Popcorn with Sultan’s brother


So, I go for ‘Sultan’ with a friend. We have the tickets at the rear end of the theatre. The seating arrangement for our row is such that there are two seats, a gap and then a solo seat. We settle down in our seats. As the lights go out, a lady accompanied by a man walks in and occupies the solo seat next to us. The man looks around and then plops on the floor (in the gap). I look at him and battle between gasping at the blatant rebellious (free?) behaviour of this man and pretending to be cool about his choice of seat for the movie. I do the latter. Who wants to be a stuck up person anyway?

As the lights flash on the screen, I look at the guy, albeit a little slyly. I don’t want to stare at this person whom I am suddenly feeling compelled to admire for his oblivion to society’s rights, wrongs and blah.

I tap on my friend’s shoulder and exclaim (although not too loudly, since I am still pretending to be cool) – ‘Is this Arbaaz Khan?’

My friend also stares at him and nods. Celebrities have to resort to such extreme measures to keep their lives private, I conclude. He must have wanted to watch his brother’s movie with no one staring at him; hence he chose to sit in the last row of the theatre. Plus sitting on the floor makes this a perfect place for him to hide from the public eye and watch the movie in peace.

The dilemma begins when the movie begins. I take the whole walking-in-other-people’s-shoes thing a bit too seriously. I am hypersensitive to what might offend Arbaaz, and of course all criticism of the film and Sallu bhai tops the chart in terms of what might offend him.

We appropriately laugh at the punch lines and my friend comments loudly as to how Salman doesn’t look 50 years old. I also nod along vigorously, adding in my expert comments on how much effort it must take for him to maintain a body like that. Of course, being on the wrong side of the Khan family is something that every Indian wants to avoid, unless one wants to increase the probability of being run over by their vehicle, while sitting on a guava tree branch.

Arbaaz seems lost in the film and has no time for our overenthusiastic-walking-in-other-people’s-shoes phenomenon. Of course, as a director, his job is to watch movies from a professional angle. We decide to take a selfie with him after the film. As soon as the movie finishes, he gets up and starts walking fast. At that moment, I discover that my friend is also a swift walker, in fact slightly swifter than him. She manages to overtake him and look at his face.

Then with an air of disappointment, she says-‘This is not Arbaaz’. I wonder if my perception of the film would have been different if this guy walking around, looking like Arbaaz Khan hadn’t biased my opinions. No more walking around in other people’s shoes. I also Whatsapp the half dozen people that I had already informed about Arbaaz walking around breathing the same theatre air as us, that it a false alarm.

Well, at least we got to stuff popcorn down our throats, while this side show was going on.

Image Credits- etsy.com

Mom, the cake is salty!

It was a bright morning. My friends were about to come home for a giggly girl gossip session. Going by my choice of words, I am sure you would have figured out that this incident dates back to my teenage years, back to a time when having giggly girl gossip sessions were considered ok. Of course, now we call them venting sessions for lack of better words, or plain old anger. I had gotten up early on that day and was feeling particularly open to hard work. It was a new feeling, especially during the summer holidays where the days used to be laced in a blur of endless eating, drinking and sleeping.

I had decided to make chocolate cake that day. My friends were(and still are) special and I was in a mood to soak in some compliments from them on my baking début.

One swift move and the apron was on. I opened a cook book which had pages that looked so delectable that I wanted to start licking the pages.Thanks to the concept of 2D and 3D , no such calamity befell the recipe book, which lay glistening with all the glory of the beautiful dishes which people often got tempted to lick off from.

As all recipes go, this one also had a (rather long) list of ingredients. I started collecting all of them, scurrying into the storage room next to the kitchen ever so often.

Do you recall the last baking show that you watched? Does it resemble anything that you do in the kitchen in real life?

The answer for me is no.

Baking shows make it look effortless and beautiful, with transparent bowls and everything neatly arranged before the camera starts. They don’t show a teenager darting off to different corners of the kitchen and store room using curse words that she has recently learned if she is unable to find the ingredients. No, those women are the power ladies(or teens).

