The Art of Being Happy

Thakur was nearing his retirement, something he had been looking forward to for a long time now. ‘Government work is not as it was before,’ he would always say with a dull sigh. He was a mild-mannered man that lived in his old Delhi bungalow beside the famous sweet shop. He had no wife nor children to surround himself with at his old age but this never discouraged him. He lived life according to his terms and managed to all the house-work that needed to be done.

Thakur had a secret hobby and that was his eternal search of something called ‘happiness’. In his twenties, people around him thought him mad and poked fun at his relentless perusal of all the magazines to find happiness. He had looked everywhere for this esoteric happiness. He had asked many intelligent men, many intelligent questions. “Where can I find happiness?” “What does it look like?” “What is happiness?” “How do I know if I’ve found it?” “Have you seen it?” All the answers to these questions were unsatisfactory. One told him that they were selling a surplus of happiness for a very cheap rate in some far off country, whose name Thakur had never heard before. Another told that it was all lies and happiness could only be found on the black market these days. Yet another told him that through all his adventures, he had never found this happiness and that the search for ‘happiness’ was a fruitless endeavor. None of these intelligent men seemed to deter Thakur and his resilience in any way.

As he grew older, people started talking less and less about happiness. They said it was something that existed only in the books of the past and that many men have wasted away their lives in its pursuit. Thakur’s mother forbade him to talk about it anymore and ever since then he never spoke of it to her again but like a naughty little child, he continued to look for it, in the privacy of his own space. At work, he sat with Mishra and Sharma, both of whom had always something interesting to offer on happiness.

“Did you know that in some countries it is banned to mention the word happiness?” Mishra said, stuffing his pipe with tobacco. He always said these things but no one ever knew how correct they were and everyone almost always believed him because he carried around him an air of confidence.

“Yes, yes illegal,” Sharma added, nodding his bald head that was bent over the plate of food he had just ordered from the cafeteria.

“Not illegal Sharma, banned.”

“Aren’t they the same thing?” Sharma asked, slowly raising his head from his plate.

“No. They aren’t.”

“How so?”

“It doesn’t matter. You are not allowed to say it or even think of it.” Mishra was now trying to light the tobacco.

“How do they know if you’ve thought of it?”

“They just do.”

“But if you ask someone not to think of something it is inevitable that they will,” Sharma seemed lost.

“You always say the most nonsensical things, Sharma.” Mishra didn’t like anyone challenging his ideas.

“Did you know that Patel says he has always had happiness? Ever since he was born? Apparently, it was his grandmother who gave it to him.” Thakur said, glancing over to where Patel was.

“Nonsense,” Mishra snapped “That fellow is a bloody lying rascal. How is it someone has an endless supply of something? Impossible, I say. He’s either been buying it off the black market or he doesn’t have any.”

“I remember when that scoundrel at the black market sold it to me for a hundred rupees telling me it would last for at least five years,” Thakur sighed.

“What happened?” Sharma asked, inquisitively. “

“He got bloody scammed is what. Ran out of it within a week.” Mishra said. “All these are bloody liars, I tell you. You either have it or you don’t and no one is so privileged as to have been born with it. I know for a fact that there is no such thing as happiness and if there ever was, I wouldn’t want even a gram of it.”

A couple of months later, Thakur was walking through the weekend market, trying to ration his food since he had retired. He wondered if potatoes were the better choice or carrots. As he sat pondering the difference of taste between a stem and a root vegetable, his eyes caught the most peculiar sight. In the middle of the market-square stood a man, dressed in the most unusual garb, juggling balls. He was surrounded by little children who stared at him in wonder, their big eyes brimming with curiosity yet none of them made a sound.

Thakur approached this man and asked him what he was doing.

“Juggling balls,” the man replied, making no effort to look at Thakur.

“But why?” Thakur asked.

“It makes me happy,” the man replied, his lips forming into a strange curve that Thakur had never seen before, yet it all seemed so magical.

“I don’t understand,” Thakur scratched his head. “I’ve looked for happiness all my life. Are you saying you have found it?”

