Vaikom Muhammad Basheer’s ‘The World-Renowned Nose’: The Psychology of the Masses and the Stupidity of the Crowds
‘The World-Renowned Nose’ is a satire on the psychology of the masses. The humorous piece talks about how one man who bears a distinct physical uniqueness experiences the peaks of fantastic achievement as well as depths of defeat and despair – all because of society’s view on his unique physical feature. Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, a giant of Malayalam literature, is an ultimate word craftsman. Through a satirical take on the psychology of masses, he also delves on the stupidity of the crowds.
Basheer observes the human character through a magnifying glass. His works are equal mixture of humor and pathos. For Basheer, there is humor in man’s extreme emotions, especially if they spring from man’s extreme conditions. Through a simple narrative, using simple language, Basheer has managed to tell a human condition that is no way simple.
It may be a story about Kerala Muslims, but deep within the story is a clever tragedy about people anywhere that are trapped in lives not easy to comprehend – even by themselves.
There is nothing ethnic in Basheer’s story except that it happens to occur in a certain time and place. The plot occurs till this very day. Simply replace the very long nose with another controversial aspect worthy of being talked about by the multitudes and one can see the universality of Basheer.
In the story, the man grows a nose to such a length that people who initially saw it were revolted by the sight. The man’s nose became a source of despair and humility for him. But his fortunes will soon change. Because of his controversial nose, the young man becomes a millionaire, then a movie star, then a certified celebrity. “That long nose reaching down to the navel was considered a sign of greatness. The long-nosed one gave his opinion on important world events.” Just when the man becomes well-renowned, “It was at this time that conspiracies were hatched to capture the long-nosed one.”
Enterprising people saw how a controversial long nose can be used as a noisemaker – because people talk about it non-stop. These people suddenly want to use it for political propaganda. The nose was a definite source of popularity. Political parties soon fought over the man and his nose.
The man’s fate took a strange turn of events as he and his nose got caught in the political whirligig where the warring political parties outmaneuver each other just to get him to join. As he gets more popular and politically controversial, the more adversities befall him as more and more people want to pull him down and destroy him. In the end, the man and his nose have managed to create such a political conflict among political parties in his country. All the fuss that the controversial nose has merited was also used by enterprising parties for their respective selfish interests.
Basheer’s ‘The World-Renowned Nose’ is a cruel paradox of life. It is a philosophical definition and social statement rendered in cartoonist fashion. The fantastic story about a man with a long nose is ultimately the tale of success, betrayal, and tragic controversy.