Winston Churchill once received an invitation from George Bernard Shah to attend the first performance of a play by him. The invitation contained two tickets and a note 'Enclosed are two tickets for attending the first performance of my play. Bring a friend, if you have one'. Not to be outdone, Churchill wrote back a reply 'Thank you for your invitation. Unfortunately I am engaged on that night. Could you send tickets for a second performance of the play, if there is one'.
Life is full of situations where our overconfidence, our curiosity, and our eagerness to act smarter and outwit others, our superiority - all lead us to many verbal duels. Giving and receiving tit for tat is a subject that has fascinated me, being either a victim or a victor on many occasions and having seen such situational comedies in everyday life.
Trying to be overtly polite and polished can sometimes invite lightning snubs. I was once attending the inauguration of a painting exhibition at Kerala Kalapeetom in Cochin. After the ceremony, some of us were engaged in a chat and then the secretary of Kalapeetom , Mr. V. Kaladharan , came to me and introduced a plump full-grown man who was the past correspondent of Times of India. He was a keen connoisseur of classical music. So we instantly established a rapport and only when I was about to leave did I realize that I didn't pay attention to his name when he was introduced. So I posed a bit and asked him in a pretended style 'Sir, May I know your good name?' He ripped me with his repartee, ' I have only one name and that is Balagopal'.
When I was working in FEDO in Cochin there was a colleague of me who used to regularly flee from office during working hours. Once when he was caught, my boss asked him where he had been. He said, ' I had been for a haircut'. 'Well, you know you can't have hair cut during office hours.' my boss countered. 'Why not? It grows during office hours.' my friend replied. 'Not all of it', shot back my boss. 'Sir that is why I didn't have a full haircut', snapped back my colleague
Unwanted queries and curiosities can sometimes land us into a tit for tat comedy. A few years back, I and my family visited Madras. My brother-in -law had just got married at that time. Our spouses normally show a lot of inquisitiveness to know many things after marriage. One day while roaming in a zoo we came across a hippopotamus, which turned out to be an attraction for my children. Suddenly my sister-in-law asked her hubby 'Sanju, Sanju ! Is that Hippopotamus, male or female? ' My brother'in- law quenched her curiosity and said 'Dear, that should be of interest to only another Hippopotamus'
Sometimes our verbal volleys surprisingly ricochets back on us. While I had been to Dubai during the last shopping festival, I ventured into a gift shop to buy a pearl for my wife. While scanning the price tags, I realized that I needed a fatter wallet to do any purchase there. A smart salesman came to me and asked 'Sir, May I help you '. I didn't pay any attention to him and continued my scanning. After sometime he came and asked me again, 'Sir, Can I help you'. I was about to leave and I thought I would give him a shot. 'See, I am now just looking at things. I will come back to you when I am a millionaire'. Before I could smile at my reply, the fellow shot back 'Welcome Sir, We are open up to Six O'clock'.
Underscoring someone's genuine sense of humor can also invite surprise rebuttals. I am reminded of an incident that a Naval officer told me. Naval Officers have to undergo regular medical check up to ensure their fitness. Their doctor used to tease everyone with unwanted questions. On one such routine check up session, a smart middle-aged captain was standing in the queue for his turn. While plugging on the ECG, the doctor enquired 'When did you have sex last time'? The captain replied '1959'. The doctor then tried to pull him ' Oh my! Come on man, what is ailing you?' The captain looked at the watch and said, 'That is not long ago . Now, it is only 20:15'.
Home is the battleground for many give and takes. A friend of me used to quarrel very often with his wife but still managed to maintain their bond thanks to his fine sense of humor. On one occasion he had a nasty verbal exchange with his wife and asked her to go to hell. A few minutes later she started packing her heritage in her suitcase. By the time my friend had cooled down and asked her 'Yes, Where are you going '. 'To hell itself', countered his wife. My friend did not loose his balance ' Oho! Then, tell my ' Salaam' to my father-in- law and 'Mother-in-law'.
Trying to act smart with your wife will sometimes reveal a smarter face of her. To please my wife, I told her last week that I have plans to take her around the world every year. She shot back 'Thank you, At least you are taking me around the sun every year'.
I remember another Occasion when I had to go for a program in the evening at 7 PM. I had told my wife that I wanted to take supper and leave. I was really mad when it was not ready in time. I told her that I am going to a restaurant to have food. My wife then said, ' Wait, just 5 minutes'. 'Will it be ready then?' I screamed from the door. 'No, but I will be ready to go with you', retorted my wife
Wit and sharpness at the right moment makes a retort really dazzling. I recall this riveting riposte of Churchill. Obviously annoyed by an inebriated Winston Churchill, Lady Nancy Astor, an American socialite woman, once taunted him, "Winston, if you were my husband, I'd put poison in your coffee" to which he responded, "Nancy, if you were my wife, I'd drink it."
Lastly, I once reminded a new Toastmaster in our Toastmasters club that a tie is a must for attending meetings. He looked at me and said. - 'Mr. PGR, I need a rope with a knot around my neck only once in my life. Thank God! The time has not come to do that yet'. Dear Boloji reader, you can loosen your tie now and let that laugh out.