There is no middle path?

Will Durant is a pleasure to read, and it has largely to do with the succinct way in which he expresses complex thoughts, be it in history or philosophy. In The Lessons of History (by him and Ariel Durant) I found this idea particularly thought provoking –


Very intuitively, I have always thought the ideas of freedom and equality as ends which are allied. But a bit more thought, and helped by the Durants’ arguments, and it is quite evident that they aren’t. This reminded me of something I’d written about five years ago on happiness vs peace of mind. (read the very interesting comments by Surekha on it) More

Adaptability & Actualisation

“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change“, Darwin had said, in a more long-winded form. I have been in awe of evolution as a concept for a while now, and have rather prided myself on being adaptive, specially in my work context. In terms of hard skills, I still believe that’s the way to go. However, when dealing with people, both in personal and professional settings, I have realised that it is possible to go overboard on being adaptive.

A meta prequel before I get to that. On hindsight, I am seeing an evolution in my thinking on this subject. Back in April of last year, I figured out that I am happier when I don’t judge myself.  Later, in October, I realised that there is a correlation, and probably even a causation, between my happiness and the way I treat others. I decided to fix my happiness as my compass. But when I read this post from a couple of months ago, it seems as though I had wandered off the track I had decided on.  More

Happy Tradeoffs

It’s in the nature of thought that it never ceases to exist. In Happiness: The End, it would seem as though I’d found the track I wanted to follow. But it isn’t ever so simple, is it? The books I read somehow seem to have words that phrase my thoughts just right


The first roadblock I have found in the ‘happiness plan’ is sensitivity. It works in at least a couple of ways. On one hand, when I act with my own happiness as the key filter, I find it difficult to ignore the effect it has on other people. Do my actions make them unhappy? On the other hand, I am also in situations when others’ behaviour makes me unhappy but one or more constraints prevent me from doing anything about it. In both cases, I have to compromise.


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.


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….


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. 😀

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