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He is determined to elevate humour to intellectual level

To Dr. G. Lakshmipathi humour is an outcome of a ‘peaceful mind’ and a ‘guarded verbal assault’

— Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

Coimbatore: If you were to miss even a single word, some inflection, the intonation and the emphasis, the way he articulates, you might have missed some humour or other. Humour virtually courses through every pore of his speech - occasionally acerbic as well. But it is mostly to keep the listener in good humour and relax him a bit.

The bespectacled, grey-haired and serene looking 74-year-old member of the medical community in Coimbatore is an unlikely candidate to fit such a bill. Dr. G. Lakshmipathi, who hails from Chennai and is set to celebrate his 40th year of domicile in Coimbatore shortly, is certain that humour is the property of the middle class. The president of Coimbatore Humour Society, he is determined to elevate it to the intellectual level.

“While the affluent remain slightly remote and pompous, the weaker sections are all the time bent upon making their ends meet. But, it is the middle class, especially with big families, have loads of humour, including repartee,” he tells G.Satyamurty.

An FRCP, an undergraduate and postgraduate teacher for 35 years, and a consultant physician and cardiologist, he has authored not only two medical text books on management of outpatients but also four medical humour books including ‘Ha ha therapy’, ‘Delights of Dementia and other essays’ and ‘Dictionary of Cynical Medicine’. A sought-after speaker everywhere because he is capable of retaining the attention of even the medical community through sparkling wit and humour, probably he is one physician who is invited to address almost every kind of specialist medical association. He has been addressing any number of such meetings for the last three decades. To him humour is an outcome of a ‘peaceful mind’ and a ‘guarded verbal assault’ and he predicts the ‘survival of only the wittiest’.

He points out that even the Fortune 500 companies rate only those with a sense of humour as capable of getting on well with the people and thus endowed with ‘people’s skill’. Serious men are generally deterrent. “Most of the orations are ‘borations’. Humour helps one to make his point clear and also get noticed. Otherwise the only man who listens to you very attentively is your next speaker”. A Mylaporean, who describes his previous residence as the ‘street house’ as it was opening into the street and hence constantly in touch with what was happening on the street (where people are not guarded and behave originally), he points out that his classmate, journalist and actor Cho S.Ramaswamy and the cine comedian S.Vee.Sekar are also Mylaporeans. “You can pick up a lot of good humour on the streets if you were to observe the people closely.”

While the current apartments are ‘unfriendly’, bungalows rarely permit the pleasure of observing the people intimately. “And those were days we used to have at least two hours of solid cricket on our return from school unlike the present day children who are confined to tuitions virtually round-the-clock.” Dr. Lakshmipathi feels one should be able to laugh at himself. He has a dig at his own fraternity here. “Doctors take themselves very seriously and pretend as if they can postpone your death. They are not only a little pompous but also feel very comfortable with other people, especially with their patients outside the hospital. Even in social gatherings, they gravitate only to the medical community. For many of them, there is hardly any social or even domestic life and some burn themselves out. It is extremely wrong to be so serious.”

He asserts that medical colleges teach them only the ‘science of medicine’ and not ‘the art of medicine’. “While a good doctor is one who is very well technically trained, a better doctor boosts the morale of the patient. But the super doctor is one who can cheer them up. This could be done only when you make the patient laugh and come closer to you.”

“In 60 per cent of the cases, talking and listening to the patients will help get the correct diagnosis. Joking itself is a therapy. Unfortunately, many not only keep a stiff upper lip but also treat the patients as inanimate objects - comprising an assembly of organs.” Dr. Lakshmipathi gives a very interesting example. Many patients suffer from ‘functional diseases’ like ‘irritable bowel syndrome’. How to treat this? “No college teaches them how to attack the illness but only the disease. Thus the patient gets virtually separated from the treatment. What is important is to understand the psyche of the patients and thus manage their illness. Everything depends upon the attitude of the doctor. Indian doctors should also learn to laugh.” He does not spare even his fellow speakers. “There are almost 100 occasions in Coimbatore to address a meeting every month and all put together hardly makes any sense.”

Similarly, he has no love lost for the ‘laughter clubs’ because he feels the exercise is ‘contrived’. The so-called ‘diabetic laughter’ is nothing but ‘crap’. While he admits genuine laughter is good for health, he asserts humour should not be hypocritical. “According to Indian ethos it is better to start crying clubs because the brain that is watching the one indulging in a sham will be so amused that it will start producing endorphin (which is a natural and spontaneously evolved painkiller and produces euphoria) which the laughter clubs are aiming at.”

Basically, Indians are not funny people. “Tell me one joke from the Ramayana or Mahabharatha.” They are not capable of spontaneous humour. They revere you only when you are solemn. Though they do enjoy humour, they deem those indulging in such an exercise as clowns. To him, there are only two kinds of people who are involved in humour -paid entertainers and philosophers. While the first group has to make others laugh, philosophers know the futility of everything and hence are capable of laughing at everything. “I have now gathered about 300 like-minded people who are opposed to clowning but determined to raise humour to the intellectual level. Though the Humour Society was started six years ago, it has been active only for the last three years. We are not aiming at popularity but quality.”

Dr. Lakshmipathi closes the discussion with his now famous ‘cell phone technique’ for de-stressing oneself. “Get out of your house, use your cell phone and vent your feelings without dialling anybody. That is a free, cheap and not misunderstood mental catharsis.”

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