Monday, June 05, 2006

Laugh and be laughed at

Few years ago.Woke up.Checked the alarm clock.6:00 am.Me and get up at 6:00 - No way! What woke me up, i ask myself. i remember hearing sounds similar to the collective war-cry of a savage tribe attacking a colonoial outpost. Oh...just a dream...but i still dreaming? i can still hear them...and here i am in bed wide awake...what is it?....A vociferous 'stop-the-war-in-Iraq' protest? A better-roads-you-idiots-at-the-Bombay-Municipal-Corporation agitation? At 6:00? Na! Who knows - maybe a Wiccan ritual to be performed at dawn.

I go back to day, same lazy head ignores it again...the next day again! This is too much! Took me some days to force myself out of bed against my own will and figure out the source of the racket that was shattering my tympanum.

So i trudge across to the garden three buildings away at 5:45 am and sit alert on a bench. Nothing suspicious. Young executives on a jog deperately trying to get themselves into shape to impress Wilma, the new secretary in the office. Uncles and aunties in Kurta-Pyjama and Nike shoes on a 'brisk walk'. Gujju share brokers loudly predicting the outcome of todays 'market'. Two Iyer mamas sitting opposite each other and doing Pranayama.

Then suddenly the whole scenario changes. I find people converging to the large green patch in the centre of the garden. Brokers, joggers, everyone just stops doing what they were doing. Or not doing. Which brings me to the philosophical question of 'how do you stop doing something you weren't doing?...but er...we're digressing.

So anyway, all these guys are all robotically converging with deadpan seriousness towards the centre of the garden. My worst fears of an ancient brotherhood of necromancers performing some hideous morning ritual seems to be coming out right!

Worse to come...they suddenly start flailing their arms all about without any instruction from's all so automatic as if they're under some spell...i observe with bated breath...AND THEN OUTTA NOWHERE....ALL OF THEM GO...HA, HA, HA..HO, HO, HO!!!
Here i am, in the middle of Bombay, watching a bunch of people go....HA, HA, HA..HO, HO, HO....what the hell's happenning? Did anyone crack a joke i missed? Unlikely. Creepy stuff, this.
And then as i wonder what's happenning, the laughter dies down into susurrations. Everyone take a deep breath and then again....HA, HA, HA..HO, HO, HO....

Please, can someone tell me what's happenning? I look around...some people are unconcernedly going about their walks/jogs. Am i the only one who thinks this is wierd? Luckily i spot a group of teenagers laughing their guts out watching these laughers laughing. I also see a brinjal seller genuinely shocked (and amused) by what's going on. Ok, so someone thinks this performance is not normal. I think there's something spooky going on...brinjal guy+teens find it funny...but we're agreed this is not normal. So i trudge across to these teens and gently ask them what in the name of heavens is happenning.
"They're laughing"
"Yea...i can see that..but they don't look amused"
"Of course. They don't have to be amused to laugh"
"They're part of this laughter club. They call it 'Hasya Yoga' - the yoga of laughter. They force themselves to laugh. They think it relieves tension."
"So does this happen everyday? Do you guys come here everyday?"
"Oh, we come here to laugh at them laughing. Currently all weekdays. Wish they'd do this everyday - gives us a brilliant start to the day watching these guys go....HA, HA, HA..HO, HO, HO"

I just didn't believe this! Had we come to such a stage that we have to force ourselves to laugh? Is the world around us so depressing? If we were to believe the members of the Laughter Club, the answers to these questions are 'Yes'.
For me, the best part is the part where they laugh in vowels . So, in most Indian languages the vowels go like - a, aa, e, ee, u, uu etc. and they laugh like 'Ha, Ha, Ha...He, He, He...Ho, Ho, Ho'. and people like me who used to watch them for sheer entertainment went 'haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa......gasp...gasp...someone help...can't take it any longer...get me outta here..haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa'
If you don't believe me, check this super video - thanks to Rajiv who referred me to it - which is close to what i used to see everyday. Everyday, till i got bored watching people laugh.
Watch this, i'm telling won't regret it...and somewhere in the middle of the clip, watch the teens in the background laughing their guts out...
On a more serious note, i know many people think this is good for health. Maybe. But it seems so artificial to me. And if it isn't natural, it isn't 'yoga' like some proponents of this exercise claim. Sure laughter is good for health. But forced laughter? In fact, if you see the faces of some of's so serious!...there's such a forced attempt at laughing. Why not breath in and out deeply in that case? Will produce the same effect on the abdominal muscles or whatever.
Plus, i don't quite like the fact that laughing loudly in a group in the early hours of the morning (or whenever actually) deprives others of their peace and quietitude. That's then being insensitive and selfish.
For me :
Laughter - yes!
Forced laughter - No!


Crizzie Criz! said...


in the exact same order. While in college, we had this bunch of elderly jokers who used to do the same thing. Anyway, you never know, once we are older and needs to trake therapy to laugh and stay healthy, we just might join this bunch of old jokers ourselves!

Sharan Sharma said...

True, CC.
One never knows how we might turn out.

Anonymous said...

It was hilarious seeing those ppl force laugh...completely agree with you! have seen many ppl do the same on the beaches/parks of Chennai...and I seriously believe that this effort is counter-productive! :p