The Curious Case of Happyness

If you have noticed the ‘y’ in happiness instead of the i, and you have watched the film, I believe you do have some personal observations on the topic of what happiness is. Have a look at the following image.

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(image courtesy: Ingrid Hendriksen Photogaphy, http://ingridhendriksenphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/6/kathputli-slum-new-dehli)

If I ask you “Do these humans in the picture look happy?”, 100 out of 100 will say yes.

Either it is a coincidence that my every commuting route in all these years has had me pass by at least one slum area; or it is not a coincidence but a fact that there are too many slums in India. Coming to the point, in all these years of going to work or college, I have passed by a slum, and believe me on this… I have never seen a particularly unhappy person. Obviously all of them don’t look like the kids in the picture but they also don’t look unhappy and misplaced like many of my colleagues in all workplaces combined!

In this article, I want to put forth the importance of understanding what happiness is, and inducing this ‘understanding’ of actual happiness in children through education, because when they grow up, they may feel every now and then that their life could have been something different and better than what it is at that point, and it is so important because none of the grown ups that I meet had dreamed of a life that they are living right now. So where’s the problem?

it all begins with the most dreadful and possibly permanently unsolvable question- “What is the purpose of a common human life?” You may feel like closing the window on reading this question but rest assured, that is not what we are entirely going to focus on.

So, to put forth a most widely acceptable and logical answer (guess of an answer), it would be like this-

‘to live a life that is filled with happiness’. People will have different versions of this answer but the above statement can be derived from their statements. Take for example a person who says the purpose of life is to be rich, so being rich will make him happy thus the purpose of life in a simple statement becomes happiness. If someone says the purpose of life is to do good to the world around you, then doing good makes him happy that means our simple statement of purpose of life is true and apparently applicable to all human beings in general.

Now that we have said that happiness is the final goal, let us think about what this happiness thing is. Everyone will have a different answer to this but the overall idea of being happy is nothing but being happy, there’s no simpler analogy, that’s it! As such, why then are so many people in the world miserable?

There is a thing called happiness index, and like GDP, it is measured for all countries in the world, by using surveys and other tools. It may not be completely accurate like measuring GDP, but it is pretty effective.

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If you leave a few top countries, a large portion of people in many countries are simply not genuinely happy with their lives.

  1. Why are so many people not happy?
  2. How can they become happy?

To answer question one, as we said before, happiness is a very subjective thing. One man’s hate could be calculus and another man’s happiness could be calculus. One would hate to be in rain while commuting and another would just stand there and get wet and smile. No, I am not trying to be poetic and say we should all stand in rain and smile like idiots and go to office late. In that case, after every monsoon you would have to go looking for a new job. The point is not about what kind of happiness is right. Not getting wet and reaching to office in time and finishing the day’s tasks is also a correct happiness if you think so and not going to office and standing in the rain then coming home to write a song about it is also a type of correct happiness if you think so. The conclusion is… happiness is subjective and it is you who decides your happiness, not others. As long as your happiness does not become a danger to someone or causes discomfort to someone, it is a right type of happiness. So going back to our question of why are so many people not happy, the answer lies in the fact that they think happiness is NOT SUBJECTIVE. They think if a few people’s happiness is going to work on a beautifully poetic rainy day and preparing excel sheets instead of writing poetry and eating kanda bhaji, then it should be their definition of happiness too, and they try to align themselves to that different and objective type of happiness, and they fail. They fail to feel happy.

All of us, to some extent, everyday think that the objective happiness definitions of the society and its majority apply to us, thus we do the exact same things again and again and expect to become happy, but we aren’t. A guy who works in a posh company since 20 years and has plenty of money and frequently goes to lavish dinners and movies and once in a year foreign holidays, is supposed to be happy, but he is the same guy who in his college days planned a bicycle trip from Mumbai to Goa, and dreamt of doing a year long bicycle tour of India. That was his subjective definition of happiness, that still is, but he himself thinks it is foolish and happiness is going to lavish dinners and foreign holidays, and he is unable to enjoy that happiness, because it looks like a chocolate wrapped in golden wrapper but it is just not his favorite! We are unhappy, because we choose the happiness defined by others for us.

Now question no. 2. What do we do? How does everyone become happy? The answer lies in the answer of question no. 1 itself. To recognise our own happiness and just go meet it. But on a general level, when everyone around and the media is constantly trying its best to force upon you certain notions of happiness, it is a bit unlikely that the entire population will have this revelation of their own definitions of happiness. Like all other discussions, I present to you… the ultimate, the most effective medium of reaching and changing people’s minds, of making them live better… Ta-Da…. “Education!”

Yes, I know it sounds strange but if there is one tool through which we can reach and change an entire generation, or save from becoming something terrible! I propose an interactive, discussion based, QnA based session as a compulsory part of school syllabus with the topic ‘Happiness’. Life is nothing but a slow discovery of yourself. I think it is time we aid this process of self discovery in the earlier phases and save a lot of lifelong misery.

To happiness!

– AB

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