There are some such people, who really can not laugh,
But they can make others laugh,
I belong to this group.
The land of Saurashtra has produced eminent humorists. About Shahbuddin Rathod, we can say he is one of them but made of different soil which differentiates him from other humorists in a sense that, along with telling jokes and funny incidents, he has shared his wit too in form of inspirational life stories, spiritual sayings and philosophy. As on August, 2009, he is 71 years and 8 months old.
Mostly people know him as a humorist only. But his personality has few other corners too. He himself is a good reader. Painting is his another hobby. He showed us some of the paintings drawn by him, one of them being of a bird – how beautiful it was. Looked like, only one thing was missing in the painting and that was the vitality to be poured in it!
Very few people would have an idea that a Gujarati movie named “Shahbuddin Rathod no Hasya Varghodo” will soon be released, which is written by him. He has also played a small role in the movie. Speakbindas was fortunate enough to have spent some moments with him and tried to fetch some interesting treasure from his knowledge and experience bank.
VIDEOS OF THE INTERVIEW, TOTAL 5.
TOTAL DURATION 43 MINUTES.
Shahbuddin Rathod Interview Part 1
Excerpt of the Interview
- Q1: You’re heartily welcome to Speakbindas. According to you what is “humor”?
A1: Humor to me is the shortest distance from human to God. If you can laugh deep inside your soul, then it becomes the entrance to meditation. So it’s like either you can laugh or you can think. Both the things can not happen parallel. And when you laugh, laugh from your deep soul and at that time you remain in thoughtless moment for a while. Those moments are precious. When someone laughs in a rattling way, he lives in the present moment and in present moment there is no existence of mind. Hence, you can enjoy it.
- Q2: Along with being a humorist, you have also worked as a teacher. So a humorist and a teacher have been supplementary to each other?
A2: I was teacher for 13 years in Municipal Highschool, Thangadh. I also studied there and I received a teacher’s job there on 1st February, 1958. For 25 years I was Principal of the same school. Gandhiji’s one saying that has inspired my humorist career is that Humor without seriousness and seriousness without humor, both are meaningless. So being a teacher, making use of education I made humor serious and making use of humor I made education simple and easy. You will hear rattling sound of students during my teaching period in the class.
- Q3: As a teacher, what subject you used to teach?
A3: I earned my B.A. with History and Politics. I attended M.A. class with entire Gujarati and English followed by B.Ed in English and Hindi. When we used to teach, we had to teach the subjects we were asked for, not by our choice. I have taught almost all subjects except Science, Mathematics and Sanskrit.
And for ten years (1967 – 1977) for the fees of just Rs. 3, we tutored students for three subjects – Mathematics, Science and English.
- Q4: As you said that your age as on today is 71 years and 8 months. Would you please shed some light on your present life?
A4: Swami Vivekanand used to say that you have to move from lower truth to upper truth, not from untruth to truth. For children, toys are everything. For young, TV serials, cricket, movies which infact are totally meaningless but at the time of youth they become meaningful. For them it was the TRUTH. And when a person crosses the age of 60, thoughts and subjects do change. They tend to blend towards religious activities such as Ram Katha, Bhagwat Katha, Bhajan etc.
At present I do few things randomly. I go for a walk with my grandson Armaan at morning, noon or evening. I also do drawing and painting as a part of my hobby. Any creative activity is an enemy of natural tension. I can say that I have started working after I got retired! Of course, my programs of humor are organized regularly. But generally either I am reading or writing something or else I involve my time for painting. Irregular life is ugly life. We should live life with certainness. So I hardly find extra time from all these activities and I involve my self in these activities based on priorities. I also maintain daily diary, like in today’s note it is written that to give interview to you and then present my program in the Tarnetar fair. So I spend my time in thinking, reading, writing, painting and with family. And mostly, I spend time with my inner self.
- Q5: To people Shahbuddin Rathod is a humorist, a teacher, a speaker or a writer. But what would it be if Shahbuddin Rathod has to say about Shahbuddin Rathod only?
