Laughter is the best medicine. It relieves physical tension and stress, boosts the immune system and even protects the heart by enhancing blood flow. It makes sense then that we should begin each and every day like the Gateway of India Laughing Club—with a big, hearty guffaw!
Every morning at 7am, men and women from all across the world—although most of them are Indians—gather at a tiny rectangular park, situated right beneath the Gateway of India monument in Mumbai, to let loose bellows of unfiltered laughter. Everyone is welcome, so long as they have a great sense of humor. And if you’re a foreign visitor, don’t be surprised if the locals poke fun at your country, because everything is fair in the game of laughter!
Methods of garnering a laugh aren’t just restricted to jokes about age, ethnicity, gender or nationality, though. The whole event is in fact an all-out circus of grown men and women clapping their hands in a frenzy, clawing the air like kitty cats, giggling with glee like teenage girls and making outrageous faces fit for a bored toddler. And in-between the madness are short sessions of deep breathing and stretching designed to further soothe and relax the body.
Truthfully, the Gateway of India Laughing Club is merely one of perhaps hundreds of similar groups scattered throughout India. The first laughter club began in 1995 in Bombay due to the brilliance of Dr. Madan Kataria, but the concept soon spread throughout the entire country. According to Telegraph reporter Charlotte Cory, tension between India and Pakistan is partially to ‘blame,’ as whenever both nations enter a nuclear standoff, large groups of Indians gather to laugh “in the hope that their explosions of mirth will diffuse the political tension.”
Leading this particular group is Girdhar Peshawaria. During an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Girdhar said, “In the beginning it was a little tough, how to laugh, because we are not used to it. Now we cannot live without it.” Indeed Girdhar’s sessions have become a staple activity for many locals.
Krishna Aujla, one of his local followers, said, “I get energy from the morning time… Doing exercises like this – ‘ha ha ha’ – makes the whole day go nicer.”
Dr. Saifee Sailwass, another one of Girdhar’s loyal laughers, explained, “Laughter comes automatically, from inside; it is a natural thing, whether you are in the mood or not in the mood. We have to heed that instinct to laugh.”
The Gateway of India Laughing Club’s popularity has recently soared so high that a batch of American cardiologists filmed a video of Girdhar’s sessions in the hope that his 20-minute routine could greatly benefit US heart patients.
Speaking of laughter, are there any Monty Python fans in the audience? If so, here’s a real kicker for you. Actor John Cleese traveled to and filmed a video of the Laughing Club back in 2008. Here it is in its full entirety for our viewing pleasure. Laugh it up, world!