Love took a backseat to laughter in one corner of Kolkata, India on Valentine’s Day. Almost 600 men and women from various parts of West Bengal made it happen. The group of teenaged to nonagenarian members of 48 laughing clubs in Bengal were taking part in the fifth annual laugh fest of the Laughing Academy of Eastern India.

Following the team leaders, they marched to the beats of a military band, holding up their club banners and saluting the former police commissioner, Dinesh Chandra Vajpai. Soon it was time for the workout, which combines yoga with laughter.

“There has been a steady increase in the number of people enrolling for laughing clubs. Half the clubs are in Calcutta. The annual meet offers a chance to members from Bally, Siliguri, Burdwan and other parts of the state to visit Calcutta and have a good time,” said Ram Narayan Nandy, the secretary of the academy, whose members follow a common laughter therapy routine.

“I cancelled my plans of going to the stadium to watch the Test against South Africa so that I could be here,” said 41-year-old Debraj Sengupta from the Salt Lake Laughing Centre.

The day-long programme also featured lectures by doctors and experts on laughter therapy. The academy plans to reach out to students. The youngest at the gathering, 12-year-old Aniviya Dutta, however, needed no such introduction to laughter therapy.

“My mother was a member of the Santosh Mitra Square Laughing Club. I used to accompany her and watch everyone have such a good time that I, too, joined in. My mood remains great after a laughter session in the morning,” she said.


Where Is Kolkata, India?