Laughter Clubs as a Civic Issue
In today’s world where when we step out of our house we are exposed to conditions that affect our health. Smoke constitutes 70 percent of Mumbai’s air. Being the third most populous city in India Mumbai’s roads is packed with traffic in the evenings and during peak hours. So if I leave the comfort of my house and go to work 8 hours a day or attend college till the evening, after battling out getting a seat in the local train, suffering from excruciating heat in the afternoon and then getting drenched while coming back in the evening (why did it rain? well, its Mumbai) all I want is a little bit of laugh and quiet. Broadly speaking all of us by which I not only mean Homo Sapiens aka human beings but also animals, birds, water mammals have two sets of feelings: negative and positive. Well experiencing the latter feeling involves a little bit of laughter and a little bit of quite. Laughter is a wonderful experience indeed. The history of laughter goes back to …ahh well to be precise… duh since humans were born. It was discovered before sleep, before walking, before talking, before eating. So people have been laughing since time immemorial.
But as the saga goes there lived a saint three thousand years ago in China by the name of Hotai, god of happiness, who went to different villages in China, stood at a corner and started laughing. Looking at him the people of the villages also joined him in the exercise. This improved their health which proved that laughing is a good exercise which improves health and brings more oxygen into the body.
History sets the foundation for our present and so the modern day laughter yoga clubs were formed. The first was formed by Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria in Lokhandwala complex , Andheri in 1995 with just five people which has now grown up to be 6000 clubs in 60 countries. Laughter yoga simply means laughing without any relevant reason with pranayama(systematic breathing). This concept is based on the observation that the brain cannot distinguish between real or fake laughter says Dr. Gerald Ellison of Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Members every morning gather around usually in a park or garden and laugh. Laugh out loud. (lol)Laugh out the worries the tensions and the stress. Many such clubs have been formed in Mumbai. To name a few there is a laughter club laughing near the Gateway of India(just below Taj Mahal Hotel),Kurla,Sheetal Talao Pond in the suburbs, Siddhachal in Thane and many more. Never thought why laughing could cause someone any problem (expect off-course your enemies) but recently the Mumbai High court banned a Laughter Yoga Club to stop operating in Kurla. Vinayak Shirsat , 78 year, one of the residents of that area filed a complaint against it. He described the noise caused his family ‘“mental agony, pain and public nuisance,” Well the only activity they were involved in was laughing. The president of the club Sadanand Ghate said,in front of the court,that their objective was not to disturb the neighbours but to indulge in a peaceful activity. The court remained unimpressed and told him to make less noise and to choose another place for the club’s activities. Anti-noise pollution activist Sumaira Abdulali measured the noise generated by a laughter club in Joggers Park,Bandra and found that the noise emanating reached upto 65-80 decibels which is equivalent to noise of traffic. Since laughter clubs operate in the quite of dawn this would be seen as an unsocial activity. The question to ask is that should laughter clubs which have been operating for the past 2-3 years be told to stop operating just because few residents have a problem? Dr.Sanjay Kumawat of Thane mental hospital says that, “Laughter club as an organisation and concept should be carried on keeping in mind neighbours peace and quiet. Members should find a common ground instead of forming small groups to operate”. Is there another rule in the rulebook of archaic laws of India which says that laughing should be banned? Where will the group go and how will they operate?
Laughter clubs all over Mumbai is causing lots of disturbance to the neighbours which make it a civic issue. Noise be it laughter or traffic comes under the broad category of noise pollution.