Tell us about the last time you had a real, deep, crying-from-laughing belly laugh.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us JOYFUL.
A real laugh. A moment when the manipulation of my facial features combined with the joyful sounds tumbling out of my mouth was genuine and not forced as a social obligation. A feeling of pure and untainted happiness. Such a beautiful feeling.
Until even a few months back, I had quite forgotten what it felt like to be really, wholly happy. Something always brought me down and sometimes that ‘something’ could be nothing. I became used to sitting around and being sad. Other people were not okay with it, though. Sometimes, it bothered them more. Me, I stopped caring about why I was sad. I had mastered the art of pretending to be happy and make all the right kind of expressions at the correct times. Just to be on the safe side, I limited my interaction with people, choosing instead to avoid them or dislike and criticise them heartily. Boarding school or home, I had built a fort of sadness around me and I was going to stay there.
It isn’t that way anymore. The difference now is that I don’t pretend. I am talkative, I am quiet – whatever I want, whenever I want, depending on how I feel. It’s so exhilarating to be able to feel whatever you want without letting society have to decide what expression I ought to wear on my face. I mean, really, freedom of expression is such a wrong phrase because society always wants to decide whose face should wear what kind of expression.
But that’s not the point. The point is, now when I laugh, it’s because the joke is funny or the situation is. I choose to or my reflexes choose to. My emotions haven’t packed their bags and gone on a vacation – they’re here, occasionally exploding in little bursts to let people know that they exist.
When people chat or text, they use a lot of abbreviations, a lot of ‘text speak’ or ‘chat lingo’. The common ones for expressing a response to something funny would be ‘LOL’, ‘ROFL’, ‘hahahahaha!’ and ‘xD’. But do we ever really ROFL when we say it? We’re not rolling on the floor laughing while replying because, I suppose it would be a trifle hard to reply to any SMS or Instant Message if we’re rolling on the floor.
But I have laughed. I don’t need to type ‘ROFL’ onto a device to laugh. The last time I let out a solid genuine guffaw was today (or, seeing the time, yesterday). My mother, sister and I are home together while my father is away on an official trip. My mother, sister and I get along fabulously despite our tiffs. We always have a lot of fun. It’s slightly impossible to not have fun with my sister because even though she’s the most serious, committed and hardworking person I know, she’s also one of the best comedians ever. More than funny, she has the knack of telling the most absurd things in serious situations.
I was studying Physics with focus (if I’d been studying about light, I could have made a brilliant joke right there), my mother was reading and my sister was reading Geography aloud. She was reciting, “Sambar Lake, in Rajasthan…” All of a sudden, she decided it was the right time to announce what she thought of the name. “Rajasthanis must get a lot of sambar from the lake, na?” Sambar happens to be a South Indian dish and on hearing this abruptly, my mother and I set off into peals of laughter. Pleased at having a receptive audience, my sister carried on for a while. “It’s a season lake… does it rain sambar there?” “It’s raining sambar, hallelujah, it’s raining sambar…” (Reference to the song “It’s Raining Men”.) All through, my mother and I kept laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world. After momentarily quieting down, my sister resumed studying in all seriousness, I went back to attacking problems on electric currents and my mother went back to her book. It was my sister’s voice saying, “…Dal lake…” that made me look at my mother curiously to see if she would look at me too. She did. We both set off into Laughter-Land once more, muttering breathlessly, “First sambar, then dal… all these food lakes…” My sister grinned sheepishly before joining us.
There was nothing extraordinary about the joke, nothing extraordinary about the timing, nothing extraordinary at all. Rather, everything was quite normal. And yet amidst all this normalcy, simple thoughtless statements caused so much laughter that the aura is still here, while my mother and sister sleep and I recount today with fondness. The only thing out of the blue was how I had changed my way of looking at things. When a few months ago, I would have looked at my sister distantly and wondered why she was interrupting my work, today I took the moment and lived it. It finally feels meaningful to laugh again because now, I am not doing it to show them I’m enjoying. I am actually enjoying.