Members of the Sheetal Jogging Association who have been coming to the Sheetal Talao pond in suburban Mumbai to participate in "laughter yoga" aren’t laughing about a lawsuit aimed at their laughter.
Recently, laughter, devotional singing and light exercise for their health has been practiced more quietly by the group, according to an AP report dated July 11.
On June 18, Mumbai's high court ordered police to quiet the laughter that erupted beneath Vinayak Shirsat's windows each morning, causing his family "mental agony, pain and public nuisance."
"Nobody's laughing now," said member Badruddin Khan.
Before the police and courts intervened, a dozen or so club members would gather around 7 a.m. to sing bhajans - devotional songs - and clap for seven minutes. They group would cap their therapy by laughing out loud for at least two minutes.
Members would latch onto their ear lobes, throw their heads back and pull their faces into wide smiles, chanting "Ooh ooh, ha ha." Then, they would touch their toes and reach for the sky, all the while laughing with abandon. Now, the group must control their mirth, which does not sit well with some members.
"Only this much space we've got. Where can we go?" said Prabhakar Naidu, 45, who claims that laughing has enabled him to walk up stairs without getting winded.
Sheetal Talao, the pond, has dirty water and is littered with trash, but it's the only open space in a neighborhood of winding lanes in the northern suburbs of India's densely packed financial capital.
A shady spot near a small gazebo in front of Shirsat's apartment, a three-story pink building with black bars on all the windows, is where the yoga group stop to exercise and laugh. In the small open area are two curved benches among red mud and weeds that the club uses for meditation and laughter.
Kamal Ahmad Khan, 60, a doctor with a square, bushy beard, said laughing brings peace and good health.
"If you are laughing, the mind becomes cool," he said.
Tuesday morning members of the Sheetal Jogging Association whispered they’re laughs through gaping smiles. "Ha ha ha ... ha ha ha;" they’re muffled laughs faded almost as quickly as uttered. Members clapped timidly and sang out with apprehension to their gods.
Since the court decree, there are days they don't laugh at all anymore, which is sad, or not so much, depending on one’s outlook. Perhaps the whole affair is something to laugh about – which would be good, unless one laughs too loud.