• Monday, September 22, 2014

The court jesters are back!

Shahnoor Wahid

IN the days of the mighty kings and queens there used to be one or two court jesters in every court whose main responsibility was to entertain the nobility with outlandish words and acts of acrobatics. They were the comical sidekicks who would often disgust the gentlemen present in the court, but these clownish cronies enjoyed impunity of sorts from the king.

History tells us that the presence of a jester in a court dates back from the time of the Roman Empire through to the middle ages. We find such jesters in many of the plays by William Shakespeare, who were usually known as Shakespearean fools. It is said that Queen Elizabeth -I was a great admirer of such jesters in her court or in stage plays. There were jesters in the courts of the Asian kings too. The latter day Zamindars of Bengal also employed court jesters for pure entertainment. There is hardly a Bengali who hasn't heard of Gopal Bhar, a legendary court jester in medieval Bengal. He was one of the nine gems (Navaratna) in the court of Raja Krishnachandra, the famous king of Nadia in the 18th century AD.

Well, even though the days of the kings are long gone, continue to exist in the present era, of course in different guise. Many of them have joined politics to make the profession a bit more “entertaining”. In fact, there are politicians who will not be remembered for doing any great service to the people but will be done so for doing or saying weird things - like their ancient counterparts – court jesters. Many of them became presidents, prime ministers and MPs of powerful countries and took upon themselves the responsibility of doing the comical act like the jesters of the bygone era. These politicians of a special breed often bring comical interlude to otherwise a grim and mundane environment that politics often tend to create.

We remember a mighty president of a mighty powerful country “entertaining” the world with his “wit” and “Wisdom” for eight long years. Some of his one-liners and two-liners are reproduced below to drive the point home.

Looking at the national budget he once said: “It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it.” Then he entertained the crowd with the following: “Yesterday, you made note of my -- the lack of my talent when it came to dancing. But nevertheless, I want you to know I danced with joy. And no question Liberia has gone through very difficult times." Here is another one: “I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right.”

We have such jesters in politics in the neighborhood as well. Many of them have left politics but will be remembered for their “wise words”. At home, not too long ago one such character declared in a public meeting that he would sweep the streets of the capital if his king (read president) had ordered so. I am sure hearing this declaration some of the municipality sweepers had some should panicky lest one of them had to lose his job. Thankfully, the jester soon vanished into oblivion.  Another clown of the same era had declared in another public meeting that two women getting together would “produce” nothing.  Ironically, the same two women had thrown him into the gutter soon after.

We remember another jester declaring his intent of catching the 'satrus' following a series of bomb blasts in the country. This clown had sufficiently entertained the people with his hairstyle and wacky comments while in power. To top it all, he even suspected a Hindu wounded man from the blast to be an accomplice of the fundamentalists who had blasted the bombs!

There is no shortage of such people around today either! They continue to 'entertain' us with their verbal garbage. Nothing would deter them from saying or doing weird things in public meetings, and the worst part is they suffer from the delusion that they are educated, intelligent and witty. And they interpret the chuckle of the people as appreciation of their “intellect”.  They make the job of the news editors easy in selecting the lead story. And oh! How the naughty cartoonists love them!

 The source of fun and frivolity never dries up and as soon as they open their mouth - OMG! - All sorts of venom start to pour out to vitiate the environment.  But, no matter what we say or write, some of the wise characters will continue to “entertain” the people with things they can do best- talk rubbish.

The writer is Special Supplements Editor, The Daily Star.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, September 05, 2014

Last modified: 11:26 pm Thursday, September 04, 2014

TAGS: court jesters

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