where’s the Rubber Band Gone?", "Nerves of Steel," "It’s a Dog’s Life, Anyway,", "Coconut Shy" and "Serving Great Britain" from ‘Tongue in Cheek’.

For her young fans, "Chip and Munk", "Republic, Day and Parade", "When Literature Returned to Spear’s Academy", "Yankee Uncle" and "The Tap and the Frog" are some delightful stories from "The Crocodile…"

NNN

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