“Found it?” The man let out a loud sound, almost in a mocking tone. “Friend, I’m always happy.”

Before Thakur could reiterate Mishra’s bright words, the man looked him straight in the eye and said “Everyone is happy. It’s only a matter of recognition, is all.”

“Everyone is happy?”

“Yes, everyone. Even you. Why, if you find it hard to recognize it, all you have to do is grow it in your backyard.” The man replied nonchalantly.

“In our backyards?”

“Yes, in our backyards. Once you remove all the weed and destroy all other plants, the happiness tree will grow. But-“

“But?”

“But no one wants to even destroy the weeds, let alone the other plants.”

“I will. I shall. Are you sure? In my backyard?” A newfound sense of energy seemed to be flowing through Thakur. Finally, he was making headway in his search.

“Yes, yes. In your backyard.”

Before leaving Thakur found out the man’s name and address. He didn’t want to be scammed a second time. For six months Thakur had put in a lot of effort in his backyard. He spent day and night, picking out the weeds, destroying all the other plants, most of which were left ignored and were already dead. He watered his backyard every day and sat on the doorstep, watching the soil. Nothing else occupied his thoughts during this time. He sat there, unperturbed, quietly watching the backyard.

One day, Thakur noticed a small sapling. A translucent little green stem that was nothing like what he had ever seen before. He nearly jumped and immediately wondered what came over him. He told himself that his tree would grow as tall and large as the man in the market’s – since he had been past his house a few times now- and that Mishra and Sharma could share from his happiness tree. From then on, he carefully tended to this tiny green stem protruding out of his soil. His back gave him issues and his old age prevented him from staying up too long but nevertheless, he pursued on.

For another six months, he tended to this plant with all his love but to no avail. It refused to grow larger than it had been and even seemed to be slowly withering away. Thakur sat at his doorstep, head in hands.

“I have been scammed again,” he thought. “Mother was right. Mishra was right. No such thing as happiness.”

Saying this, he got up bitterly and walked to the man’s house.

“Oi Agarwal, come out you rascal. Come out this instant,” he cried out, standing near the man’s gate. A few minutes later, Agarwal came out. He was dressed normally this time and had his hair neatly combed backward.

“What’s wrong, Thakur?” He asked, again with the same whimsical curve on his face.

“You told me that I could have a happiness tree as big and large as yours and it has been nearly a year, yet no sign of it. You scoundrel. You wasted my time.”

“I never told you your tree would be as large as my tree. I told you that anyone could be happy if they wanted to.”

“Same thing,” Thakur was fuming.

“No, not the same thing. In fact, two very different things. My friend, how do you expect your tree to grow when you constantly keep comparing it to mine? The poor little plant feels pressurized and probably wants to die before even experiencing life.”

“What does that mean?”

“That means, Thakur, that your tree is unlike anyone else’s tree.”

“But you said anyone can grow a happiness tree.”

“Yes. But the nature of tree depends on the one who’s growing it.”

“So Mishra and Sharma can’t share from my tree?”

“No. They will want to. You may want to. But to each his own.”

“So how do I know its real?”

“Why do care if it’s not?”

Thakur went back home armed with knowledge on gardening but still confused. However, he continued to persist but this time, he didn’t obsess. After the daily routine of watering it, he gave the plant its own space to grow. He didn’t stay in his backyard all day and night but continued to do other work. A few weeks later, the three friends met again, as they usually do.

“Well, bloody hell Thakur, that’s quite a tree, man.” Mishra placed his hands on the trunk. “How come I never noticed it before? Must be quite old.”

“No. Very young. About six months,”

“Liar. No tree grows this big in six months. What have you been feeding it? Tree steroids?”

“It’s a happiness tree,” Thakur said, very casually.

“Are you saying you have happiness in your backyard?” Sharma asked, his mouth wide open.

“Sharma, you sometimes say the most nonsensical things. I don’t have happiness. I am happy,” saying this Thakur slowly reclined into his chair, a smile forming over his now serene face.

