Friday, July 15, 2011

No Pain, No Mirth

A good week to everyone. Been a long time hasn’t it? I have been in the wilderness of nail biting. Seriously though, I hope everyone’s okay. My heart goes out to the victims of the Lagos flood that happened on Sunday. I took one look at the rain and knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I began to get uncertain once the rainfall passed the two hour mark, then it went on to three and then up to five before the pictures started to come in, on my phone by beeping in with pictures of submerged vehicles ranging from tricycles to even SUVs. Someone took a picture of their sitting room with exquisite lime green leather armchairs, a settee and an ottoman. A portrait style television hung on the wall at the far end complete with its accompanying home theatre system and the speakers that stood tall on either side of the television. A dark shimmering floor that looked like the best resin coated marble floor ever, completed the picture. The only trouble was, the floor seemed to have risen halfway into the furniture, giving it the look of a quasi Japanese sitting room, famed for its extremely low furniture. The picture began to get darker as images of corpses of people being carried along by the rushing waters of the canals began to filter in - as if we Nigerians don’t have enough natural disasters in the pompous forms of our ‘leaders’. This is one aspect of pain that is serious and leaves a sombre taste in the room with much shaking of heads after such tales of irreparable loss have been spent. Let’s spare a prayer for them.

The other aspect of pain is one from which people derive a lot of mirth and pleasure. Heck, some even make a very lucrative career out of it – comedy. Has anyone noticed that nothing is ever funny without the basic foundation of pain, suffering and loss. For a joke to be funny there must be one, two or all these three of the named ingredients. Take for example this joke. Two merchants who were also friends were walking home after a successful day’s business. They decided to make their journey even briefer by taking a shortcut down a narrow alleyway. As they walked down the alley, they noticed a gang of hoodlums emerging from the shadowy walls of the alley and advancing towards them. It dawned on them that the inevitable was about to happen to them. Without missing a step, one of the merchants reached into his bag, took out a smaller bag that contained all his takings for the day, turned to his friend and said, “Tony, here’s the five thousand dollars I owe you.” See what I mean? People getting mugged and one trying to be smarter than his pants is found to be funny. Why? Is it the punch line? Or is it that the recounting of the painful experience of the teller evokes memories of a similar painful experience from their audience to generate an abundance of mirth?

I remember recounting an experience I had MANY MANY years ago in a company gents room to my friends in the UK. I had gone to the rest room for some much needed relief which soon turned out to be a rather noisy affair. I had only been there a few moments before I heard others come into the lavatory. Alas the sluice gates had already been opened and there was to be no holding back; the noisy torrent had to run its course. There was a respectful, almost embarrassing silence afterwards for just about two seconds before I heard taps open and then the splash of washing hands with seeming deliberation. I did not move – the other occupants of the room seemed curious to know the perpetrator of the leaden bombs and the staccato gunfire – it was not going to be me. All through the repeated washing of hands, the metallic roar of the blow drier and the clanging of the hand towel machine, I remained cemented to my throne, long since done, and resolute. Only when after an extended silence, a quick flush and an even quicker exit to dissociate myself from the offending toilet booth did I, after washing my hands, make a dash for my office and avoided detection. My friends literally rolled on the floor with laughter. To them, my story was funny but not as funny as the fact that it gave voice to the hidden embarrassments they felt under the same situations I experienced but could not talk about. My pain, their mirth.

I will in a few days’ time give you an example of some pain I experienced and what it cost me, for your mirth. In the meantime I would like some of your thoughts on why people’s pain is a source of joy to many. Have a great week guys!


  1. Hmmm, good one! Don't know, maybe it is because we often don't know how to deal with bad news or embarrassing situations; so we make light of it by laughing or making mockery of it....

  2. I think there is a word for it, scheden...something something, lol...

  3. Well written Mr Kalu! Very well written! And to answer your question, I totally agree with Sarah. We have to make light of the situation and laugh to keep from crying. Have a blessed day!