happiness

Happiness: The End

A while ago, in Happiness and Compassion, I had written about what Fahadh Fasil described as the biggest lesson he learnt from failure – he said it made him decide that he would only do things that made him happy. The more I read, the more I think, and the more I live, the more I start relating to what Fahadh is doing, and what Aristotle said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Everything else – fame, power, money, compassion, detachment etc – is probably just the means we create.

The thing though is, even if happiness were indeed the purpose, I can see at least a couple of challenges. In this excellent read “10 truths you will learn before you find happiness“, the first point is “It is impossible for anyone else to define YOU”. This echoed my first challenge – a difficulty in defining what happiness is to me. At the next level, I felt that the paths to happiness are confusing and have many things going against them. For instance, fame – “..other people’s heads are a wretched place to be the home of a man’s true happiness.” (Schopenhauer) Or compassion/pity (not kindness, which I regard as a more active expression, though the following might apply to it as well) – “There is a certain indelicacy and intrusiveness in pity; ‘visiting the sick’ is an orgasm of superiority in the contemplation of our neighbour’s helplessness” (Nietzsche) As you can see, it isn’t difficult to bring each down.

More

Happiness and compassion

Though I’d explored the idea of inculcating a sense of compassion in others in this post a fortnight back, I still think our own compassion needs to serve as a solid base. Not being judgmental is one way, but it’s not easy to practice. So I took a step back and wondered if compassion was a result and not a behaviour. The first behavioural direction I could think of was happiness. In myself, I have seen a correlation if not a causation. I am more compassionate when I’m happier. So I decided to explore this a bit. More

A different kind of prosperity

A couple of months back, there was a very heated debate (mild term) based on an article that was titled “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” and (also) dealt with something that has occupied my thoughts for a while now – the sense of entitlement. It had a very simplistic formula on happiness : Happiness = Reality – Expectations, and the author’s take was that a sense of entitlement/being special heightened expectations and when that collided with reality, Gen Y’s happiness suffered. Another key factor in this was they are also regularly ‘taunted’ by people who are doing better – simply because the latter share their successes much more.

I must say that my observations on the sense of entitlement have led me to believe that it’s not totally an age thing. I do agree that societal and lifestyle changes have led to parents becoming more indulgent, but I think the larger culprit is mass publishing platforms –  the ability to broadcast one’s thoughts to large number of people. It is enhanced when the publisher realises he/she has an audience. It does seem higher in younger groups but that’s only because they have been exposed to these platforms much earlier in their life than an earlier generation and therefore do not have the alternate perspectives and experiences of the latter. But the entitlement discussion is for another day.

An interesting point made in the article was that Gen Y wanted fulfilling careers. What does not come out though is what defines ‘fulfilling’. Is it the emotional satisfaction of working towards a shared purpose, or is it the perks that come with a high-flying career? I suspect that fulfilling at this point swings more towards the material success that the latter provides. Umair Haque has an interesting take called ‘Growthism‘, a devolved form of capitalism, whose dogma is to achieve growth at all costs and according to the author prevents us from developing a sophisticated conception of what prosperity is. It does seem fluffy but that’s probably because we have been conditioned by various institutions for a long while now.

But I sense a change is on its way. For instance, thanks to this post, I came to know of The Prosperity Index, which goes beyond the GDP and economic success based models of measuring prosperity of nations. While this is indeed a positive step, I think true change will happen when constituents like the Gen Y mentioned earlier begin to look at currencies beyond money for a sense of fulfillment, and happiness. In this must-read article titled “Who Will Prosper in the New World“, the author mentions “People who don’t need money” – people who have the incomes of the lower middle class and the cultural habits of the wealthy or upper middle class.

I think we’re at the beginning of a new cycle – a generation will start ignoring the paradigms of success and fulfillment set by its predecessors and their institutions, and use the fabulous technologies that are evolving to craft its new narrative of happiness. I also think that my generation might be the casualty of two large concepts at war with each other, but maybe that’s what it takes for a civilisation to be entitled to its prosperity….

moral

until next time, changelings

P.S. On a related note, do read ‘On Lifestyle Rigidity

Plan C

This post has been pending for a while, the date of publishing of the article that inspired the post is evidence enough. It is about people who leave their jobs to follow their passion, but instead of the success stories we are used to, it focuses on the difficulties on that path. Even if you’ve not taken that path already, it’s quite possible that you have contemplated it. It’s romantic – the freedom, being your own boss and doing the thing you like – Plan B. But it’s not easy, and it begins as early as even identifying one’s passion. (must read)

Interestingly, NYT themselves had an article almost a year later that asked “What Work is Really For” and answered that with an Aristotle quote “we work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.” Though I didn’t know about this quote until recently, this is a perspective that I have often used to debate with people who say those who do not like their jobs should quit. There are many reasons why people don’t, and one of them is consciously making a choice to work (possibly on things they don’t enjoy) for the 2 days (and vacations) when they are able to spend their resources – money, effort and time – on things they enjoy.