After gathering all the ingredients and instructing everyone to stay out of the kitchen, I started preparing the dough and mixing the ingredients. Portions were carefully measured and the flour was washed off from the hands ever so often. Everything was perfect. My friends would be home in around an hour and the cake would be ready by then, shining in all its glory. After using all my muscular power to mix the dough properly, I carefully emptied out the contents into a baking tray brushed with butter so that the cake would not stick to the tray.

Note: I did not taste the batter.

As I often do, as soon as the batter was popped inside the oven, I started staring at the dough, almost pressurising it to rise. It did ultimately rise, flaunting its spongy golden brown fluffy texture. I was mighty pleased and was mentally preparing for an acceptance speech. My heart started beating faster as the time to take out the cake from the oven approached. I was gleeful, to say the least.

After what seemed like an eternity, the oven went ‘ting’. ‘Ting’ is always a sign of completion, a sound of achievement. But it is often accompanied by goofititis( coined by me- fear of goofing up). I picked up a fork and smoothened out the cake, leaving behind some crumbs for me to taste.

The cake crumbs went into the mouth. Even today, I recall everything from picking up the crumbs to putting it into my mouth in slow motion. That was where the illusion of having baked a perfect cake was shattered, and that tiny moment determined whether I was a good teenage baker or not.

“Aargh.” I shouted, blinking my eyes quickly as if to make sure that I had tasted the cake properly.

My mom who was just outside the kitchen came rushing in, realising that the earlier rule of no one inhibiting the kitchen but me could be broken.

“What happened?” she said.

“The cake.” I said.

“What about it?” she said.

“It is salty.” I said.

“Are you sure?” she said.

“Yes.” I said, now snorting like a pig.

She could not taste the cake because there were eggs in it and she is a vegetarian. But this was an acute baker goof up. How did the tv shows get it so right, I thought, my face turning a little green due to jealousy and due to the contents of the cake.

My logical brain ( which I think I possessed back then) came into action, trying to make sense of the situation. I looked at the recipe again. Did they intend us to make salty cake? You never know what trends pick up and suddenly you are the uncool one not knowing that salty cakes are being eaten all over the world. The ingredients however did not reflect anything of that manner. It was meant to be a boring old sweet cake.

What in there could I have goofed up?

Of course, I had put in salt. But what had I not put in? The only two contents that were white were flour, rice flour and sugar. I knew what sugar looked like – grainy. I was specifically given the jar for the all purpose flour from the storage room by our cook. The only thing that I hadn’t seen before was rice flour. I remember having opened the cabinet in front and picking out the first white thing I saw thinking it to be rice flour.

“Mom. Where is the rice flour?” I asked.

She went to another cabinet and showed me a jar. My worst fears that had culminated in that 10 minutes had come true. Instead of a cup of rice flour, I had used a cup of salt. My friends were to arrive in half an hour. I tearfully threw this cake into the dustbin, with a sense of valour rising up in me.

At least I know what rice flour looks like, I thought, my head held up high.  (If you wish, you can imagine some motivational song playing in the background to blend in with the sense of valour that had risen in me.)

I took in a deep breath and some tea and started again. My friends thankfully(and predictably) arrived late. I had a cake ready for them by the time they came. Needless to say, the cake’s name was fancier than the actual cake. But at least it was not salty.

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The tarot lady with big rings and cricket.

I have to confess. I never thought I would be the ‘tarot lady’. I coined this name for myself after I ordered my second set of angel tarot cards from Doreen Virtue.

I remember the hot summer days in India, when holidays were on. We would sip on lemonade, eat kaccha(unripe) mangoes with chilli powder and salt and watch cricket matches. There was an interesting phenomenon those days- to couple cricket matches(at least the important ones like the World Cup), with predictions on who will win. Tarot card experts were called on television along with celebrated astrologers analysing every detail of the player’s kundali (horoscope) coupled with what positions the planets would be at during the time the match would be played.

At that time, whenever I observed the tarot ladies, some attributes were common amongst all of them- long hair, big bindi(a coloured mark or jewel worn by women between the eyebrows) and rings the size of laddoos(ball shaped sweets). They were the more colourfully dressed cousins of the crystal ball ladies who mostly locked themselves in dark dingy rooms and had a cloud of anger in their eyes, possibly due to what they saw in the crystal balls. Also, the crystal ball ladies mostly had long bindis almost like the pitch of the cricket field, with the rest of the face being the stadium.

