When we were kids, whenever we used to laugh hysterically, our mother used to tell us – don’t laugh so much, the more you laugh, the more you have to cry. Laughing and crying are always equal. It was understandable for someone whose father had died at a young age leaving her as the eldest daughter with 3 young siblings, a mentally unstable mother and no money, to be afraid of laughing without worry or guilt. There always was a setback around the corner, and we humans tend to search for patterns where none ever exist so it was natural for her to find a pattern where she played nuts and crosses with laughs and tears and finally crying always got that horizontal line that would cross her out. She may never have heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her model of the five stages of grief, but for all her adulthood, she was stuck in the bargaining phase with God – God i shall not laugh much but just don’t make me cry, a sort of deal kids do with their parents on a Sunday evening. Over the years with grandkids and financial security and a husband she finally gets along with after 30 years, you can see her fear of losing again at nuts and crosses abating, her eyes lighter but the fear never totally goes away.

But her son never got or imbibed that fear of laughter and laughed hysterically lying on the floor of public places and gardens and theaters and malls, hands pressing against his stomach to stop it from aching, knowing the universe is never fair or a baniya, it will never deal an exact hand, whatever will come will always be out of proportion because that’s how it works and not giving a fuck even if it brought a calamity. But words have a power to stick in brains, the honeyed neurons littered with sticky uneaten part digested grains of words which later myelinate to form patterns of memory, a fact sometimes we who engage in casual cruelty never realise. The universe works differently, not as my mother said – as every child realises one day which is the end of his adolescence, a sort of a rite of passage. When a child forgives them, he’s an adult. I think i am an adult now. But you only become wise when you forgive yourself, and wisdom yet eludes me. The universe works differently from what my mother said, it works more like Thanos says it does, a snap of the fingers and half the world is dead while the other half survives. That’s exactly how this happiness sadness thing works, happiness and sadness are in equal measure as she said but not inside one person, their sum total distribution among everyone living comes to zero. And religion has always got this fact and exploited it for its own means by saying Christ bore the cross for all humanity’s sins or your past life karma is the reason why your son has down’s syndrome when both are untrue. In reality Jesus never bore the cross alone, there are still some people somewhere bearing that same weight u cross for you, though you will never know them or meet them, blissfully unaware, crediting your positivity and gratitude and skill for your life when the reality is different.

The karma distribution is horizontal, not vertical. That’s why people get away with murder while an innocent gets the chair. The happiness distribution too is horizontal, not vertical. In a real sense, you are your brother’s keeper. It is a giant game of passing the parcel and the music stops randomly and you are left holding the shiny gift wrapped package containing a ball of misfortune. All religion promises the same thing – if you come to us, the music will not stop when the ball is in your hand. All prayer is either a plea to keep the music going or begging and bargaining to restart the music. For some people the music never starts and for some, the music never stops but we are puny inconsequential creatures do we worry about which ant we stamp gets the fairer treatment?

That’s all there is. So there are a few takeaways from this:

A. Check whether the shiny gift wrapped package still contains the ball of misfortune from time to time. It might be that you are holding just the package which is your memory while the ball has passed into another’s hands and you still are grumbling over your fate and miss the time of rejoicing and dancing to music before it stops again. Don’t carry the same package all your life, i never do, i trade for different colours when the chance arises.

B. Realise that you are happy because another is sad. It’s a simple rule, your joy is a trade-off with his misery. It will be a grave disrespect to the game to not be joyous while he is miserable, and you will not grudge his joy when the ball passes to you. At the same time, do not exhort him to be joyous. Someone who cannot feel deeply what the game wants him to feel isnt playing anyway, his dance is also superficial, his heart just isn’t in the game, he will never understand.

C. Do not lend the ball even to your closest one for temporary safekeeping. They will have their own parcel coming your way and they do not deserve to carry yours. It is a sign of respect to another to not share your heart’s burden, though most people believe otherwise. Keep yourself to yourself. Talk about superficialities, never go deep. At the same time, do not offer to carry theirs.

The only rule is to stay in the game. Your dance partners will keep changing, but the music will never die.