When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you, but when you’re laughing your neighbours complain of “mental agony, pain and public nuisance”…At least, they do in Mumbai where the High Court has ordered members of a ‘laughter yoga’ club to restrain their joy.
The judges have told local police officers to find a way for the local residents of a Mumbai suburb to have the last laugh in a long running legal battle over whether the sound of laughter amounts to “aural aggression”.
The case was brought by 78 year old lawyer Vinayak Shirsat and his family after an informal yoga club started meeting in a lakeside gazebo by their bungalow.
They complained that between 10 and 30 devotees gathered outside their house every morning at 6am and started singing devotional songs, clapping and exhorting one another to laugh out louder.
According to their lawyer, Veena Thadani, it is no laughing matter. “It’s true that laughter is contagious, but if 30 people laugh every day in your window and you wake up to the sound of this cacophony you do not start laughing. They encourage each other to laugh louder – ‘laugh through your belly! Laugh through your eyes! Laugh through your ears!’ they shout,” she said…
Laughing yoga has grown in popularity throughout the world after it was developed by Mumbai doctor Madan Kartaria, who styles himself the ‘Guru of giggling.’ He began his ‘movement’ with just five followers in the early 1990s and has since inspired 6000 ‘laughter clubs’ in 60 countries around the world…Despite its 17 year history, crowds still gather to enjoy the spectacle and in many cases laugh along with them.
But according to Veena Thadani no one is laughing in the upmarket Mumbai suburb of Kurli…”It’s aural aggression. You can’t be forced to hear sounds you don’t want to hear. Everyone is miserable because these activities are outside their home every day. What if you want to get up late or you’re not feeling well? They’re still waking you up with this cackling,” she said.
You shouldn’t need to have a special ruling on noise pollution. Not in civilized urbane society. Simple, essential law developed on decibels and distance is all that is required.
In my community we have only a couple of problems arising from time to time. Some family which has a drunken party going on late in the night, lasting till the wee hours pre-dawn, mediocre music blasting as loudly as these laughter exercises may be – you call the police. They pull up by the offending source and usually relying on what they hear is sufficient. They caution the offenders once. Leave. And if they are called back, make an arrest.
The only other offenders are military exercises involving fighter jets practicing touch-and-go at the nearby municipal airport. In truth, our own air force pilots rarely offend. Usually, when a hot pilot decides to revisit the War of the Worlds, it’s one of the Luftwaffe stationed downstate who think they can get away with anything – when practicing at the other end of the state.
Any time I’ve called the airport to complain, they’ve already been on the phone to the commandant downstate. KP and discipline follows and things stay quiet[er] for a spell.
The practitioners of laughing yoga might better serve all the goals of their discipline by acting smart enough to pick a spot with less congestion of homes. I fear laziness, the comfort of some host has been the operative motive.