It used to surprise me that something as simple as drawing out cards from a deck could predict the future. Could the future be so simple to predict? Could the output of cricket matches be so simple to predict, a game which required the players and the audience to participate equally in a dance of togetherness and complexity which even the best mathematicians would fail to explain the equation of?

Complex, you think? What is so complex about a guy hitting a ball with a rectangular shaped bat and 11 guys running after the ball trying to make sure that it doesn’t hit the rope circling the stadium?

It runs far deeper my friend, just like the iceberg which hit Titanic. You see, superstitions ran rife during the cricket season. People would gather in their living rooms and watch the match. If you(as a television viewer sitting at your house which you paid the rent for) stood up and the wicket of the opposing team fell, a comment would always be made – ” Couldn’t you have stood up earlier? Now keep standing.” Of course, you would have to do it, because the entire country’s fate and happiness lay on the feet which bore your weight. If you think this is simple, think again. India has a population of 1,256 million. This superstition was not just related to people standing and sitting, but people farting, eating, lying down, laughing and so on. So if you farted when the wicket fell, it would be considered in the best interest of the country for you to keep farting. This whole ordeal made the viewers as important as the cricket players. The combination of people farting, eating, lying down, laughing, standing, sneezing, coughing and so on made it a complex science rather than a simple sport which determined a winning and losing side.

And there was no question of replacements either. If you sneezed when the wicket fell, you were the chosen one and no one else sneezing would help. In fact, it was believed(and still is) that it might spoil the fate of the game, and the sneezer would help the opposing team score a boundary. Gasp!

The science and combinations of winning the match was achieved by hit and trial and pure observation. But the tarot cards made it sound simple, as though nothing we, as the television viewers, did was of importance, because if it was written in the cards, it was true. Where did all the sneezing, laughing, farting etc that the junta did come into picture if it was so simple? I was in denial for many years, refusing to believe tarot cards and even astrology to some extent.

Things started changing when I started watching some people doing angel card readings and the readings came out to be true. I watched the videos each week and bingo! They were right on target.

My conflict about cricket matches and tarot cards resolved greatly because I almost stopped watching cricket, ever since Rahul Dravid made his exit(and got married).

I then bought one of the angel tarot cards, with all my insecurities about the simplicity with which future was predicted. It turned out to be more of a general guideline rather than a cast-in-stone predictions. I ordered my second set yesterday, because one deck predicting the general guidelines to follow in life was too difficult to comprehend for me. Now I have labelled myself the tarot lady, but I don’t wear large rings, large bindis(I think my forehead is too small for those) and my hair is cropped short. So much for stereotypes!

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Invisible hair colour and my novel dilemma.

I sat in the salon, staring at the decor. It is what I do when I am made to sit anywhere without further instructions. I looked at the mirror a couple of times but then decided that too much of staring at oneself in the mirror presents itself with the label of being narcissist. I didn’t want to be like the guy who stared at himself in the water all day. If I did that, who would stare at Facebook feeds all day? Anyhow, I felt good that I was well stocked. I had a couple of books not so neatly kept in my bag. I had eaten well. I had a bottle of water waiting to be drunk.

I get a little paranoid about how to spend time during salon trips, travels and so on. Being a person whose mind wanders without permission, there needs to be a backup plan all the time. Having something to do always makes me feel comfortable. At least my mind would wander only to the contents of the book, which I think is fairly acceptable in the psychological, philosophical and spiritual world.

Before we delve into what happened at the salon, let us talk about my latest book choices. You see, ever since I have decided to keep away from my know-it-all-titis, at least till I grow into that tone more in real life, I have started reading stuff for pure entertainment without a deeper meaning. That has been puzzling to me on many levels, having spent a good part of the last 2 years looking for meaning behind everything including correlating the colour of the birds I saw to a particular spiritual meaning. Yep!