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Why Our Gods Fall

It seems to me that in the present society, we tend to put our morals/virtues above our rationale. We also tend to make Gods out of human beings and try to force our virtues onto them. We put them on pedestals and when they fall, as human beings inevitably do, we ostracize them. Our sense of right and wrong allows no mistakes. We have also elevated words to such colossal standards that as soon as someone in power uses words our ever-willing minds agree to, we hail them as Gods and one by one, we watch our Gods fall. The problem with placing so much importance on words is that it breeds a lot of hypocritical behaviors. Someone who uses all the politically or morally appeasing words may in fact, behind closed doors doing the very things that would put his own words to shame. And when this is made public, as it will be made especially with a person of considerable recognition, our anger allows no room for forgiveness. Slowly but surely ours is becoming a society of punishment rather than that of rehabilitation and reconciliation. In this front, however, our virtues have failed us.

The view that no man must be allowed to speak his mind or a person may only speak as long as he is politically and morally appeasing everyone, only festers more paranoia in a society already plagued by it. We consider ourselves judges of the highest moral order, forgetting that as soon as the black robe falls, we resort to similar ways as the prisoner whose lives we have shackled. Even our art has come under this vigilance which restricts the imagination to flow through just a singular narrow channel before asphyxiating it and completely killing it off.

I am in no way saying that all crimes must be forgiven and pardoned. If crimes are committed, the appropriate action must be taken. I am not an expert on the justice front.  All I am saying is let us not expect the same sort of language or ideals from everyone and just because someone doesn’t look at the world in a similar perspective as ours, doesn’t mean they need to become apologists. It’s dangerous to create a society of apologists and even more dangerous to ask people to feel guilty for an action they haven’t committed.

I personally think that we are being born into a society that is incapable of objectivity and one of the main reasons why this is happening is the media. The media feeds us an incident making sure to remove all context from it and we chew and swallow this whole, without questions. Our media should be put under strict scrutiny and not allowed to concoct vicious, slandering and flawed stories. But that again is a huge expectation and would invariably lead to a lot of problems. The best thing to do then would be to not feed into the lies that are being sold to us and ruining any semblance of peace we have over it. We need to engage in critical thinking and not allow anything outside of our own minds to hold such influence over us.

This was my two cents. I may be subject to criticism for this and I honestly,  don’t mind. I would love to learn and have a meaningful discussion in a society riddled with angry outbursts and violence.

Nietzsche and Poetry

Today I decided to write some poetry out of the blue. I was reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Nietzsche and inspiration struck me.

The best part is, I really enjoyed writing this and this piece just spoke to me. My own poetry spoke to me and that feels really amazing.

I see you,

with your false truths and assumptions,

trampling on your own subjectivity

for something that affirms your existence.

I see you,

stealing ideas and beliefs,

your intellectuality seeping through your skin.

What is it but filth,

of the highest order?

Ye mortal, hear me speak

nothing ever came from you

and nothing goes into you.

Even your grief isn’t your own,

then why do you pretend it is so?

 

Gute Schauspieler fand ich alle Eitlen: sie spielen und wollen, dass ihnen gern zugeschaut werde, – all ihr Geist ist bei diesem Willen.

 

Alas, alas she spoke

but her words found no heart,

and none could hear her sounds.

Because nothing makes much noise,

and her words as dull and vacant as her mind.

Alas, alas she spoke

but her words found no mind.

 

The actor possesses the spirit but little conscience of the spirit.”

 

 

On food and mood

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I went out today, alone. Had a delectable plate of mutton chops and some really good raspberry/cranberry drink. It was an isolated place called “Group Therapy” in Secunderabad, India. I had my copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird” with me and a bunch of tangled thoughts that gradually came free and together to appear comprehensive. The people there were so nice. It was a lady, with short red hair. She reminded me of a friend I once knew, a long time ago.

