Mumbai: Laughter Reigns Supreme As World Laughter Day Originates And Thrives In The City

Mumbai: Laughter Reigns Supreme As World Laughter Day Originates And Thrives In The City

The pandemic had taken a toll on these laughter sessions but it also opened a new door with online communities.

Dhairya GajaraUpdated: Friday, May 10, 2024, 03:22 AM IST
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Laughter Day | Salman Ansari FPJ

The city of dreams, without any exaggeration, can also be called the city of laughter as the celebration of World Laughter Day actually started from Mumbai. The city has been celebrating the day since 1998, much before the West started celebrating it. The evolving celebrations have reached every area of the city, with morning joggers also practising laughter therapy along with their exercise.

World Laughter Day was celebrated on May 10, 1998 for the first time in Mumbai at a public park in Borivali by a practising physician Dr Madan Kataria. Ever since, the day is celebrated on the first Sunday of the month of May. At every public and private park in the city, one can see groups of joggers and others starting their day with an open-hearted laughter session. Fitness enthusiasts, especially senior citizens, engage in a light workout session, ending it with pure laughter.

Laughter therapy coaches say that laughing brings changes that are not possible with physical exercise. Kishore Kuvavala, 77, a former cricket coach, has been practising laughter therapy since 1995 and had organised a competition at Priyadarshini Park in 1996, which attracted 800 participants. He organises free sessions at Girgaum Chowpatty on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He told the Free Press Journal that laughter releases feel-good hormones that show instantly.

“Laughter improves oxygen intake, while also improving the health of lungs. It also enhances dopamine and serotonin levels, which makes one feel better. Instantly, a person feels good, charged, energetic and young. If one person follows laughter therapy, it brings happiness to the entire family. Laughing also attracts people, which results in communal harmony as well as national integration. Along with the bank balance, we should also focus on increasing our happiness balance,” he said.

From 1998, the Juhu Laughter Club has been organising laughter therapy every morning at the beach. Around 80 people join the session for physical exercise, including napping, balancing and yoga asanas, followed by laughing exercise. The group also invites special speakers, including doctors, astrologers, motivational speakers on Sundays to speak and enlighten the members about a wide range of subjects.

Haresh Modi, 70, a member of the Juhu Laughter Club, said, “Everyone has their own set of problems but laughter helps us forget all that, at least momentarily. Everyone likes watching a smiling face and laughter therapy is the best way to practise it without humour.”

In the eastern suburbs, Mulund has three major laughter clubs functioning with around 300 members. Kishan Chainani, a retired bank officer, had started Hariom Laughter Club in 1995 at Hariom Nagar in Mulund (E) and then started another club at  Sambhaji Garden also in Mulund (E) in 2005 and then the Mulund Manoranjan Laughter Club in 2014. The participants of these laughing sessions are not only members of the club, but are a community in itself. The Mulund Manoranjan Laughter Club has 151 members and celebrates all festivals and birthdays of its, which generates a feeling of harmony and love.

Bhagwan Gaikwad, 62, a retired professor and a member of Mulund Manoranjan Laughter Club, said,“A one-hour morning routine is the best part of the daily workout. During this time, we forget all our worries and it also improves our outlook towards life. Laughing is the best medicine and we have seen it in a young, special member of our group who has shown improvements since he has joined.”

The pandemic had taken a toll on these laughter sessions but it also opened a new door with online communities. Even after the pandemic restrictions were withdrawn, the online sessions continue to be organised for people from across geographies.

Farida Mesiwala, 57, who was a corporate training manager, got certified as a laughter yoga therapist during the pandemic and continues to conduct online sessions till date. “There is not much difference between online and in-person sessions as all we need to do is laugh like a child and de-condition our brain. After the pandemic, the laughter yoga sessions have shifted offline but there are a lot of people who want to participate from the comfort of their homes,” she said.

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