So, when I went to the library to explore the fiction side of the world, I was lost. I was sure I didn’t want to pick up heavy or gory stuff or anything which would keep me up at night. That left me with humour. Even within that, there was humour that I understood and that which I didn’t understand, purely because of the regional parlance and not because I was reading it upside down. That left me with a few guy-lit(?) novels. Two of them made their way into the aforementioned bag.

As I sat in the salon, after having discussed my preferred hairstyle with the hairstylist, who then proceeded to make some snide remarks about how I had not maintained my hair properly and how some of the (coincidentally)overpriced products would do magic to my hair, I pulled out one of the novels. It was about a guy who was having a quarter(+5 years) life crisis. I assumed from his healthy habits that he could expect to live to be a 100, if he quit the binge drinking which his quarter(+5 years) life crisis burdened him with. The novel was light and breezy. After my haircut, the salon guy started applying colour. I wanted to try out global hair colour and not streaks. I remember that I was feeling particularly bold that day. The salon guy, who himself was quite bold, going by his choice of hair colours(there were atleast 3 different shades on his head), assured me that I had made the right choice, and then said something which sounded like techspeak on hair colour and texture which I could not understand and didn’t care to question him more on. Our time is limited on Earth, eh.

Shampoos followed by hair colour application happened, along with small talk which usually and painfully accompanies these situations. Silence is probably so unbearable to us that we are forced to talk to people whom we spend even five minutes with. With me, silence is not much of an issue because my head keeps babbling. Oh did I tell you that I started meditating and ever since the salon trip, my head is reasonably devoid of thoughts? Maybe it has something to do with the hair colour entering my brain as well. Hmm.

After 45 minutes of the colour application, the salon guy checked my hair and confirmed that I was now officially coloured. I hopped onto the big chair and let my hair be shampooed intermittently asking him if the hair colour looked good. I hate information asymmetry. For those few seconds, it felt that the entire decision of whether the hair looked good or not lay in his hands.

He replied in a rather raspy tone.

“Yes it looks good.”

After the shampoo, I was led to my seat. I stared at the mirror, forgetting the whole narcissist theory. My phone was switched off anyway and there was no Facebook feed to stare at. He started drying the hair. I blinked a couple of times. He blinked too. I know we all blink, but these blinks were in quick succession and my life history reminds me that is never a good thing to blink in quick succession.

“Err. Is the colour the same as the catalog?” I said.

“I don’t know.” he said, now peeking into the depths of my hair, as if he was going to pick up one strand and say ‘Eureka. I found the coloured strand of hair’, whilst trotting around the salon wearing the 3 shades of colour in his hair.

“You know I am not going to pay for my hair colour to change from black to black.” I say, holding onto the novel, as if that was the only thing in my life I could control right now.

“I swear this has never happened.” he said.

A lioness inside me dharo-ed roop(came into form). I normally don’t like to say unpleasant things, but I had to.

“Well, what do you suggest?” I said.

“We can try another colour.” he said.

“What if that doesn’t catch colour? You know my hair is now full of chemicals and still the same colour.” I said, remembering his previously detailed out thoughts about my split ends, et al.

“I promise it will.” he said, his voice even raspier than before.

“Ok. But I won’t pay any money if the colour doesn’t come on.” I said.

“Yes.” he said, as if it was my fault.

“Has this ever happened to you before?” he said.

“No.” I said, returning to the novel.

Reading about the confusion in the guy facing the quarter(+ 5 years) life crisis made me feel slightly ok. In my head, I was doing some math on how much I would pay him if the hair colour didn’t catch on this time also. I should pay something, I thought. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t hear the stuff he said about him having used 4 tubes of colour on my hair and only 1 tube on others.

I tried looking for a deeper meaning within this too. Maybe hair colour was not meant to be for me, because it would make me look like a scarecrow like it did the previous time. But, my doubts were wiped off when the hair colour came out good and the quarter(+5 years) life crisis guy decided that his life did not have much of a crisis anyway.

Now, my husband swears that my hair colour grows bolder every time I sit in the sunlight, which is something that I do every day. He says it with an air of helplessness. I take it as a compliment.

