Man laughs. He or she undergoes bursts of elation. Animals do not, because they lack the faculty of thinking. In order to burst into laughter, humans are required to identify the amusing part of certain moments in life or of a thing or occurrence. Before laughing, man experiences a lightning flash of thinking which amuses him or her. On the other hand, animal behaviour is driven by stimuli. It doesn't require even distant ties to emotion or thinking. Given these facts, the human tendency these days not to laugh heartily is symptomatic of a radical change in their traits. As days wear on, man laughs less and less. It is generally seen in the upper echelons of society in the less advanced countries, and it is a common spectacle in the developed ones. As a general rule in the modern times, roaring laughter in all types of societies is viewed as characteristic of rusticity. Unbridled guffaws suit the plebeians. They do not befit the communities recognised as refined and sophisticated. In many respects, this is found in every part of the world.
Upon having a broader overview, it has recently been found that humans are fast becoming averse to collective fun and frolicking. In spite of their assemblage or get-together at a charming venue, they do not continue to remain attached to each other. At one moment of time, they are found engrossed in their own cocoons. They are outwardly seen seated close to each other, but in reality they aren't. Almost all of them are communicating with 'themselves'. Being completely oblivious to what could have been a warm session of leisurely gossiping, the persons remain glued to the screen of their smart phones. The faces which flash on the screens go on smiling and talking. The responses are almost similar. These persons, despite physically present at the gossip sessions, at times give the look of a pantomime. With no communication with all the people present there in flesh and blood, they find the 2-way virtual bonhomie more enjoyable. This has led to one-to-one exchanges. As sociologists keep pointing out, the exchanges over electronic devices, which are normally limited to two persons, are alarmingly leading to a state of irremediable isolation. The surrounding ambience with its multi-faceted realities eludes them. It results in a sickly isolation of the persons hooked on virtual images. Although the visuals of sight and sound on the facebook pages are uncannily real, they belong to a sphere which is intangible. The overly logical and pragmatic segments of people in society may not accept the social media images as mundanely real. Although these days deep bonds and emotional relations are developed in the virtual world, sceptics draw a thin line between the real world and the one which they love to call illusory.
Man still laughs boisterously, lets out guffaws at close-knit 'addas' or cracks jokes. Unfortunately, all of them occur in isolation --- on the private screen of laptops or smart phones. Only two-and-half decades ago laughter and sharing jokes were a collective phenomenon. Well, a few of the people still care for giving small shares of their privately invented fun to others onscreen. Many reciprocate immediately. Yet lack of eye contact, and at times bodily touch, keeps them confined to a special group.
There is something serious to ponder. Along with the world of collective fun being overpowered by virtual reality, divided into thousands of pockets, the act of laughing heartily in general is fading out fast. There is also a weird aspect to the act of laughing. One cannot or should not laugh alone. It assumes a different meaning if the person laughs in isolation and repeatedly. People around will then try to ascertain if the person is touched in the head. But what a great spectacle it is to watch a group of people laughing to their hearts' content. Some people are born to laugh. They are rarely found in a glum mood. The Rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam was said to be shaking with spasms of laugh at informal get-togethers or 'addas'. The poet used to find elements of fun in everything around him. Rabindranath Tagore was reserved outwardly. He would maintain a serious mien about him. But people and admirers close to him have not failed to discover the poet's inner self filled with sharp humour and ready wit. Another legendary poet -- Jibanananda Das had a strange and unearthly guffaw. The poet would laugh out all of a sudden, sometimes at a time when his surroundings did not have anything which could provoke fun.
A study has found that humans in general, children included, laugh more than they cry. A school of philosophers has ridiculed people who laugh quite often. They call them shallow and frivolous. A chief target of this school comprises women, whom they find to be wanting in seriousness. These thinkers, however, earn the common people's disapproval. Many otherwise gloomy people are purely blithe at heart. Charlie Chaplin, the greatest movie comedian of the 20th century, was said to be a serious and earthly person in essence. Many film critics attribute his superb performance in the seriocomic movies like 'City Lights', 'The Great Dictator', 'Modern Times' and some others to this temperament of his movie characters. In spite of all this, Charlie Chaplin will remain alive in the history of cinema as the unbeaten epitome of humour.
Modern science says laughter prolongs life. It keeps the human heart healthy. Compared to them, morose people remain vulnerable to many illnesses. The habit of laughing varies from country to country. The Italians as a nation are viewed as ever-animated and vibrant. They love noisy fun and are fond of laughing. The same goes with the North Americans, especially the blacks. In the Asian continent, lots of people are known as withdrawn and melancholy. On this count, there are similarities between sections of people in the sub-continent and the Western Asians. The Sub-Saharan people appear to have been born to laugh, sing and dance. They are considered the most vibrant and fun-loving people in all times. There are also ethnic entities that do not enjoy laughing. The stoics are a case in point. In early eastern Bengal, a philosophically disposed mystic poet called Monmohan Dutta propagated the philosophy that doesn't encourage laughing and merrymaking.
As Dutta has viewed it, laughing distracts man from his reflective self. Dutta's 19th century thoughts could be termed a kind of Bengali folk version of the Camus-Sartre existentialism that flourished nearly one hundred years later.
The English language has a number of words for laugh and smile. They verb forms range from guffaw, chuckle, chortle, cackle, howl, roar to ha-ha, giggle, titter etc. The Bangla or the other Indo-Aryan languages have a limited stock of words for laugh. But amazingly, there are a number of Bengalee authors who have emerged as celebrity humour writers in their lifetime. Shibram Chakraborty and Parshuram are two of them. Even poet Tagore has over a dozen humour-dominant prose pieces, short plays and rhymes to his credit. The expression of smiles has captivated art-connoisseurs for centuries. Art critics have yet to decipher the real 'meaning' of the smile sported by Vinci's lady Mona Lisa. Jokes result in seemingly unstoppable laugh. However, they are not meant for everybody.
Lots of people cannot realise the punch-line of a joke. But they do laugh. It's a fool's laugh. Compared to them, Shakespearean plays' Fools are full of wit. They themselves laugh and make us laugh. Their philosophising comments on man and life stemming from fun-filled happenings prompt the audiences to have an in-depth look at their own selves. As an author, Shaukat Osman has shown in his play 'Kritodasher Hashi' the sound of a laugh can emerge as a prized treasure. A lover keeps it reserved for her sweetheart. She can't let outsiders share it, not even if they are kings or lords. This is the chemistry of private laugh.