The “Science of Laughter” is not a concept to be laughed off as absurdly trivial. Indeed, the power of mirth that produces guffaw is one is one of the most potent forces that can address the varied crises of our sordid time. We live in a time of nuclear threat; terrorism & refugee crisis; unemployment; poverty & sickness. If humor & laughter cannot cure all evils, it can surely enable us to survive the difficult times and develop a system of immunity within us to fight back the negative impacts with replenished energy!
Laughter keeps our life “flowing” when things, at large, seem to have come to a standstill. Apparently, the ridiculous or the nonsensical are taken for granted when a friend lifts up our low spirit with a merry joke. The hilarious photographs on Pinterest, & also, Cat videos & Bonobo monkeys on You Tube, seemingly, serve no purpose other than providing amusement. But when we introspect about the same it can be realized how these different items of entertainments provide support to our mental & physical health!
The slap-stick antics of a hilarious Chaplin comedy or the extremely funny British sitcoms, Black adder, & Mr. Bean, played by the great comedian, Rowan Atkinson, can transport our insomniac brains to an elevated state of glee! Suddenly the crude; the mundane & the mechanized world appear colorful and our perspective changes for the better! Even in the comedies of Shakespeare we discover how merriment & laughter has always been a survival instinct for mankind! When Antonio croons on his “sad part” in the world, Gratiano answers,
“WITH MIRTH AND LAUGHTER LET OLD WRINKLES COME”( Merchant of Venice, Act 1)
To lend credence to the belief of the greatest dramatist of the Jacobean age, modern science, today, affirms the tremendous significance of joy & laughter as a powerful defense mechanism against the problems of our day to day complex existence. It is recommended as “the best medicine” that heals us to be able to face the death threats that often show up in varied forms in different parts of the globe. It is time to take” humor seriously” or “seriousness humorously”.
The Academy award winner, Roberto Bengini, in his “Life is Beautiful” has well exemplified the assertion that laughter is valuable even in Holocaust- related contexts! In a different setting, Charles Chaplin in his “The Great Dictator” presents us with a brilliant caricature of Hitler’s serious ambition to project himself as a demi-god! In both the films, though of different times, laughter is a weapon against the oppressors. Bengini’s film affirms the beauty & worth of life despite Holocaust & its grim reality. It is an affirmation that life can rise above the harsh realities of time if we can laugh off its seriousness!
However, human life is not just threatened by the impact of terrorism, oppression & brutality. The menace could be internal if it is triggered by the fear of death caused by incurable/ fatal diseases that afflict the human body.
Herein lies the role of the “Hope Doctors “whose emergence is a new, world- wide phenomenon. The heart of the idea is to introduce jocularity amidst the suffering patients who have been confined within the hospital wards and cabins for years. Laughter in a hospital is not a common sight. It is also not common to run into medical clowns within its ambiance. The concept of using trained professional comedians for therapeutic support has not gained ground around the world. Hence, it is unthinkable to apply in a country like India where hospitals wear a grim look of pain & fear.
Nevertheless, a former TV Journalist in India Diya Banerjee’s Documentary” The Hope Doctors” surveys the new trend through the efforts of Fif Fernandes, a former nurse with hospitals in Canada, who has introduced the new idea in India. Assisted by her husband, Hamish Boyd, she operates with the Aaravind Eye Hospital in Pondicherry. Besides, the documentary explores how Ashwath Bhatt, a well- known comedian, is a regular visitor of pediatric cancer ward of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.
The comedian visits with his company who are the funny actors with red noses & colorful wigs. It is heartening to see how their antics generate a chirpy atmosphere among the ailing children. One can hear twitters & happy squeals echo through the children’s ward in AIIMS, one of India’s largest public hospitals. The funny facial expression of the silver haired lady, and the guffaws she generates among the sick children, is highly fulfilling to watch!
Being funny can be a serious job as the “Hope Doctors” believe that the trained performers can complement the medical treatment through mime, music & dance which could immensely contribute to the benefit of the serious patients, alleviating their pain, and thus, improving the atmosphere of the hospitals.
It is curious to know that the renowned advocate of the philosophy that “Laughter is the best medicine”, the American doctor & humorist Patch Adams, was the greatest inspiration of Robin Williams, the actor who expressed laughter in seriousness & seriousness in laughter with subtle touches!
Indeed, we may conclude that the idea to mingle comic skill with nursing expertise for the general well-being of the patients is a unique one! It is positive & cathartic in its implication. Hence, medical clowning should not be perceived as an appendage but a practice that can be embedded in the Holistic Health Care System. Scientific evidence corroborates that healing speeds up with the strengthening of the patient’s mental health. Laughter lights up our mind to rejuvenate our body.
So always laugh whenever you find chance because it is the cheapest medicine found in the world!