Fun Fact: While writing this post, I spelt ‘dilemma’ as ‘dilemna’ as I have for centuries(counting all my past lives). I swear that I remember ‘dilemna’ being the right spelling. I found this post which might be an interesting read on the dilemm(n?)a of dillemma.

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Fair or not? Sun, Sun go away!

The title might not make sense to a lot of people, but as with a lot of aha titles, this baby has a story behind it. My Indian friends might be able to relate better to the title. You see, of all the irrational things we(Indians) base people(especially women) on, one of them is fair skin. It is akin to having a clean body and beauty. It is not known for what it is – less or more production of melanin pigment in the skin. It is this pigment which has decided the fate of many Indian women, especially their ‘capacity’ to get a good groom and their general acceptability in the society. Of course there are other factors based on which society may or may not accept you – how you walk, talk, whether you wear semi transparent clothes or whether you wear opaque clothes, whether you speak English well or not and whether you know how to make stuff like halwa(type of Indian dessert) and chapati(Indian bread) or not.

For the people with a higher secretion of melanin pigment on their skins, fret not! Coz they have the perfect solution.

Fairness creams and extremely low exposure to sunlight! 

Little me didn’t know the whole deal on melanin pigment and how deeply it impacts how society views those who have more melanin secretion. Gori(fair) and sundar(beautiful) were words that were synonymous just like popcorn and movies or cricket and Tendulkar. From a very young age, people started giving me tips on how I had to do stuff to become more gori(fair). Honestly, I did some of the things that my ‘well wishers’ wanted me to do, including applying those fairness creams. For me it was the only way for a wheatish person to get accepted in the society and to be praised as much as the fair kids.

This led me to take extreme steps, including banishing sun without wearing sunblock, from my daily life. It became a habit so deeply entrenched to apply sunblock on every exposed part of my body, to avoid getting more dark, because that translated into a lot of other consequences and what a kid or teenager learns from observing the society, stays in his mind forever as a deep fear, if nothing else.

This story got a new turn when I went to India and got a couple of blood tests done. It turned out that the Vitamin D levels in my blood were low — 5.98 ng/DL as opposed to a healthy range of 30ng/DL to 100 ng/DL, and an ideal Vitamin D level — 50ng/DL. But who cares about Vitamin D as a fairly young person, right? It is related to bones and all the stuff that we don’t want to think about until the creaking sounds start. Plus with adrenaline drenched terms like YOLO , boring old Vitamin D doesn’t fit in. Wrong!

Let me bring in some of the research I did like a maniac since the last few days.

Vitamin D is now being termed as the miracle vitamin, the lack of which can cause the following:

  • Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
  • 17 varieties of Cancer (including breast, prostate and colon)
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Gout
  • Infertility and PMS
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Pain
  • Periodontal disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Fatigue
  • General muscle pain and weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor concentration
  • Headaches
  • Bladder problems
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Source- http://www.drfranklipman.com/symptoms-diseases-associated-with-vitamin-d-deficiency/

There are a few points I want to make here:

Firstly- I am not putting down anyone with fair skin. I am just reaching out to people who have fallen prey to the whole concept of wheatish or dark skin being not as good and wanting to correct it.

Secondly- the safe limit of sun exposure(risk of skin cancer,etc) varies for people depending on their skin colour.

Thirdly-You still might need to protect your face skin more(use a sunblock) because it is more prone to skin damage(wrinkles, pigmentation, et al).

Let me now throw in a fact- Approximately 80% of Indians are Vitamin D deficient.


I am not claiming that the fetish for fair skin is what is making most of us deficient in Vitamin D. I am saying that it certainly adds to one of the reasons of not going out in the sun without sunblock for a few minutes every day. As I understand, the melanin pigment acts as a natural sunscreen for a few minutes- which means you can have your skin as it is and expose it too. I now enjoy a good half an hour basking in the sun. Optimum health comes before entertaining a society which may have lost its way in terms of overestimating the value of fair skin and underestimating the value of good health.

Watch this video below for more information on Vitamin D.

Hope you have a sunny day ahead.

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Simplicity and a cough of relief.

