We had already gotten a passive, aggressive wordless warning from Uncle; when he knocked into the room to check if everything was okay. We had our exams the next day and after two hours of play and endless chatter, when we finally sat to study, we were laughing about something like maniacs, curiously affected by some laughing gas in the room. Our laughter used to be very loud. I don’t remember what were we laughing about. Next, Pooja (my best friend) gets called downstairs for something and I see her walking towards the door. Some cartoon-like impulse, makes me get up and fake a kick at her. I wasn’t even thinking. Turns out, she wasn’t either. She pulls my raised leg in self-defense and in the next second, I fall flat on my back. “Dhaaaaaaaaaaad.”
Interestingly, I don’t remember the hurt, at all. I am sure it must have hurt. I remember we laughed for an hour. The stomach hurt, yes. We also went downstairs to try and explain it to uncle and Aunty but our attempts were futile because we just couldn’t stop laughing and they weren’t able to decipher. They summoned us to go back and study, and perhaps sometime later pen down a memoir on this supposedly hilarious incident write in the middle of our final exam studies. Well, I finally get the time of doing that today. Twelve years later.
The school was full of such moments of contagious laughter. There was no tickling required. They would look at you and laugh thinking of a recent random incident and it would be so contagious that you’d laugh back. And none of you would be in the senses of asking or answering what the hell is the matter. As a defence mechanism to not be kicked out of the class, one’s head should either be below the bench or hidden behind a bunker like a tall guy/girl. Although, thinking of it now, being kicked out of class would not be so bad either. There was no attendance to get cancelled over there. I’ve clearly missed the chance.
While growing up, a serious instruction manual came for us girls, enlightening us about how to speak and laugh. I hope some came for boys too. But with the seriousness of the menstrual talk or sex talk (that interestingly would never happen), we would be told, “Girls shouldn’t laugh that loudly.” Woah. This was new at that point in time. Another new thing that came without saying, almost contagious first and then subconscious: We got to keep our hands on our mouths while laughing. It became subconscious after a while. Remember girls/women around you putting their hands on their mouths when they go ‘hehehehehehehehe’? It has taken me years but I have gotten myself out of that bad habit. Dude, I have beautiful white teeth and my mouth doesn’t stink. I need not put a hand on my mouth.
I think laughter requires a curious element of imagination and surprise. We should be taken aback by an incident or a joke that it surges laughter out of us. We lose these things while growing up. Nothing surprises us anymore. Adulthood as we know it is a serious responsibility. Our workplaces have no scope for laughter because laughter means distraction. So with all our emotions transferring into short forms or emoticons, even laughter gets transformed into ‘LOL’ and ‘ROFL’. It’s almost funny that we send out a huge, ‘hahahahahahahahahahahahah’ without even a flicker of a smile on our faces. Poker face is the new veil. Seflies are the new outlets to smiles. Poses are the new make beliefs.
Kids of the generation after us got the worse of it (later in the 90s). They got mobile, Facebook, Instagram, etc so early in life that they got used to the ‘Lol’ and ‘Rofl’ even before they could experience the real laughter. Some people, even in person say, ‘LOLs’ instead of actually laughing! Wait, there are deeper layers to this shit. It’s apparently a little feminine to go ‘hehehehe’ and masculine to go ‘hahahahaha’. I’m not good with biology but I think with the whole surge of digital conversations, our body has adapted to creating this small bubble of laughter when we see something funny and then it goes off quickly. The older generations have started needing laughter clubs because lives are so lonely and no one to talk to.
We are still laughing, trying our best to pick out laughter from our friends’ group, online tv series, Kapil Sharma, etc. We take pleasure out of shaming people: body shaming, culture shaming, gender shaming, and what not. And we remember that as the only way to laugh now. It’s not like the child in us wants to. We have put the paperweight of adulthood on it. But let’s not lose hope. Let’s hold on to that hilarious friend and literally laugh out loud, whenever we get a chance. Listen to those laughing voices that add up to a great life.