Despite our best attempts at masking our predisposition and appearing gentlemanly or compassionate, we are necessarily programmed to be, at best, condescending assholes who laugh at our fellow beings’ misery.
Take for instance, cinema. Our sides become sore from laughing at our protagonist’s general discomfiture in life; sometimes even in the face of mild physical injury (The starter pack includes – A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Hera Pheri and Death at a Funeral. The latter is unique in that, a matter of profound grief for someone, elicits incredible laughter from us – which is almost ironic.) Or storybooks. I remember how “The Night the Bed Fell” by James Thurber (from A Miscellany of Short Stories, the text book prescribed for ICSE) had me in splits. The protagonist, a heavy sleeper – is feared to be dead in the midst of chaos that ensues when the paranoid characters go overboard with their emotions. And Without Glasses – which basically revolves around a proud, independent and self-respecting man, who is reduced to a shadow of his former self – as his severely reduced eyesight forces him to take the help of his wife.
Or take real life, for instance. I remember having casually tossed an empty match box towards my roommate’s privates during my college days; unfortunately, the corner of the box ended up obliterating the target. I watched Rourav’s face contort in anguish, his eyes, a reflection of betrayal and hurt. The ideal response would have been to rush to his aid – instead, I burst out laughing – tears rolling down my cheeks, rolling on the floor (possibly, leading to the coining of the term.)
Or the time when we (I may have) pulled down AD’s pants in public and taught him the valuable lesson of never leaving one’s underwear at home. He was ambling down the street after a well-earned victory; his arms wide open, the tee shirt strung casually across his shoulder, as he embraced the cool evening zephyr. Of course, being a sore loser and generally envious of his happiness, I furtively approached him from the back and pulled down his pants. The buck naked little man stood frozen in the dark, processing whether to go after me or pull up his pants first. The campus erupted in laughter, as he spewed expletive after expletive till anger rendered him incoherent. As such, I became a hero overnight.
It is critical to be able to laugh at your own misfortunes as well. Take for instance, how my passive-aggressive cats intently study my reactions when random objects fall by themselves at hourly intervals, like clockwork. Of course, it broke my heart when my lighter and my quarter of whiskey were smashed to smithereens – however, I end up laughing at their strangely smug gazes at finally having gotten the better of their poor Hooman. Or when my girlfriend decided, I was to be adorned with blush, lipstick and eye liner and it was subsequently posted on social media and shared across class groups, and I became an internet sensation overnight.
So there will be moments when you are lambasted at work, when you are criticised for your lack of effort and the shower head in your washroom may come down unceremoniously on your head when you are least expecting it. There will be moments when people you have trusted and loved end up surprising you – it is good to have a laugh about it in the end. All things in our life, irrespective of whether they are good or bad, have a tendency of losing their intensity over time. All those heartbreaks over break ups and the chagrin at not having received the promotion will eventually be rendered irrelevant. When there’s a beautiful woman who has sworn to love you fiercely and is resting her head on your chest and listening to your heartbeats – or Manchester United have finally entered the top four of their league competition – or both (in my case,) you will find yourself laughing at your past. It is okay, to not be able to come up with an equally efficacious retort on finding yourself at the receiving end of a jibe. I have this complete inability to think on my feet, to conjure up a riposte in the face of a quip. I simply blank out for moments, before I manage a feeble, “You too.” I eventually come out with a searing response later – but by then the sun has set, the semester has gone by, and the adversary has already had children, etcetera, etcetera. It’s important to throw back your head and laugh at that retort, even if you have something that can scar the person for life. And I have had to fight this urge at times, because each time I realised, that one good comeback was not worth scarring a relationship. Our egos are like glass houses, and we keep hurling boulders at others’. Takes a second, one misplaced word to take down a decade’s worth of trust and love.
Write about your anguish, your chagrin, your heart breaks – read it out to your friends. Watch with wide eyes, as they burst out laughing at your poignant verses and then, join in their laughter. Grab a pen in the meeting, draw cartoon images of your colleagues (but don’t let that paper slip out of your hands.) And when you lose someone to time – mourn for him or her, recover and let yourself smile about the memories. Crack a joke about that sour dead relative of yours (But not in front of their children, duh.)
Because when you do so, you confer upon death the most priceless gift in the world – the gift to make man laugh and clear the skies of the darkness and depression that threaten to swallow us.