October 5, 2015

Happiness - Sharmishtha Shenoy



What is happiness? Modern science defines happiness as the positive range of emotions that we feel when we are content or full of joy. According to the Coca-Cola Company, “Open an ice cold coca-cola and choose happiness”. As John Lennon once said, “When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘Happy’. They told me I did not understand the assignment. I told them that they did not understand life”.

When I was a small child around five, I used to find happiness in the smallest things in life. I still remember the day when I woke up and could not find my mother at home as she had gone out to a nearby shop to buy some urgently needed grocery. I was in despair. She came back in a little while and on seeing her I was deliriously happy.

When I became a teenager, happiness came from more exciting events like going to the picnic with school friends wearing a saree borrowed from my mother, or singing at a function or even mundane things like walking in the Rabindra Sarobar Lake when the Gulmohar trees were in full bloom. Happiness was when I took an exam and on opening the question paper, found that I knew all the answers or seeing my mother smile or spending Sunday with my parents eating the delicious dishes prepared by a mother.

Happiness was also giving anjali during Durga puja or pandal hopping with friends wearing a new dress every day and of course saving the best one for Navami. Happiness was when I found that my dress was better than my best friend’s or when the boy next door on whom I had a crush rewarded me with a sweet smile.

Once I started college, happiness was bunking college and going to a movie, hanging around in the cafeteria with my friends. Happiness was having the first boyfriend in my life or sharing a stealthy kiss with him. When I started my first job, happiness was the time when I bought special gifts for my loved ones with my first salary. During professional life, happiness was also when I got my first appreciation from my boss or my first promotion, or some years later when I got my own cabin.

Dear reader, learned researchers of reputed Institutes like Harvard, say that you are happiest in your thirties. I tend to disagree as I find that I can be happy at any stage of my life. Or as Deepika Padukone might put it, “Happiness – my choice” – because it is really a matter of choice. Happiness depends on me. I can choose to be happy – or unhappy. But yes, it is in my thirties that I was comfortably settled in my life. It is when people start ticking off boxes including marriage and children. It was also in my thirties that I became more self-confident and more comfortable with myself. During this time, happiness was when I come home after a long day of work and took my child in my arms.

Then before I knew it, I had reached my middle age. Depression among elder people is very common as they are coping with the constant change like loss of a loved one, retirement, and loss of purpose, general regrets about life and many other things. But then again it was up to me to decide whether I wanted to be happy in spite of the circumstances or wallow in self-pity. I did not want to stop playing just because my age is increasing. Because as a wise person once said “We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” That reminds me of a story I once heard. An old man has 8 hairs on his head. He went to the barber shop. Barber asked in jest, “Shall I count or cut?” The old man smiled and said, “Colour it.” Life is to enjoy with whatever I have with me, so I choose to be happy and keep smiling. As Mark Twain said,” Sing like no one is listening, love like you have never been hurt, dance like nobody is watching and live like its heaven on earth.” “The idea is to die young as late as possible!” as  Ashley Montagu put it succinctly.

Now that I am growing older or rather the number of years that I have come to this beautiful earth is increasing (because after all age is just a number), I have started savouring ordinary experiences in life. Because as people become more settled, ordinary experiences become central to a sense of self. I find that the perception of happiness has changed for me over time. When I was younger, by feeling excited I would feel rewarded. But now I get a bigger boost of satisfaction from peace and calm.  In the modified words of Anne Yantha, as I grow older, I find that true happiness is not in how much I make, or how many degrees I have or how big my house is or how fancy my car is. True happiness is finding peace and joy and calmness in my life that will soon become the most important thing to me. My family is what matters to me, love is what matters to me. Things that are quality and not quantity. Rabindranath Tagore that wise sage said, “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain, or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky” – I, dear reader, hope to remain that way till the time comes for me to depart this earth.

Connect with Sharmishtha here.

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