A5: Well, I always wanted to become Shahbuddin Rathod and today I am Shahbuddin Rathod. Only when people start comparing themselves with others, troubles start. Ficus Religiosa (Piplo) never wishes to become a Mango tree!
I am fond of talking and as a bonus I received job of a teacher. Bless is thee who has found his work. Not all are fortunate in the world that they love the work they do. I have always loved reading, and during when I was Principal, our school library had 10,000 books.
You should write something which is worth reading, or you should live your life which is worth writing about. I have written total of 10 books, one of them is in Hindi too. You asked me earlier that how is my present life, right? I am also involved with a movie of whose dialogues and storyline I have written. I also play a small character in the movie. This is an effort for providing pure humor through the medium of a film. Title of the film is “Shahbuddin Rathod no Hasya Varghodo“. Approx 70 percent of the shooting is done, which was shoot in Thangadh, Devsar, Rupavati etc. nearby villages and will resume after Tarnetar Fair is over.
- Q6: Rathod Saheb, after reading your writing, we tend to feel that your reading would surely be versatile and vast. So who are your favorite writers, mostly those whose writing affected you?
A6: I can say that you are right, because since the age of 14 I started reading. And even today at this age, not a single day passes when I haven’t read something. Have read so many books. In those, the author that I consider as my favorite from the point of humor’s view is Mark Twain. Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is my favorite book. And in Gujarati, ‘Bhadrambhadra‘ written by Ramanbhai Nilkanth. I also like writings of Manubhai Pancholi (Darshak). I also had times when I and Manubhai used to interact wit each other and when he told me a very nice thing that Realization should be done in Humor, not reaction. A real humorist can produce innocent humor only after going through various sad times, troubles etc.
- Q7: It is said that to laugh is easier than to make others laugh.
A7: Well, there are incidents in world of recovering from severe diseases through humor and laughter only, without any medicine. One such known incident is of Dr. Normal Cousins. He has written two books, viz Anatomy of Illness and Healing Heart. He was the editor of a medical journal for 28 years. And when he severely fell sick, he was diagnosed and told that he would utmost live for next 90 days and was asked to take his decision. He decided first to quit working at the hospital. And what he did later was, he kept watching only comedy movies on a film projector. He used to drink only lemon-water, and kept laughing and laughing watching those funny movies. And when used to get tired, he would go to sleep. And unbelievably, he was totally cured this way which inspired him to write the above books I just mentioned.
The summary is only that, you should laugh like anything, the rattling way. Secondly, if you yourself can not laugh, then make others laugh. There are some such people who really can not laugh but they can make others laugh, and I belong to this group. Lastly, you must work real hard.
I would also say that; develop craziness for something that makes you mad! So when I have nothing else to do, I just do paintings which make me forget everything else. Yes, it takes time to initiate it.
But these days, if people observe their entire day routine, do they find even a single thing that which is not associated with money?
- Q8: In your life journey of so far, any such special incidents that are stored in your memory treasure?
A8: There are lots of incidents in my life journey. It’s been 40 years in humor field. Let me tell you that to which incidents people consider as important, can not be planned. They just happen, accidentally. And the same applies to humor too. You can not cultivate the joy, it happens. Gandhiji used to say that until you don’t realize the truth, you can not perceive true knowledge and until you don’t find true knowledge, you won’t get true joy.
So if we look around us, we find that the class of joy has decreased and its reason is nothing but ignorance. The best joy of life is which is earned with paying minimal compensation. And which you can observe in this Tarnetar fair where villagers do come, a drummer plays his drum and the villagers dance with joy. It is received with minimal compensation. So life is nothing but the process of purification. And as the joy becomes pure, it becomes supreme-joy and that only leads you to supreme-personality, Godhead.
So if you observe the names of saints, you will find ‘Anand‘ as prefix in their names like Swami Anand, Swami Satchitanand, Swami Akhandanand. Shankaracharya has said in Vivek Chudamani that an enlightened mind obtains God.