The reasons people don’t scale up those 2 days could be many, including the difficulties involved in the early stages of setting up, and then maintaining a positive balance – of money and life. Money is after all an essential resource. It buys things, it opens doors. But when your passion becomes your work and your principal source of money, does it feel the same? Or does it become a job?

I liked the second NYT article also for its last 3 paragraphs. It addresses the money conundrum. It talks about how right from when we are born, we are taught to be consumers, thanks to capitalism, which though calls itself an open market where we have the freedom to buy is actually a system unto itself.  The choices are not really independent. It points out that education should be meant to make us self determining agents. True freedom requires that we take part in the market as fully formed agents, with life goals determined not by advertising campaigns but by our own experience of and reflection on the various possibilities of human fulfillment. But that’s not an easy path either. It calls for independent thinking and a subjective view of fulfillment and happiness. And that brings us to the familiar “to each his own”

until next time, work it out :)

Bonus Read: Six Rules to guide your career

Fake my life

Funny Confession Ecard: I am no match for the perfect, carefully crafted online version of myself.The perfect life, that’s what I called it – the phenomenon that has spread across the two social networks I frequent. Facebook Photos is nothing new and has come up here as a subject for discussion earlier. But its rise has been meteoric, just like the social network. The best vacations, the coolest friends, the hottest parties, the snazziest gadgets, seems everyone can haz it. :) Twitter is not far behind. People, almost like brands, out to show their best side. Made for Facebook/Made for Twitter/ Lies of Life, call it what you will. Of course condolences would pour in if someone had a distressing update. Either outrage against the wrongdoer if any, or at least a +1 to show solidarity. Unfollow, unfriend you’d say, but these are not bad people, they just have a perfect life. :) Unfortunately, the networks work as emotion aggregators too, forcing me to vent once in a while. [image source Check it out for more awesomeness :)] And yes, I generalise. :)

I have wondered about the motivation. Maybe we like to share happiness more than sadness by default. Maybe sadness is a private thing we choose only to share with dear ones. (do you think there’s a social network idea there? A mutant version of Path) Maybe the algorithms ensure I see only the happy ones. Or maybe it’s indeed true that our vanity stops us from showing that we have been humbled, beaten, saddened by a human hand or a twist of fate.

A few minutes after I tweeted about the perfect life, I got a message on the blog (deleted now) from an old dear friend S, who had gotten in touch after quite a while. In the long years before a virtual home, when a real diary was a lifesaver, hers would probably be the name that was mentioned most, before the rise of the  thenceforth omnipresent D. :)

S isn’t on twitter, so she would have no idea of the coincidence. She was happy about the progress I was making, doing the things I love to do and generally having fun. And that led me to wonder if I, in my own limited way, was also feeding the perfect life network. So here’s setting the record straight. In case you see my vacation photos, restaurant visits and general attempts at humour and think that the story begins and ends there, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

As many of my posts would indicate, I have multiple ‘missed life crises’ – singer, author, theatre actor, h3ll, even cricketer, and perhaps a few more too, all skills I have either displayed to some degree or think I possess. :) I think way too much for my own good and am forever irritated at the inequity of life (in terms of those more unfortunate) and not being able to do much about it. I am constantly trying to shed baggage and sometimes failing miserably. My feelings of insecurity would be legend if they were a published work. Thankfully D exists. There is more, but that’s enough fun at my expense. The silver lining is that I’m learning through it all. Meanwhile, all I’m trying to say is that the grass on the other side is probably photoshopped. If it’s not, they’ve probably worked hard to make it this way. And we can too, if we try. Please smile now, and mean it. Or I’ll have to ask you to Like the post ;)

until next time, open source happiness

PS: It was only recently that I gave off my fakemytrip.com domain to mygola. I had bought it thanks to an irritating status on FB, and had a 4sq based idea around it. :D

Halo Dilli

No, I’m not shifting to Delhi.

