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Listen for the Laugh of Love

Published: 25th October 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th October 2015 10:33 PM   |  A+A-

We were running up a set of smelly steps when my friend said something about the ‘holes in the stairs’ (there were gaps where the risers usually are) staring at her menacingly. I tried to say something sympathetic, when the image of the stairs rearing up to attack my friend floated in front of my eyes, and I began to giggle instead. My friend tried to frown at me, but laughter is contagious and soon she was chuckling too. It started out small, as laughter often does, but soon we were guffawing so hard that we had to stop and clutch the dirty handrail for support.

A third friend was already at the head of the stairs with the children. They turned to look back at us, doubled over the side. The kids were confused; one thought I was throwing up. But my friend understood straight away. “What’s funny,” she asked, a smile beginning in her voice. I couldn’t explain. I was too busy choking on my giggles, trying to shove them back into my throat. In a bit, she started chortling too. She didn’t know what the joke was but just the sight of her two friends roaring with laughter, immune to the stink around them, was enough to set her off. We kept at it for the next five minutes, all three of us howling with laughter, tears streaming down our cheeks. We stopped periodically, but one look at each other and we would crack up again.  

You could call it a non-moment. I’d call it a case study in camaraderie. Laughing uproariously with people you love is a joy that is difficult to top. I’m talking about the kind of laughter that starts for no reason at all and ends with a belly ache and dripping eyes. I’ve seen old uncles, whose sphincter muscles have let go, laughing so much with their friends that wet spots have appeared in their pants. And that’s just made them laugh more. As a child, I remember watching my grandmother shaking with paroxysms of laughter just because she’d caught her sister giggling hysterically. “Why are you laughing?” she kept

asking between her snorts. Her sister couldn’t reply. She was too busy banging the table and struggling for air. I can never forget the sight.

Have you ever found yourself laughing for no reason other than someone near you is also laughing? Science tells us it’s because laughter is especially catching when you’re with people you trust; that you’re 30 times more likely to laugh when you’re with someone than when you’re alone. It also tells us that the cause is immaterial; laughter is a primal human tool that helps make and maintain social bonds. Women, apparently, laugh more than men, especially in the presence of men. At work, bosses laugh more than employees who laugh generally in response to a joke told by the boss. I guess you’d call that social laughter, a communicative act to let someone know you appreciate his sense of humour. 

My vote, however, goes to spontaneous laughter with friends; the kind that has you rolling in the aisles. Not only does it expend calories and lower blood pressure, it also reinforces relationships. Who wouldn’t shed a few tears for that? shampa@newindianexpress.com



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