Eat, drink and be merry, for laughter gives your body a workout, provides perspective to the mind, and gladdens your heart. It can even edge you towards enlightenment. It's time to get serious about fun
Doctor Ho HoMeet Dr Madan Kataria, founder of the Laughter Club International, and the man behind the ‘happydemic’ sweeping the world
If there were redemption in laughter, Dr Madan Kataria would be a good candidate.
Laughter, to the good doctor, is a solemn mission; as well it might be to the man who initiated the laughter revolution in India, through the introduction of laughter clubs.
There are now 1,300 laughter clubs all over India, and 700 outside India, including USA, Europe, and the Far East—a phenomenal showing for a movement that began with five members on March 13, 1995.
‘‘Initially, we started with jokes and anecdotes, but after 10 days we ran out of jokes. That’s when I got my breakthrough. Why not laugh for no reason? People were sceptical."
"But in a group, laughter is infectious and pretty soon all simulated laughter turns into regular, stimulated laughter. Anyone can laugh for 15 to 20 minutes without recourse to jokes.’’
Dr Kataria has refined his laughter routine into three sections. The first is hasyayoga, which deals with a combination of yogic asanas and pranayam. The second is playful laughter.
‘‘Children laugh because they want to laugh,’’ says the doctor.
‘‘They laugh 300-400 times a day, unlike adults. There’s a great need for a space where adults can play, which we provide here.
We laugh while simulating holding a mobile in our hands, or pretend to be pouring lassi from both hands. When we started playing like children, inhibitions began to melt and humour started flowing.’’
The third is what he calls value-based humour, in which a person will laugh while bringing the thumb and forefinger of the right hand into a circle of appreciation for the other.
There’s also laughter that pokes fun at oneself. Then there’s crying laughter, which is a combination of laughter and tears, to help one reconcile to the interplay of opposites.
What started off as a light-hearted exercise became a full-fledged spiritual path three years later, when the wife of one of his members called Dr Kataria up.
‘‘My husband laughs heartily at your club, but when he comes home he shouts and screams at me,’’ she protested. ‘‘That gave me a shock,’’ recalls Dr Kataria.
‘‘Laughter cannot be only amusement and entertainment. Real laughter is your nature. This incident led to my creating Inner Spirit of Laughter, a spiritually inclined programme that decrees that your happiness depends on the happiness of others. Now I feel our technique is justified in calling itself hasyayoga, for it actually yokes our own inner being with Divinity.’’
Today, the good doctor’s mission is nothing less than health, happiness and world peace through laughter. He has even instituted a World Laughter Day, which falls on the first Sunday of May.
Last May, around 9,000 people met in Copenhagen to celebrate it. Dr Kataria has now given up his medical practice and spends all his time transiting the world, spreading good cheer.
But he never charges any money for helping create laughter clubs. After a brief training, people are free to set up their own clubs.
Dr Kataria says: ‘‘Earlier, I used to be ambitious—chasing fame, position and money. Funnily, now that I am no longer focused on making money, I am earning a lot more than I ever did, by holding seminars and stress management courses.’’
Who can doubt that Dr Kataria’s life is blessed? To make people laugh is not a joke. Its a gift.
Contact: Madan Kataria,
Ph: (022) 26316426,
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