Lara Dutta is not an actress I’m a fan of, though I’ve not been able to fathom why. And this was long before she became part of Colgate’s Namak Harem (after Koel Puri and before Sonakshi Sinha), so that, though enough, can’t be the reason. However, Vinay Pathak is an actor I like, especially in roles in which he is a silent sufferer. (remember Dasvidaniya)

Things thus balanced out, I decided to watch Chalo Dilli. Vinay’s Manu Gupta is awesome as ever, and Lara Dutta actually surprised me with a decent performance, and the ‘bhaisaab‘ and ‘behenji‘ shared an excellent chemistry throughout the road trip. Yana Gupta has always received an excellent chemistry from my side and that continued with her rendition of ‘Laila o Laila’. Since this isn’t a movie review, I’ll stop at that, and let you read a legit review by my favourite reviewer. Not a movie I’d fancy at a multiplex, but easily one that I’d buy a DVD of.

Somewhere during the movie, probably the scene where Lara is surprised by the joy of seeing a sunrise, I had an epiphany of sorts – that I might have a better shot at joy if I didn’t pre-decide what could give me happiness. The templates that I form – movies, shopping, vacations, reading etc probably make me shrug off opportunities when they present themselves. In fact, I probably go out of my way to ignore them and prevent them from arising.

It also made me think of the flip side – unhappiness/sorrow. Would I be better off if I decided what are the things that would really make me sad, instead of being upset over every minor derailment of plans? The ideal is to be able to treat happiness and sadness with the same calmness and even further, detachment, but until the time I get there, this is probably a good measure.

until next time, chalo comment, don’t dilly dally ;)

A piece of happiness

I always equated happiness with peace of mind. That having one automatically meant having the other. I somehow doubt that now.

Does happiness come from going after what you’ve wanted, irrespective of the roadblocks that appear before you? And does peace of mind come from an acceptance of things happening around you and to you?

Would you have peace of mind if you tried your best and still not got what you wanted? Would you still be happy then?

Would you be happy to get what you wanted irrespective of the sacrifices you had to make, and the paths you had to take? Would you still have piece of mind then?

Do you think they are the same? Or does the presence of one immediately dispel the other? If there had to be a trade off, what would you choose – happiness or peace of mind?

until next time, mindful happiness

Arbor

Sometime back, when I’d written the post on Onam, I’d mentioned a story that deserved to be told. About an old school pal R who has composed a wonderful soundtrack for a recently released Malayalam movie. He’s been composing for over 2 years now, probably more if you count the non-film work he’s done, but when I listened to this soundtrack, I was glad to note that I was proud of him. No, not pride by association – of knowing him, but actually proud for what he’s done for himself. I was glad for him. And so, I was glad for myself.

R and I share a history, which starts with a shared birthday, so it used to be that our ‘color dress’  days in school used to be the same. He also used to stay in the university campus, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is a constant handle for my nostalgia trips on this blog. R was obviously a very good singer, actually he was a little beyond that grade too. I still remember the time when for some class talent show, R and I were asked to teach group songs to our respective classes. R did a fantastic job, while i just taught the class the song – everyone sang everything. The difference was harmony. I didn’t know it then, I understood it later. Meanwhile, like me, R also played cricket. My tryst with that bloomed late (high school) and lasted only a few years,  as far as official teams went. I wonder if he did something about it. Oh, okay, I just read through what I wrote. No, I refuse to make myself an underdog on my own blog. :D

The learning part of school life was obviously the most important, not by choice, but still….and as those primary/secondary class reports would show, I used to be the topper, modesty be damned. Add to that, the school junior hockey team, quiz, debate, Dumb C later, and being the quorum filler for things as varied as Malayalam recitation and News Reading (yes, we had that as a bleddy competition item, would you believe it!! Maybe I should sue that school, those certificates can be quite embarrassing) and you could imagine why my attention was spread thin. But wait, let’s not overcompensate. :)

Anyway, R and I parted ways when i changed schools, though we used to meet later for most of the inter school festivals, where on one hand, I’d be shouting out Dumb C guesses, and minutes later, would be desperately trying to remember the lyrics for the next few lines I had to sing for the music competition. Once I also noticed him in the Western (Group) music part of the competition, and I went WTF (the school kid equivalent actually) on why there wasn’t a Bollywood part, since the only English lyrics i knew then were …..erm, nothing. :| After school we completely lost touch, and a nice little music rivalry, in which he used to kick my a** regularly, except for stray upsets, ended.