I had updated my website last year- got a wordpress.org account and the fancy stuff along with it. The tech gizmo made my head reel initially, but I controlled the reeling of my head by raising my eyebrows enough number of times. Anyhow, the company which hosted my website gave me the shiny black dashboard and lots of tools to play around with it. I downloaded plugins, themes and customised the website to no end. In fact, changing themes became akin to changing dresses before a party. But…But…But… Did someone tell you that too many of these but’s is not good news?

The code-speak was too much to handle. I longed for the simpler days- imagine me with a cloud over my head reminding me of the simple blogging days where I didn’t have to worry about files ending with .php. The longing got stronger. In the meantime, some of the stuff I had written started sounding too wise even for me. I wanted to let go, to break free and to write silly stuff(like this) which didn’t make sense all the time. I wanted to let go of the need to be perfect, to know-it-all.

Some powerful guy sitting up above the clouds answered my prayers and my website got hacked. I felt slightly giddy, but it turned out that was due to the lack of caffeine that was supposed to be coursing through my body for me to function like a human. So then, after my cuppa joe, I felt better. It felt right to let the old baby with the wise speak go. It felt good to have fun and to not know it all. Then I contacted the hosting company who told me that the website had not been hacked.

Now you need to understand how a person like me thinks. Everything, including an ant sneezing has to have a purpose and a bigger meaning in my life. If the website was not hacked, it meant that the powerful guy sitting above the clouds, wanted me to continue writing the same stuff that I used to and wanted me to learn more of the tech stuff.

I did something else entirely.I started avoiding the shiny dashboard and writing online at all. I lazed and grazed around on the internet and kept looking at people’s blogs which seemed so effortless and so much fun.

Until one day. Tadah!

The hosting company told me that my website had indeed been officially hacked. I blessed the hacker for a few seconds, who had freed me from the shackles of my earlier blogging voice which had become more bothersome for me than fun. I let out a cough of relief as well. Oh, did I forget to mention that I have a bad cough and cold since a few days?

Note: I am convinced that coughing might be one of the ways to develop six pack abs.

Now, I am going to write whatever catches my whim and with the limited capabilities that this platform offers, I am going to bless it a 100 times because it helped me let go of a huge know-it-all-itis that I had been carrying on my back.

Here’s a toast(of cough syrup) to simplicity and going back to a world where I can jabber whatever I want to.

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Interview with Dr Madan Kataria- Founder of Laughter Yoga

Dr Madan Kataria_Profile

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Dr Madan Kataria, founder of Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga had a humble beginning with just 5 participants, but it has now flourished in 100 countries around the globe.

1. How did you get the idea of starting Laughter Yoga? Were there any stressful situations in your life which propelled you towards Laughter Yoga?

Dr Kataria: My pushing point was the stressful life that I was leading in Mumbai. I was practising as a medical doctor as well as editing and publishing a health magazine. I was passionate about what I was doing for the magazine- educating people about health, healing, yoga, wellness,etc. It gave me a holistic approach on health and healing as opposed to my practice as a physician using allopathy, which had no preventative component that I could teach.

I started studying homepathy, ayurveda, acupuncture, acupressure, yoga as well as meditation and spirituality. I thought I would give people knowledge in terms of holistic approaches in order to avoid the use of too many medicines. The work for the magazine was very interesting because I learnt something every time I published an article.

It was then that I thought of writing an article- ‘Laughter is the best medicine’. It then struck me that I needed laughter the most. I realised that although people knew the benefits of laughter, nobody really practised laughter consciously.

I excitedly did a research on the benefits of laughter, which has been proven by science over the last 4 decades. But, there was no effective delivery system to dispense the benefits of laughter. At that time, the delivery system was mostly humour, comedy, etc which might not have such a profound effect on the immune system because one experiences the benefits of laughter only if one laughs for a sustained period of time, as proved by one of the studies.

I thought of starting a laughter club at the park. I floated this idea around to people and they started laughing at me. But eventually, we started a laughter club, wherein we told jokes. People started joining our club and our attendance grew. In a few days we ran out of good jokes. People started saying vulgar jokes which were not that well appreciated by everyone. I requested the club members not to close the club. I asked them to give me one day for me to find out an effective way to laugh without having to indulge in such jokes. I wanted to look for a breakthrough solution which would enable people to laugh easily.

