REVIEW: THE FUNNYMAN WHO WAS ALSO A SAILOR

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I read the book “The Funnyman Who Was Also A Sailor” a few days ago. The suggestive title made me wonder if the sailor was a funnyman or the funnyman became a sailor. It looks Asokan Ponnusamy, the author, is congenitally funny.

The slim volume contains 47 stories. Most of them are real life experiences the author had in the navy. Some are about his riotous childhood and some more, his life after navy.

The zany humour in his love stories make you smile throughout. His narrative many a time reminds you of P G Wodehouse. Take this for instance: “I saw that the silly girl had got it all wrong. The situation needed correction on an emergency basis. I immediately started nodding my head to convey to her that I indeed was younger than her but realised that the second part of the question about acting funny needed shaking of the head. So, I stopped the nodding halfway through and took up the shaking. This was a cross between nothing and nothing. I ended up making a complete fool of myself. The girl was getting impatient and had no time for my antics.”

Seven articles about his days in R S Colaba, a small navy establishment, bring a young sailor’s playful life alive. A few lines here: “To sit in the beautiful garden with a glass of chilled beer
whenever a drizzle the size and sharpness of pine needles came down from the sky to ever-so lightly caress us to the accompaniment of mournful songs from the HMV record player that was in the barracks was heaven on the earth. Lord, did we savour the moments so very thoroughly!”

What is navy without adventure? This is from Ophiophagus Hanna and A Sailor; “It could not be the aborigines, the natives to the archipelago who did not consider “outsiders” as friends. They were domiciled on some other islands two hundred nautical miles away. Besides, we were sitting ducks for them to rain their poison-tipped spears on us but it did not happen. So, it was not the aborigines. I looked at the weapons we brought. They were lying in a heap ten feet away. I was the nearest to them guns” .

Three stories are quite unexpectedly poignant. They touch the deepest cord in the softest corner of your heart. A prodigal son’s redemption is told touchingly in Green, Green Grass of Home and a sailor’s hopeless love, in The Foolish Sailor and His love. A paragraph from a story on unrequited love:

That the author had been a mischievous child is very clear from the antics he had indulged in. That never had his humour seen a depletion is also very clear from what he has been doing in his recent years as an ex navy man.

Boredom is a word that is completely alien to this book. You can see the shape of things to come right from the set of short reviews which starts with this one: “He will make you laugh at his funeral.”.

Go through the dedication, Preface and Reviews in the attached file.

An excellent book recommended for reading

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