That’s when it hit me. I was so uncomfortable while talking to her. She did everything right, said the right words and smiled the right way but my stomach wouldn’t stop clenching. The introvert in me remains strong. I’ve always been by myself and now it doesn’t help me make any conversation. When I do, I always have a nagging feeling that I am being awkward or ridiculous.

Like food, my will to converse depends on my mood. Lamb chops may be the special for today and tomorrow, I’d find them absolutely distasteful. I’m just beginning to learn that people are not meant to be boring one day and appealing the next. I’ve made a resolution to talk to strangers more and I think I’ll try talking to people with different opinions and mindsets. Anyway, how long can I stay shy and secluded?

On a completely different note, I enjoy eating alone to the point where I might cancel plans with a group of friends to spend time with myself. This is not the introvert in me, shying away but just one enjoying one’s own company.

I want to analyse and give a detailed review of To Kill a Mockingbird and I shall do it once I finish it. I haven’t read that book up until now, can you believe it?!?

On exploring

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I believe that it is easy to see but hard to look. Sitting here, in this empty house I have a strong desire to move to some place where I can be free of societal prejudices. To move far away where no soul knows me. Every day I see the same things, the same road, the same people. These things get tiring after a while. I need to explore new dimensions, new worlds that are hidden away from the dreary foot steps of human beings.

It’s always nice to experience something alone. Lakes, trees, rivers, streets, cottages etc must be experienced by the soul, not the mind. To have company while travelling will only ruin the world around you. With a companion, you perceive things with their eyes and the distractions become ominous. To be by yourself, there lies the true magic.

I haven’t travelled much. Just a few states in India. Though they were extremely beautiful, I feel the need to experience more, to feel more than what I have felt and already feel. I personally like thick and wet woods. The smell of the trees after rain, the bees buzzing in the bushes, the road hidden by fallen flowers and leaves… it’s the kind of atmosphere I prefer.

I think my ideal place to live would be England. I have a strong urge to visit the country and breathe its air. Maybe someday..

On everyday blues

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I have a friend, let’s call her A. A and I have been friends for over five years now and there has never been anything to hinder our friendship. When she moved away, I admit I did feel a little out of place, the only person who ever empathized with me was gone but we always kept in touch through letters, e-mails etc.

Letters. They have been our solemn means of communication. In A’s own words “we had created a private little world” and it is thanks to these handwritten letters that we never had a chance to say goodbye to each other though we lived miles apart. We were connected by some sort of a weird telepathic wire.

I’m thankful to A for always sticking by me even when I proved the most difficult person to deal with.

Coming to the point, everyday I catch a small cold of sadness.. it’s a pounding in my head that won’t go away. Sometimes this cold lasts for a long time and it’s during these times that I find myself incapacitated. My motivation takes a vacation and I find myself lacking in any enthusiasm. These everyday blues are difficult to let go, easy to hang on to. They parent mysterious thoughts.

I’m trying to let go of these thoughts and replace them with good memories. Memories of A and me, whispering to each other, coming up with silly ideas for stories and separating ourselves from the rest of the world that we find so incomprehensible. Memories of Dad and me, driving on the early morning roads carpeted with dew drops from close knitted tress, bed-time stories and his face, smiling down on me as if I could never do anything wrong.

A has become an integral part of my world. She’s a weapon I use to fight my blues with and I hope I am hers. I’ve always wanted a sibling and I guess I have found one in A.

LIBERTÉ

It started as a simple idea in a foggy head and soon it materialized onto my screen. I struggled with various issues over the past few years but the greatest struggle was my inability to pen down my thoughts coherently any more. I lost my grip and the words faded into oblivion.

But I know for a fact, that in some dusty corner at the back of my head, these words are alive and breathing. The air around them pulsating with vibrant shades of love. I know that if I put enough effort, they’d break free. I can see them fly one day, onto the paper, into different consciousnesses, an amalgamation of beauty and inspiration…

I can hear them cry… for Freedom. And everyday, it’s this cry that motivates me to move forward, to get rid of them from the safe confines of my head and share it with the world.

To words.

To Freedom.

To Me.