• Mohana Prabhakar

Be serious. Just not all of the time

I think I appreciate humour more and more as I grow older. As a typically moody, angstridden teenager, the funny side of life existed only in the presence of the likes of P G Wodehouse or Gene Wilder. Laughing at myself or at situations involving me was not an option. At all. Ever. It took me only about 15 years to find anything remotely amusing in the ‘Wanted’ notice that a particularly talented student had drawn of me and stuck on the notice board in the first week of college.

Being able to laugh at yourself is not easy by any means, but it is essential to maintaining a healthy sense of perspective and not being overcome by grandiose ideas of your own importance. Unfortunately, with successes of any kind in our lives, along with age and supposed wisdom, we often gather some strange notions about ourselves. We also forget that taking ourselves too seriously can cost us a fortune in blood pressure pills.

In today’s obsessed-with-social-media world, it’s become even more difficult for people to hang on to their sanity. Responses to anything are usually in superlatives only. If a nondescript picture of my nondescript hand resting on a nondescript table gets 80 likes and comments such as “unique and original”, “genius”, “wow, hand” – how can you blame me for thinking I have a bright future in hand modeling and/or photography?

You know you are in trouble if you are one of those who rushes to sit in chairs at events marked reserved or get very offended if you don’t find a place at the ‘important’ table or the ‘important’ row. Or worse still, you want to be on the solitary table at a dinner where everyone is served while the rest queue for the buffet, and when you are not – you leave.

People who get upset if you forget to use the necessary honorific when addressing them fall in the same category. I always feel like telling them that you will be whatever it is you are, and as important, despite me addressing you as Mr Tom by mistake, instead of Dr, Professor, Engineer or Your Excellency Tom. Even more entertaining are their friends, who now take themselves very seriously indeed because of the company they keep.

I’ve never forgotten the banker’s wife who wrote in to say how totally inappropriate it was for us to have published her CEO husband’s photograph with a florist in the same frame. What’s funny here is not that the ‘florist’ was probably better known and more connected than the CEO, but that being pictured with her bothered the CEO and his wife enough for them to make a formal complaint. I did picture them planning out an essay under the title: Pictured

with a florist: The real tragedy at the heart of Muscat.

There are always people out there who make us feel good about ourselves, and we certainly want them in our lives. But equally important are those around us who keep us grounded and make sure we don’t float away to Cuckooland. If only Mr Trump had a few such friends!

I was forced to learn that lesson rather early with a nickname that I am yet to live down within the family: DPM, the long version of which translates into Poached Egg. So when I was appointed CEO of the company that I am with now, even before I had time to get seriously impressed by myself, a congratulatory message arrived. “Fantastic news but don’t forget that you were DPM first.” QED.

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