A few years back, a nostalgia wave hit our batch, and a classmates e-group was created. Nice people that they are, they sent me an invite and I joined, even though I’d spent only 5 years in that school. That it remains my favourite school is a fact, though. Anyway, that’s where I heard the news that R had composed his first movie soundtrack, back in 2007. And now begins the role that R played without his knowledge – the reason for this post.

When i heard the news, a part of me was happy, but that was only a small part. The larger part was insanely jealous. This wasn’t like any of the stars/celebrities I regularly read about, I knew this guy, I had shared the stage with him and competed with him. And here he was, on the way to becoming famous, while I sat blogging about paths not taken!! That was when I looked at myself, and really bothered to take an objective look- as objective as i could be then. I realised it wasn’t the first time that this insane jealousy had happened. From wittier one liners to cooler jobs, the feeling had expressed itself many times, with different people. Sometimes fleetingly, sometimes for long stretches. Each time, it lasted till the mind gave itself a reason to stop being jealous, on why there was a flip side in their lives too. Bizarre ones sometimes, in desperation, but reasons nevertheless.

But from then on, I have been watching myself. It happens now too, in fact, on one front it is worse, because the proliferation of social networks means that there are more people I am now connected to – Twitter updates, Facebook statuses, vacation photos, all have the potential to get me launched into a ‘why is his shirt whiter than mine’ phase. All this, when on most fronts, I have nothing to complain about in my life, silly twist in my neck, notwithstanding. Initially, I tried to control the envy, give rational reasons – what I have gained and what i have missed on, and deliberately shut out things which would make me well, insanely jealous. From experience, the control is a myth, and the worst part is that it creates layers of denial. The massive risk is the day when it explodes in your face.

So these days, I don’t control, I admit to myself that I’m jealous, and wherever I can, i tell the other person too. Thereafter, the interaction is a delight. I get to know the hard work they’ve put in to reach where they have, I realise I can be genuinely glad for other people, and there is a sheer joy that can be experienced. Sometimes I am rebuffed by people too. I have also realised that the more i acknowledge, the lesser I get envy attacks.  I still get them sometimes, but I think the path is right. On a tangential front, I am also trying to leave expectations from myself open.

A strange thought occurred to me while I was writing this. Maybe its just me,  but with this sudden outburst of sharing and connectedness, are we increasingly living out a life that we want to portray to others? A “Hey look, I am happy, everything is perfect in my world” approach. Even the sad statuses are filtered, like the ‘negative things about yourself’ in job interviews. :) How much of the happiness is in the sharing, in the feeling that others might be envious? Are we going that way? If I don’t share and don’t expect any returns, but I can still be happy about something I have experienced/done, would that be joy? And as a next step, if I can  go through the same experience without the baggage of expectations, would that be the objectivity I seek? Each second a new life? Beyond conditioning? Possible?

R’s story loop needs to be closed, eh? On request, he has sent me a karaoke version of a song I liked in the movie. I have promised to sing the vocals… for myself. And a story that deserved a joyous ending. :)

until next time, R bit ends for now :)

PS: For those reading this on the blog, see that new thingie right below this. USE IT :p

Juley

In my mind, I can still hear that Ladakhi greeting, though its been a few days since our return from Leh. There are stories of mountains and mountains of stories I could tell you. Of the trip that almost didn’t start because the taxi service got the day and month right, and booked us a cab for 2010!! Of the Delhi weather which over delivered on the warm welcome premise at 40 deg C.

Of the jovial captain of the Leh flight, who said that one third of our trip cost would be ‘made up’ by the first view of Leh. Of him being proven right by a sight so magical that one could hear a collective gasp as the lofty snowy peaks were seen for the first time through the windows. Of the mountains that for one moment looked the magnificent phenomena they were, and in another looked like clay models that kids made for school exhibitions.  Of another statement the captain delivered on – a free camel ride, he called it – the landing at the Kushok Bakula Rimpoche Airport.

Of being on a high already and wondering whether one would be hit by the much written about high altitude sickness. Of being phlegmatic while popping pills and drinking bitter cough syrup at the first sign of phlegm. Of wandering through streets where tiny wrinkled old people chanted with prayer wheels in hand, and the next generation listened to heavy metal and peddled rock bands’ skull tees. Of wandering up mazes to see the ruins of the old palace and then lazing in the relatively palatial comforts of the hotel. Of waking up at dawn and setting out on journeys in which every view was click worthy, of getting tired of clicking and relying on the video mode far too much, even as the mind captured images. Of the visit to the gurudwara, where one was caught between the twin pleasures of the awesome sweet tea and the warmth from the cup.