I always believe that if there is a problem, there is a solution to it. I started frantically searching through magazines and books on how to laugh without jokes. I found a book which talked about fake humour which said that the body cannot distinguish between fake and real laughter. I read a research piece which stated that holding a pen between the jaws such that it represents a smile sends a feedback to the brain similar to what the feedback would be if a person is smiling. The brain on receiving the feedback, triggers the release of happy chemicals, like endorphins.

Laughter Yoga is not a mind-body medicine. It is a body-mind medicine.

If faking a smile can release happy chemicals, faking a laughter can do a lot more. That gave me the idea that I could make laughter as an exercise. We came out with exercises which would prompt us to laugh- like milkshake laughter, namaste laughter, etc. Within a month, we could come out with 20-30 laughter exercises.

But, we used to get tired laughing continuously for half an hour every day. We then started doing some breathing exercises in between. It then dawned on me that we could name it ‘Laughter Yoga’, because laughter in itself is a form of breathing. Breathing and laughing together helps to exhale stale air from the lungs and helps to oxygenate each cell of the body. Slowly our focus became only laughter and not the cause of laughter. This gave us the freedom to laugh in a sustained manner for a longer period of time which really brought out the benefits.

2. What benefits did you experience on a personal and spiritual level due to Laughter Yoga?

Dr Kataria:  It has been almost 20 years since I started practising Laughter Yoga. My day starts with laughter. I wake up at 4 am and start laughing all by myself in another room for 30-40 minutes. I then go on to laugh on Skype and other places.

My immune system has become very strong and I have stopped falling sick. Earlier I used to fall sick 4-5 times a year, but laughter has changed that.

My capacity to laugh has gone up. Earlier, my brain used to be judgmental about what is funny and what is not. But now that has changed, due to the laughter exercises. My sense of humour has gone up. My perception of what is funny and what is not has changed a lot. Even small things crack me up now.

My mind has become very positive. There is a lot of negativity around us, which can easily influence us. My inner resilience has gone up and my reactivity has gone down. I have achieved calm and peacefulness within myself and with others. I have become spiritual through laughter.

I have become very generous. I love helping people. As a young man, I used to focus more on my achievements, but now I feel I have everything. I am getting lots of love and affection from people. I am not in the race for money. I have become more conscious about how I can be more service oriented. I have become aware of the environment. If I see a chocolate wrapper on the road, I just pick it up and throw it in the dustbin, thinking that even a small action can drive a change. Now if I see a cockroach in the house, I don’t kill it. I sweep it out of the house. I am a vegetarian for more than 25 years now, purely because of my love for life.

Spirituality for me means being able to raise your spirits by yourself and others’ spirits by any method. You don’t have to do anything religious to be spiritual.

Laughter Yoga has given me the tool to keep my spirits high right from the morning all throughout the day. Through laughter I am contributing to the entire world, even with all the doom and gloom in the world. I continue to be a crusader for world peace. My understanding about world peace is that ‘what is inside is outside’. So, world peace has to achieved through one person at a time. I am multiplying these laughter clubs all over the world. In this way I am contributing to the world peace in a big way, because Laughter Yoga clubs are now in 100 countries around the world.

3. What are some of the common beliefs amongst people which prevents them from laughing?

Dr Kataria: Firstly, people are not aware of the benefits of laughter. People still think that laughter is only for relaxation and entertainment. They don’t know the impact laughter has on one’s health-physical, spiritual, mental and emotional. That is changing now, thanks to media and articles.

Secondly, people think that this laughter is not real laughter. They look for spontaneous laughter. My challenge is to make people aware that this laughter is much better because there is no guarantee of laughter if you rely on only spontaneous methods, through comedy or jokes.

4. Are there any stressful situations in your life when you don’t feel like laughing? How do you get into a mood to laugh?

Dr Kataria: Yes. I do have stressful situations in my life.

Firstly, lot of people want me to react. By choosing not to react, you make things easier. If you don’t react, and just be with the situation by responding appropriately if required, it helps you and other people as well. They can also vent out their stuff. I still react 5-10% of the times, but I have overcome 90-95% of it.

