Friends having fun and laughing together Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are two things which are more contagious than even the coronavirus. One of them is laughter.

At least there are some protective measures one can take against the virus. But masks and even the six-meter social distance is no barrier when a bout of laughter decides to affect people. ‘Laugh and the world laughs with you’ is so true, as I discovered one evening while strolling in the park near my building. As I entered the gates of the park, I noticed a group of people in the far end who were behaving quite strangely.

They were swaying from side to side and throwing their arms about. As I approached them, I realised they were all part of a laughter club. Crazy, I decided, trying to avert my eyes and sticking to the walking path. However, the closer I came to them, the more I felt myself drawn in. I could still have escaped unscathed, but I lingered and I was hooked. As the members doubled up with waves of merriment, I felt a ripple starting somewhere deep inside and rising with every passing second. And soon I was laughing as crazily as the rest of the gang. And it felt good too!

I am not aware if any research has yet been done on the subject of ‘how you laugh says a lot about what kind of person you are’. If there has been, I wonder what it would tell about me. It takes very little to make me laugh and when I do, it comes out like the crack of a gunshot and the hair on my head stands on ends. I’ve known people close to me jump 4 feet above sofa level when I suddenly LOL. I can imagine the scientist assigned to study my laughter looking at me over the rim of his glasses and writing in his journal ‘subject is prone to maniacal and hair-raising bouts etc’

It is precisely for this reason that I am so envious of those people who have a gift of laughing gently with a tinkling musical sound. It reminds one of cows grazing peacefully in yonder patch of green, the bells beneath their chin tinkling as the gentle bovine creatures move hither and tither. A school friend of mine was known for this particular brand of laughter and we took turns to try and start off her musical tinkle. Once she started that would obviously set all of us laughing in our own varying styles.

Forget people, even animals can infect us with their laughter. Don’t believe me? Well, I was watching a wildlife documentary the other day, which was following the daily routine of a pair of hyenas. The dear creatures seemed to have plenty to laugh about as they went about their day.

They even cackled hysterically while tearing a piece of meat from each other’s jaws! I like that. Life is obviously a joke for hyenas. And every time they let out their shrill cackle, I cracked up too. Believe you me, it is infectious. I’m not too sure what the scientist would say about the whole thing, but my educated conclusion is that hyenas are cheerful animals; within the confines of a television screen, though!

Concluding my self-sponsored research on ‘Laughter — its types and effects’, I leave you with some irrefutable evidence on how contagious a bout of laughter can be. It almost got me rusticated from school. It all started with my bench partner who was suddenly bitten by the laughter bug in class one day.

Sitting right next to her, I caught its full blast in no time, and there we were, the two of us laughing uncontrollably and for no obvious reason. Every time one of us managed to stop, the other triggered it off again. To cut a long story short, we spent the better part of a school day kneeling outside the principal’s office, still laughing in bits and spurts.

I rest my case.

And what’s the second contagious thing after laughter? A yawn!

Let’s not even get started on this one, all right!

Radhika Acharya is a freelancer based in the UAE