Of gazing at the mighty river that spawned a civilisation, and wondering how much has changed for the nomadic tribes that live in tents and roam about with their Dzo (a hybrid of yak and cow). Of the noisy rush of air as one climbed up mountains to gompas (monasteries) that awed you with their silence. Of glass cases that carefully and lovingly stored centuries old manuscripts and a realisation of the tiny timeframe of six years of blogging. Of the excitement of staying in a tent, quickly followed by the realisation of how exactly one could feeze to death, and then feeling an intense thankfulness for one’s supple and warm bed companion, despite the rubbery exterior -the hot water bag.

Of boarding passes that got you to 35000 ft in no time, and mountain passes at half the height that made you crawl for almost three hours to get to them. Of being driven up narrow mountain roads, slipping on snow every now and then, and wondering if your final destination was going to be up or down. Of pitying the military guys who lived in the severe cold, and then muttering at them for making decisions that cost us an entire day. Of creating yellow snow after getting tired of holes in the ground and portable loos that cleared up the blocked sinuses in no time!! Of seeing a lake at 13500 ft- Pangong, shared by two countries, that competed with the sky for the shades of blue that could be displayed. Of a heavy snow fall that forced one to get out of the comforts of the push back seats in the vehicle and attempt to push the vehicle, which pushed back!! Of the disappointment of knowing that nature took only a few minutes to shatter one’s well laid plans. Of begging and pleading and cajoling cops to let us through after the official closing time.

But most importantly, of the wonderful wonderful person who took it upon himself to make sure that we got to see all the sights we wanted to – Tsewang. He, who confessed after much questioning, that he was having his first meal of the day at 3 pm after driving 9 straight hours through horrible conditions at altitudes above 14000 ft.  And then proceeded to drive up to Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable road at 18380 ft-  all in a day’s work, he said. Nothing I said or did could assuage my guilt.

The long journeys through the mountainscape pushed random thoughts into my head- of heaven, and whether living at such high altitudes meant that one was closer to God. :) Of whether the milieu that nature offered in these places instilled the compassion and concern for fellow humans, that I saw in many around, and if that was the secret behind the peaceful and happy faces, despite the hard conditions and lack of even common facilities in several places. The great heights and its citizens gave me perspectives and a sense of harmony that I still seem to be carrying with me, hoping that the daily grind won’t take it away.

As I looked at Leh before I stepped into the airplane, I realised that this might be the only time I’d visit this place. I also realised that perhaps my memories would fade, and I might forget the images I could now easily recollect in my mind. But I like to think that there’s one picture that will never go away – the lofty peaks of the mighty Himalayas, glistening with snow, and a light breeze that causes the flags at the monastery to flutter silently, all of this can only make up the background for the innocent, peaceful joy on Tsewang’s face as he plays with the Lama kids, and as he sees me approaching, he  asks me with his customary smile, if I’m ready to continue the journey.

until next time, a daily lama

PS. You can catch a few photos here.

collage1

Keep Walking

A long time back, almost 4 years ago, after seeing Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya, I’d written about meaning, and purpose, and its relevance in an individual’s life. I guess, as I moved on in life, and feared that time is running out for something, the search for this purpose became more frantic, until I tried to see it in everything that happened to me, and around me. I tried to look at what others were doing, trying to find some parameter of reference. But even if it did exist, it doesn’t seem to be easy to find, and that’s a despairing thought.

And then, sometime back, this wonderful person shared these lines with me

“For years, copying other people,
I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.”
…… Rumi

And then, I found some more food for thought in Hermann Hesse’ “Siddhartha”. A conversation about searching and finding and the difference between the two approaches. Yes, these seem to be two different approaches, and I thought one was the result of the other. :)

Searching means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.

When a person searches for something, even something that he defines as a purpose, he focuses on that so much that he is usually oblivious of everything else. It becomes an obsession.

That really does not mean neglecting every responsibility. But it does mean that I do not automatically categorise experiences as good/bad, useful/not useful etc and be done with it. A mindset change from searching to finding will allow me to look at an experience as just that, and to treat it with more calmness. As one of my favourite tees says, “Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling”

I guess we all know it, we just need reminders ever so often, because we set goals which we think will ensure happiness… movie this weekend, vacation next month, party tonight…but are we really conscious about the  transient nature of that goal? I’m not going to stop any of it (except for the partying, I never did that anyway:) ), but I will be conscious of its relevance.. and irrelevance  :)

until next time, destination nowhere