Now coming to your question. I went to Las Vegas, USA. Gambling pleasure-seekers from around the world do arrive at Las Vegas, a casino city which is situated in state of Nevada which is a desert area and you feel like you are wandering on the land of Kutch! And apart from gambling, many others kinds of shows are organized there. But it indeed is majestic. Casinos like Scissors Palace, Flamingo etc. are most popular there. When you visit Scissors palace, you feel like you have entered the real fort of Julius Scissor. I observed it all and felt that the joy served there was so cheap.
I have set a principle for my self that humor should be created keeping the greatest level of decency. I also have another principle that I had set years back and is that to travel the world without spending own money! And that way, so far I have traveled total 22 countries including 4 times to USA. From my childhood, I was fond of traveling. But financial condition was not suitable then. One thing that everybody should note in their minds is that, your passion becomes your way to where you want to reach.
Jitubhai Mehta who resides in Jamnagar is a very good friend of mine. Once he suggested my name in an event of folk dancing, which was to be organized in New York and London. I was to present my humor program in between the intervals of folk dancing. And receiving the same invitation, I went off from Than. Additionally, I gave press notes along with my photograph in six daily newspapers about my abroad program (on 4th November, 1988).
Now don’t know what happened actually, may be some issues between sponsors and event organizers, that I received a fax which said that the program itself has been cancelled. I was speechless. My ticket was confirmed which costed Rs. 18,000/- and I was asked either to return it or if I want to go then expense of the same would be on my own. I decided to go. I had no much money at that time, so I borrowed Rs. 5000/- from a friend to buy visitor coupons for USA visit. So in totally, I was under the debt of Rs. 23,000/-. I called up Jitubhai and enlightened him about the situation. He positively told me to catch the plane, and said that he will take care of the rest, because he was aware about my passion for traveling. I had read the biography of Mark Twain where in which it was mentioned that, at the age of 58 he was having debt of 58000 dollars and 60000 dollars at 60 and at that time he decided for a world tour.
So inspired by this incident of Mark Twain, I stepped on the plane. I had only 10 dollars in my pocket but I was in a good suit with a diplomat bag that I was gifted from Muscat. So my outer look was sure of an international tourist! Only thing was that I had no money! But I believe that 10 dollars are enough to call up someone. So this was an accidental event in my life and I reciprocated in a positive manner deciding to go anyhow.
So summary of this experience in short, I would like to say that, from New York to Los Angeles, I gave 20 programs and traveled most of the America. I started receiving invitations from Gujarati Samaj of particular cities and that way I presented my programs at Washington, Charleston, Chicago, Houston and ultimately at Los Angeles which is around in total 4500 kilometers.
So my decision of going ahead without plans and following my passion of traveling USA, helped me to repay my debt of 23000 and not only that, I earned extra Rs. 72000/-.
- Q9: My last question. In your so far life journey, you have been to many places and situations. You have read many spiritual sayings along with that your inner-sense too would be suggesting something. What would be a message to people regarding life as the collective output from this?
A9: A labor asked Jesus Christ that I am a worker and I don’t even have enough time to attend your preaching due to my work. And nor I have enough wit to grasp your preaching. So tell me something that after hearing the same, nothing else remains to hear. Jesus replied “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Lord Mahavir was asked, what is the summary of Jainism. He said “You act to others the way you expect them to act to you and vice versa.” It includes everything.
There is no whatsoever relation between religion and spirituality. We humans do mix the both. The tree that you see is the religion for instance; its root is the spirituality. Root is always beneath the soil and tree always outside. Spirituality gives direction to life. And spirituality is the birth of ardent desire to find out the TRUTH. Everybody has to find out his own truth. I was telling you about my experience in Las Vegas. After I visited and observed the same I was noting down in my diary and I remember J. Krishnamurti’s three sentences. He says “Know the truth as the truth. Know the false as the false. Find out the truth from the false.” Chaste of virtuous wife was not the real truth but an established one. So following the same, after observing Las Vegas I noted down in my diary “We should never indulge ourself in this business!” Maxim Gor visited Las Vegas and noted in his diary “People of this country would be really sad otherwise their way of entertainment can not be so deadly.” And truth means to see the things as it is.
Speakbindas: Thank you for spending time with us.
Shahbuddin Rathod: Thank you.