Having a laugh with Manipal’s Laughter Club3 min read
The morning air is filled with loud guffaws and chortles – the sound of Manipal’s Laughter Club doing what they do best. Laughter to them is a way of life, therapeutic in nature and glorious in purpose. The members of Manipal’s Laughter Cub (also known as ABC – Always Be Cheerful) assemble every morning at the Manipal Junior College ground at 6 am to laugh their way to health and happiness, by practicing special laughter exercises that have been specifically tailored to their requirements.
The Laughter Club started about 10 years ago when a senior citizen from Hyderabad borrowed the idea from her home city when she moved to Manipal to be with her grandson who was enrolled at Manipal University. The club has grown immensely from its inception, now boasting over 40 members from in and around the city.
Mainly consisting of senior citizens, the club organises various events to engage and distract the members from the drudgery of their daily life. Hemnath Hegde, a member of this club, discussed in length with me about how the club made it a priority to make its members feel young again – by creating an aura of camaraderie and engaging them in different activities throughout the year.
Mostly bank retirees, this club offers them a chance at leaving the solitude of their homes and interacting with various people in a similar situation. Laughter, claimed to be the best medicine, certainly cures the members of loneliness that one tends to associate with old age.
One of the more exciting activities of the club is their trips to Malpe Beach every other week during the non-monsoon season (November to April). The dreariness of daily life is literally ‘washed’ away when the seniors go swimming in the cold Arabian Sea waters. They then replenish themselves with a hearty breakfast together. Another unique aspect of this laughter club is that it organises many interesting get-togethers – for instance, once a year the members partake in a family picnic in a scenic spot, usually 15 or more kilometres away. This allows them to travel, to bond, and to experience new activities along with their friends and loved ones. They are also entrenched in religion – the club organises pilgrimages to major religious centres and attractions. For instance, the members of the club recently had taken a journey to Sabarimala, Kerela, to visit the Iyappan temple. Allowing a safe and affordable journey, the members of the laughing club experience these places with like-minded people.
When one mentions a laughter club, people assume that it consists of just a congregation of people getting together and laughing mindlessly at nothing. Unsurprisingly, this is not so. A unique amalgam of exercise, yoga and laughter had been created nearly twenty years ago, and the members of the Manipal Laughter Club follow the internationally recognised format of Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga, or Hasyayoga, is an exercise routine developed by Dr Madan Kataria in the mid-1990s. It was initially practiced in open parks early in the morning by small, intimate gatherings of people. He then started the first formal “Laughter Club” in Mumbai on the 13th of March, 1995 and the idea has since spread like wildfire. There now exists more than 8000 Laughter Clubs in over 100 countries around the world. “The Manipal laughter club gives us a pleasant distraction,” explained Karunakar Shetty, an active member of the club. “It gives us an early start to the day and allows us to spend our time in constructive manner.”
Edited by Antara Krishnamurthy