Where has all the laughter gone?

Published in Modern Literature

 

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There was a time when limericks and humorous poetry made us laugh, when ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine!’ brought tears of merriment to multiple readers of Readers’ Digest, when PG Wodehouse was digested by youngsters by the dozen and when everyone loved a good laugh. There were no laughter clubs. There were no sleep clinics. There was spring and happiness and childhood…

That is how we grew up back in the 1970s and 1980s.

That was the time when bell bottoms were in fashion, people still listened to Beatles, Carpenters and Julio Iglesias; Agatha Christie and Perry Mason were mystery fare and people read only books with pages.

Then with internet revolution swinging into action, things changed. Things changed in a way that made living more challenging! On one hand communication was eased; on the other the tech savvy and the non-tech groups replaced simple divisions of caste and class. For some time, people could say what they liked across all borders drawn by mankind. And then power brokers made rules to regulate the flow of thought in the guise of curbing negative output online. Some of it was necessary, especially where people were inducing riots with Facebook exchanges, but some of it created borders in communicating ideas.

There were alternatives that crept up and people still found ways of communicating across borders with blogs and social media, though some governments banned even those. Voices were raised… but the tone had changed from one of happiness to one of darkness and challenge.

What was bad kept coming into focus over what was good. Laughter dissipated!

Limericks gave way to haikus reflecting the darkness of existence, which were rare earlier because people and ideas could not travel across borders easily long, long ago… fifty full years ago…

The span of time like our focus has shortened. Reading what others write has become a luxury. Writing what one has to say and publishing in social media has become the norm. Yet reading evidently creates an empathizing individual, an individual who can emote on behalf of others and spread kindness and smiles through the world. A research by Kingston University in London highlighted how readers make better and kinder friends. The report states: “Specifically, when broken down by genre, they (the researchers) saw that readers of comedy were the best at relating to people. Romance and drama lovers were the most empathetic and most skilled at seeing things through other’s eyes.”

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Sukumar Ray’s sketch

Perhaps, dwelling on the results of the research, we should look for not stand-up comics on you tube but for books that make us laugh, whether in English or some other language. I still cannot stop laughing at the nonsense verse of Sukumar Ray ( film-maker and writer Satyajit Ray’s father) and those are verses I have been reading for the last forty years or limericks or stories by Wodehouse. And yet, they seem to be rather out of fashion now. In today’s world, we are all writers and readers in the landscape of social media. Presidents ‘tweet’ as do Prime Ministers and Ministers! Social media has gone viral as did American Idol and a bunch of programs that cropped up around it in the early 2000s.

An article in The Atlantic explains: “Yet in many ways Idol … was ahead of the pop-culture game. It was one of the first shows that understood both the emotional nerve that connects people to music, and people’s innate desire to see others succeed despite enormous odds. It excelled at creating a personal link between artists and viewers, compelling the latter to take action by calling in and voting…In this sense, Idol foreshadowed today’s social media-driven society, where fans have the power to mobilize and impact the pop-culture landscape…”. Huff post came up with the heading “American Idol Made Us All Critics”.

 

Click here to read the rest in Modern Literature.

 

4 thoughts on “Where has all the laughter gone?”

  1. Very well said. May be individuals forget to laugh when they are competing with others for something and not quite pursuing what they are doing for the sheer joy of it. Rather simplistic? As for social media – there may be an even simpler solution – stay away, don’t ever sign up. Ignorance is bliss and bliss will bring forth laughter.

  2. Started reading what you wrote after Baba sent me the links, Mitu didi . Beautiful thoughts and beautifully expressed. Please keep writing!

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