My freedom to think: ‘In India, humour can get you killed’, India Today. Dated, 10th August, 2016

CEO and co-founder, Culture Machine, a Mumbai-based digital media company for the Internet generation, Sameer Pitalwalla, 31, is the force behind such YouTube channels as Being Indian, mapping the country’s quirks; Put Chutney, spoofing South Indian idiosyncrasies, and Blush, which mirrors the lives of the modern Indian woman.

freedom-sameer-pitalwala-aug22-1_647_081216020250Steve Bell, famed cartoonist of The Guardian, worked out of coffee shops and bars, with nothing more than a pen and paper. In that nexus of those two seemingly inanimate objects, he could pervert, celebrate, mutilate, subvert or support anything. A nuclear power, culturally. Its isotope, Humour. Absolutely unstable. In India, it could get you killed. A creative rule of thumb at Culture Machine is, do what you must, but draw the line at getting your office burned down. We really should instal those sprinklers.

An old Penny Arcade comic once described all Internet comment in a succinct equation. Internet + Anonymity = A**hole. You put the Indian internet commentator in a room with Humour, and that’s a lesson in tolerance and patience right there. Mahatma Gandhi would be proud of the Independent Indian Social Sanstha. The true depth and texture of our culture lies between those grimy, dirty corners of the ‘show more’ button. Freedom to laugh isn’t about what’s in the video or tweet or just good old hand-drawn cartoons. It lies in the ability to have a voice if you disagree, or agree, or just don’t care, m d bst #foreva #yolo #iam13 #whatevs. On a scale of beheadings at one end and South Park at the other, we lie somewhere in between as a nation. Madly oscillating between both extremes, depending on a tense balance between the mob being fed and the political might of a community. Our current broadcasting laws follow the same ambivalence. They are stifling at best, and can be singularly held responsible for the lack of innovation in content on television. But it’s also because of them that Internet has bloomed as a breeding ground for new genres. Comedy has been the first upright walking ape that’s jumped out of this Cambrian explosion. This cradle of the web is the last unregulated frontier where anything, truly goes. It’s vital it remains wild and free. Where offence can be taken, but not as lynching. Bad spelling and grammar are as effective an outlet. The sacred and the profane both open to jest, robbing neither of their potency. If anything, like a lot of Life and Steve Bell’s or Hemant Morparia’s cartoons, they grease our daily lives as we flip through our timelines, finding another fix through an evaporating file, to this thing called life.

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