Secondly, there is no control on what happens to us. We have 110% control over what we do when something happens. Rather than getting involved in the problem, laughter has helped me to swing into action, to understand how I can make the situation better. Reaction complicates things. Nowadays I laugh when I miss my flight. It makes me feel better instantly and I don’t feel stressed out. I laugh at practically every situation which is not in my control.

Thirdly, laughter gives you acceptance. Sometimes people criticise me and my laughter and make nasty remarks. I can’t do anything about it. I feel that you can only accept those situations and they way you can accept those situations is by laughing about them.

I get problems every day, despite me being a laughter guru. But the way I deal with problems is amazing. That is the way yogis will handle the situation.

5. How important is childlike playfulness in day to day life and Laughter Yoga?

Dr Kataria: Children can laugh so much because they play. The problems with grown ups is we don’t play because we are conditioned that way. But there is an innate desire within all of us to be like children sometimes.

Laughter Yoga provides a safe environment for people to revisit their childhood. We do a lot of child play activities like clapping hands together and saying- “Very good. Very good. Yay!” Playfulness is an important for nurturing creativity. Laughter Yoga club is like kindergarten for grown ups.

<End of Interview>

To find out more about Laughter Yoga, head to www.laughteryoga.org.

Watch Dr Madan Kataria on Satyamev Jayate, a popular show hosted by Aamir Khan in India.


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Why you should take laughter seriously?

Christmas is around the corner  and this merry season is associated with Santa Claus and his cheerful ho ho’s . It is a jolly season full of laughter and joy. Perhaps this is the best way to live life, considering how stressful things can get. I recently came across the concept of “Laughter Yoga ” and I was truly impressed with it. Laughter Yoga works on the concept of fake laughter having the same effects as real laughter. As per Dr Madan Kataria(the founder of Laughter Yoga), our brains cannot distinguish between real laughter and fake laughter. Hence it can be practiced mindfully, without the aid of humor. You can read more about Laughter Yoga here.

Laughter has emotional, physical and spiritual benefits. It may seem silly, but trust me, once you try it, you’ll be laughing your way to a healthier and happier you. Below are some of the benefits which laughter provides us with.

Emotional Benefits

1. Cheerfulness: If you start your day with laughter, you are blessed with a great mood all day. The stresses of the day don’t seem to creep in that easily and small worries tend to seem almost miniscule. Instead of starting your day with a heavy heart and dreading the worst, start with ha has to see a mammoth difference.

2. Better bonding with people: If you have a smiling face, people will be drawn to you and will want to spend more time with you. You will end up making more friends because of your cheerful attitude. As the saying beautifully sums it up “Laugh and the world laughs with you, smile and some smile with you, weep and you weep alone”. Nobody wants to spend time around complainers. Spread cheer everywhere and you’ll see more of it crawl into your life.

Physical Benefits

1. Release of endorphins: Laughter releases endorphins,the “feel good” hormones. These help with the feeling of well being and can even reduce pain in the body.

2. Reduces the release cortisol: Levels of cortisol, better known as the “stress hormone”  is reduced after a hearty laughter session.

For more on the physical benefits of laughter, click here 

Spiritual Benefits

1. Reduces ego: Ego is the biggest blocking factor when it comes to spiritual growth.  It makes us believe that it is us against the world and we have to keep fighting with others to make a mark in our lives. Laughter is a great way to dissolve this ego and move towards unconditional love. We all are manifestations of life and we are not separate. Laughter dissolves the boundaries between us and others. Laugh in the company of others and you’ll truly find yourself as an expression of others.Also, the easiest way to reduce ego is to develop the knack of laughing at yourself. If you’re able to laugh at the tiny mistakes you make, it becomes easier to let things go and to relax into life. And life is much easier when you stop taking it so seriously.

2.  Brings back focus to the present moment: When you are laughing and having a good time, you don’t feel the need to think about the past and the present. The focus is on the present moment; the moment when you are having fun. This powerful exercise of laughter teaches you to live life in the present which in turn helps you to be in control of your life . Read more about living life in the present moment here.